BIDU SAYÃO, Soprano * 11 May 1902, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil + 12 March 1999, Rockport, Maine, United States;

Bidú Sayão was one of the most beloved sopranos in the entire history of opera. She was known for her ethereal, silvery tone and a stage presence of delicacy and refinement.

Born to an upper-class family, she was named Balduina de Oliveira Sayão after her grandmother. Her father died when she was five years old. She wanted to be an actress, but as going on the stage was “out of the question for a girl born in a respectable family,” she studied voice with the aid of an uncle. Her talent led her to one of the world’s leading teachers, Elena Theodorini. Some sources say an appearance in Lucia di Lammermoor at Rio’s Teatro Municipal, when she was 18, removed family opposition to her dream of singing. Sayão continued studies with Theodorini in Europe. In 1922, she became a pupil of Jean de Reszke, a tenor with one of history’s purest vocal techniques. After he died, she returned to make a stunning second debut in Rio, in 1926, as Rosina in The Barber of Seville. She sang widely in Europe, with performances in Paris at La Scala and in Rome. Toscanini, hearing her in Traviata, engaged her for her U.S. concert debut with him at the New York Philharmonic in 1935. For the next two years she performed primarily in her native Brazil. But in 1937, she was booed outrageously as Micaela in Carmen, allegedly by a claque organized by the singer playing Carmen. The outraged Sayão said she would not sing in Brazil. She joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, debuting in 1937 as Massenet’s Manon. Other favorite roles were Mimì in La Bohème, Debussy’s Mélisande, and Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro.

It was Sayão who is credited with convincing Heitor Villa-Lobos to change the solo part of Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, from violin to wordless soprano. The work became the composer’s most famous piece, and the 1945 recording the most famous of Sayão’s 35 78 rpm releases and her dozen LPs. Sayão made extensive concert tours, and endeared herself by frequently singing for wounded servicemen during World War II. She left the Met’s roster in 1951 and retired from opera in 1954. She came out of retirement three years later, at the request of Villa-Lobos, to sing on his recording of his composition Forest of the Amazon, perhaps her only recording in stereo. It may have been the act of singing this intensely Brazilian music that prompted her to relent in her ban on singing in Brazil, for she made one farewell appearance in Rio, in 1958. After that she retired with her second husband, the well-known Italian baritone Giuseppe Danise, to their home in Lincolnville, ME, a North Atlantic seaside town (Danise died in 1963). There, she lived a quiet life caring for her cats and frequently playing cards with her local friends and visitors.

The coming of compact discs prompted reissues of many of her recordings, a fact which, she told a São Paolo newspaper, made her feel “relieved,” since she had been “tormented” by the idea that all her work had been forgotten. She had a nearly fatal stroke in 1993, but recovered fairly well, considering her age of 92. In 1995, she returned to Rio for the last time, when she learned that the Beija-Flor Samba School had chosen her life story as the subject for its presentations in the great Carnival parade of that year. That was her last public appearance. She died of pneumonia, at the Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, ME, at the age of 97.

Courtesy: AllMusic


Bidu with Toscanini (

Bidu with Toscanini

Bidu with Villa-Lobos, 1958

Bidu in the 1950s

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Posted by on October 22, 2016 in Sopranos


ALFREDO KRAUS, Tenor * 24 November 1927, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria + 10 September 1999, Madrid, Spain;


One of the most stylistic, professional and refined tenors of the century, Spanish tenor Alfredo Kraus passed away recently in Madrid after a long and outstanding career in the world of opera. The Kraus personality gravitated between two poles. On one side the tenor of Mozart and on the other side the lyrical tenor of Donizetti, Verdi but above all of Massenet by incarnating a sublime Werther. His vocal style recalled Dino Borgioli and his interpretive style recalled Tito Schipa in the sense that it asserted a musicality of great taste more than psychological and dramatic development of the character on stage. His performances at Salzburg and Karajan’s preference and sponsorship attested to his soft, sweet but limpid, penetrating and yet rigorous singing.

Alfredo Kraus Trujillo was born at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on 24 November 1927, the third of three sons and a daughter to Otto Kraus, a Spanish journalist of Austrian descent, and Josefa Trujillo, a local girl. Alfredo spent his youth quietly at Las Palmas, in a provincial society dedicated to cultural and musical activities, particularly opera. Otto and Josefa Kraus went regularly to the local theatre to see operas featuring at times famous singers who used to stop at the Canary Islands on their sea journey to Latin America. In their home, it was usual and enjoyable for the Kraus family to sing operatic tunes with piano accompaniment. Alfredo voluntarily joined the school choir, received voice lessons privately and showed keen interest in opera and zarzuelas at the Las Palmas theatre. In 1945, he started a three years electronic course at the faculty of Engineering. The voice of the Danish tenor Roswaenge and radio broadcasts by famous Italian singers, Beniamino Gigli, Maria Caniglia and Gino Bechi deeply impressed the young Alfredo. He also sang as a second tenor with the local philharmonic choir well applauded by the locals, who soon talked enthusiastically about Alfredo’s uncommon vocal talent. This fact drove Otto to ask his son to consider taking on serious singing at the completion of University. Alfredo agreed without hesitation, since he had already decided to embrace a singing career.

In 1948, the twenty-one year old Alfredo left for Barcelona where he studied singing for two years under a Russian she-teacher, Gali Markoff, who applied a rigorous and scientific method to his natural but light weight voice. For six months in 1952, after two years of military service in Valencia, he was a pupil of an old singing teacher, Francisco Andres, who taught him a singing technique similar to that imparted by Mercedes Llopart, the great Spanish singer and teacher. Alfredo was back to the Canary Islands for two years when he became engaged to Rosa Blanca Lej Bird, a ravishing Spanish girl of Las Palmas with Scottish roots. He married her in 1956. In 1955, he took the road to Italy, considered the centre of melodrama for excellence. In Milan, he met with the celebrated Llopart. Under her guidance, he learnt the correct positioning of sound in the “mask” (the facial cavities of resonance), how to lean on the diaphragm and in fact compress the breath between diaphragm and mask, all elements of the famous Lamperti-Garcia singing technique of the mid 1800. Llopart would explain and sing with Alfredo, go through full operatic scores, including the recitatives, and stop at each note. Llopart impressed upon his pupil to refrain from singing in public while studying and exercising technique. She used to say: “ In front of an audience, a singer forgets to control the voice and gives vent to emotions. Without technique, little can be communicated to the audience: how is it possible to produce mezze voci, filature, chiaro-scuri, and give stage expression to what one sings unless one uses technique?”

Soon the choice of a suitable repertory for Kraus became an issue. Llopart felt that Kraus’ voice, endowed with a lot of timbre, would be suited to lirico-spinto roles in small theatres. Hence, Kraus studied Tosca and Manon Lescaut scores. The sound was beautiful but the voice became strained. On the other hand, he never got tired when singing Rigoletto. In the end, Llopart agreed that Kraus should keep to lirico-leggero roles, at least at the beginning. Throughout his entire career, Kraus made full treasure of his early experience and kept rigidly to a repertory, which would exalt the exquisite style, characteristic colour and expressive strength of his lyrical singing. His motto was: ”Never take a step longer than your leg”.

In early 1956, Kraus made his operatic debut in Cairo, Egypt, as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, co-starring Anna Maccianti (Gilda), Enzo Mascherini (Rigoletto), and Cavaradossi in Tosca, with Luciana Serafini (Tosca) and Piero Guelfi (Scarpia). Kraus recalled that his lirico-spinto of Cavaradossi was a success in the Egyptian small theatre and orchestra. In a large theatre and orchestra, his voice would have had to open up and lose its characteristic colour. There was another performance as Cavaradossi in the small theatre of Cannes, France, after which Kraus never sang again the famous Puccinian role. In mid and late 1956, he was Alfredo in La Traviata at Venezia and Torino, a role that made him known and popular throughout Italy of the late fifties.

After November 1956, the study of new scores and singing on stage became very frequent. In 1957, the debut in Falstaff, in 1958 as Alfredo in Traviata co-starring the great Greek soprano Maria Callas for the only time ever. Callas, as Kraus recalled, was a terrific woman and colleague. She showed an incredible kindness and insisted that he be with her to receive enthusiastic accolades at the end of Act II. In 1958, the debut in Don Pasquale with Renata Scotto, in the Pearl Fishers with Gino Bechi and in Marina, a zarzuela of Pascual Juan Emilio Arrieta y Correra. Kraus thought highly of zarzuelas, which he kept singing during recitals. At the end of a triumphant concert in Florence with a program entirely dedicated to music of his land, Kraus remarked: ”Zarzuelas are music little known in the world and unjustly so.” In 1960, as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and Verdi’s Requiem for the only time, in 1961 debut in Puritani, in 1962 in Favorita and the United States. Debut in Elisir d’amore at the Met in late 1962, L’heure espagnole of Ravel and Carmina Burana of Orff at Chicago in late 1965.


1965 was a significant year in the career and life of the great Spaniard. Kraus made his debut as the poet in the principal role of Werther, with Anna Maria Rota as Carlotta and Franco Bordoni as Alberto. The venue was the Teatro Municipale di Piacenza, Italy. In a memorable night, he encored the aria of Act III, “Pourquoi me reveiller”. Kraus showed an extraordinary vocal and scenic affinity with the tragic hero of Massenet. In the ensuing years, his role interpretation of Werther was complete, reaching a perfect union of elegiac intimacy and passionate ardour, destined to enter history and gain him fame all over the world, following Tito Schipa’s example. However, Kraus confessed that, as a modern tenor, he identified himself better in the role of Traviata’s Alfredo and equally in those of Arturo, Edgardo, Fernando, Hoffman, Nemorino and Tonio (Figlia del reggimento).

In the summer of 1968, Kraus was at Salzburg, invited to sing in Don Giovanni by no other than the very famous orchestra conductor, Herbert von Karajan. For Don Giovanni, Karajan had assembled a stunning cast: Nicolaj Ghiaurov in the principal role, Gundula Janowitz, Teresa Zylis-Gara, Mirella Freni, Geraint Evans, Rolando Panerai, Martti Talvela and Alfredo Kraus. The tenor’s collaboration with the Austrian conductor was interesting because they shared the conviction that role characterization in all Mozart operas lies in the recitatives. Kraus said: “They should be executed “all’italiana”, with the correct expression so that audiences may understand what goes on the stage. This belief is in contrast with that of many conductors, Mozart music celebrated readers, who frequently forget that also the recitatives exist”. Kraus became worried when Karajan asked him to exercise nothing but recitatives for three weeks. After querying him, Karajan replied: ”Do not worry about arias. I know how you sing.” Kraus returned to Salzburg the following year, but refused to participate at the Festival for the summer of 1970. He explained to Karajan that he had already made two exceptions to be at Salzburg in summer, depriving his family of their vacation season. Karajan understood and paid him an open tribute of esteem: “Be aware that I have great respect for you and your art.” They parted very cordially as usual. They never worked together again.

The seventies and eighties coincided with a larger repertory embracing new operas by Donizetti such as Linda di Chamounix, La figlia del reggimento, Lucrezia Borgia and French opera such as Contes d’Hoffmann, Romeo et Juliette, Lakmé as well as an intensification of old roles such as Werther, Des Grieux, Nadir and Faust. Kraus’ popularity in Italy increased considerably with the marketing of a series of records of the early sixties in the wake of a biographical film on Julian Gayarre, the great Spanish tenor, with a rich sound track of operatic highlights and Spanish songs. It is worth a mention here that José Carreras also portrayed Julian Gayarre in another film entitled Romanza Final. Many zarzuela selections and a full opera, The Pearl Fishers, featured in long playing operatic records, later marketed by a record company, Carillon Records, and distributed in Italy by the House of Giancarlo Bongiovanni.

An important contribution to Kraus’ fame was his Werther of early 1976 at the Teatro alla Scala, repeated in 1980 with Elena Obraztsova, Daniela Mazzuccato, Alberto Rinaldi and in 1984 at the Paris Opera with raving press reviews. Progressively more frequent were his appearances in Vienna, London, Paris and South America, especially at the Colon of Buenos Aires, where Kraus recalled: “During a performance of Favorita, my rendition of ‘Spirto gentil’ was acclaimed for 10 minutes by the audience who demanded an encore”. In Vienna, Kraus became one of the most favorite singers of the very warm local public, who openly applauded wherever he made an appearance even as a spectator. As from 1988, his name figures in the golden album of the Vienna Opera Kammersanger. Spain, France and Italy bestowed more honours upon him.

As the years went by, Kraus reduced the number of operatic performances to 20-25 a year, and increased his appearances on the concert stage. He never missed his summer holidays at his splendid villa of Lanzarote. Kraus was still active in the early to mid nineties, at nearly 70 years of age, singing with the usual correct technique, style, personality and “musicalita’”. Shortly before his death, he sang Lucia and Werther with unchanged voice and phrasing. He passed away on 10 September 1999 in Madrid.

The career of Alfredo Kraus span over 35 years and, for more than 20 years, his name became known internationally as that of a singer of rare and refined worth. He embodied all the vocal quality of a tenor “di grazia,” which is spontaneity, sweet sounds and gracious stage presence, out-shining in Sonnambula, Elisir, Don Pasquale and Falstaff. His elegant and agile passage to cutting top notes opened him the door to Favorita, Puritani, Figlia del reggimento and Rigoletto. He was adaptable to the florid belcanto of Rossini in Barbiere, Cenerentola, L’Italiana, Turco in Italia and Conte Ory. He was congenial to Mozart in Don Giovanni, Cosi’ fan tutte, Flauto magico and the French repertoire as a sublime Werther. “His many recordings of complete works (from the 1950’s with Sorozabal, the 1960’s and 70’s – and then the Indian Summer with Auvidis Valois, including the finest “Dona Francisquita” of the three he committed to record); not to mention many zarzuela ‘romanza’ (aria) LP/CD recitals testify to his enormous popularity and influence in this important musical sphere. It was as a ‘zarzuelero’ that Spaniards revered him – and turned out in their thousands to witness his coffin’s last journey through Madrid.”

From a technical point of view, he gave variety to his voice using piani, pianissimi, smorzature, rinforzati and top notes with color bursting into a head squillo, which Mr. Gualerzi, a top Italian critic, felt it was a falsetto. In a Spanish magazine, Ritmo, of March 1978, Kraus replied to Gualerzi by saying: ” I never attempted the falsetto technique. I never felt the need for it and further I do not know how to do it. Maschera and falsetto are two wholly different emission techniques. If you do one you cannot do the other. It is not easy to shift the voice from one position to the other.”

From an interpretative point of view, critics accused him of being unconvincing as a role maker early in his career, lacking participation to the stage events, incisiveness and robust expressive depth. Kraus acknowledged that he had dwelt more on technical perfection than character study. He was able to put remedy to his interpretative shortcoming in Lucia and Puritani, by giving a great and noble deportment to the characters of Edgardo and Arturo of almost heraldic proportions. Later on, in the seventies, he brought complete maturity to his roles, especially those of Des Grieux (Manon) and Werther.

Alfredo Kraus

Alfredo Kraus – Photograph signed 1987

Foto: El tenor Alfredo Kraus, en enero de 1991, durante el 35º aniversario de su debut artístico. (EFE)

In January 1991 he celebrated the 35th anniversary of his stage debut

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Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Tenors


LUCIANO PAVAROTTI, Tenor * 12 October 1935, Modena, Italy + 06 September 2007, Modena, Italy;

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His name in the United States is synonymous with opera, and the warmth of his artistry has brought joy to millions. Blessed with the sort of voice that comes around perhaps once in a century, Luciano Pavarotti placed his unique tenor instrument at the service of the great composers, revitalizing opera in our time and bringing beauty to generations of music lovers. “He projects like a searchlight, and he is all heart,” the Chicago Sun-Times proclaimed, echoing the feelings of audiences everywhere who have heard this man. “You listen to him and you love him.”

Pavarotti generously returns that love, and he has done so throughout an extraordinary career that must count as one of the most thrilling spectacles in modern culture. The year 2001 marks the 40th anniversary of Pavarotti’s opera debut, and the impact of his artistry is enormous: performances throughout the world that are the stuff of opera history, unforgettable appearances as part of the Three Tenors who have brought unprecedented popularity to the repertory, tireless charity work for the United Nations, and a treasure trove of musical memories. “I think a life spent on music is a life beautifully spent,” the great tenor believes, “and this is what I have devoted my life to.”

He was born in Modena, Italy, where he received his first music lessons from his father Fernando and he gained his first musical experience with the Modena Choir. Lessons with Arrigo Pola and later with Ettore Campogalliani who refined the young tenor’s phrasing and concentration. In 1961, the same year he got his driver’s license, he won the internationally coveted Achille Peri Prize and shortly afterwards made his professional debut in Reggio Emilia in La Boheme. He was a hit, and he was soon engaged to sing Puccini’s Rodolfo throughout Italy. Verdi’s Duke of Mantua  in Rigoletto followed, and within a year the young tenor was discovered by the great Italian conductor Tullio Serafin: Pavarotti’s performances under Serafin’s direction at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo set the stage for what was to be a stellar international trajectory.

In 1963, Pavarotti was called on in short notice to substitute for an ailing Giuseppe Di Stefano in La Boheme at Covent Garden as well as in the popular television show “Sunday Night at the Palladium.” This double-header of a London debut brought the Italian tenor to the attention of Decca, where the young conductor Richard Bonynge asked Pavarotti to sing with his wife Joan Sutherland. That marked the beginning of one of the most sublime partnerships in vocal history.

It was opposite Sutherland that Pavarotti made his United States debut, in Richard Bonynge’s 1965 production of Lucia di Lammermoor for the Miami Opera. The Sutherland-Pavarotti-Bonynge trio teamed up again for La Sonnambula at Covent Garden, followed by an Australian tour that included La Traviata, La Sonnambula, and Lucia di Lammermoor. 1965 also marked Pavarotti’s debut at La Scala, as he joined his childhood friend Mirella Freni for La Boheme under Herbert von Karajan.

But it was at the Metropolitan Opera in New York that Pavarotti’s stardom was assured. His 1972 Met performances of The Daughter of the Regiment proclaimed Pavarotti as the first tenor to sing the famous and fiendishly difficult nine consecutive high Cs required of Donizetti’s Tonio in full voice instead of falsetto. Critics and audiences raved, Pavarotti was nicknamed “King of the High Cs,” and a new era was born. His 1977 portrayal of Rodolfo in La Boheme on the first ever “Live from the Met” telecast attracted the largest audience up to that time for televised opera. It proved to be just the beginning of Pavarotti’s crusade for the mainstreaming of opera in the United States, followed by over a dozen television broadcasts from Lincoln Center. In 1993, 500,000 fans enjoyed his performance live in New York’s Central Park while millions watched on television.

The rest is history. Role after leading role followed as Pavarotti put his stamp on the tenor repertory all over the world, in virtually every major theater from Berlin to Paris, from San Francisco to Moscow, from Chicago to Peking, with a roster of colleagues that boasts all the finest singers and conductors of our time. His repertory is vast and includes Madama Butterfly, Idomeneo, Manon, La Gioconda, Tosca, Un ballo in maschera, Luisa Miller, I Puritani, Der Rosenkavalier, Il trovatore, La Favorita, Andrea Chenier, Aida and Ernani, among others. His recorded Decca legacy, with more than one hundred titles and growing, has made him the best-selling classical artist of the recording industry.

His recitals in parks and stadiums normally reserved for rock concerts revolutionized the way audiences experience vocal music, first with Pavarotti’s now legendary 1984 Madison Square Garden concert, then in 1990 when he joined Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo in Rome on the occasion of the World Cup. That concert, sung on a lark among friends and sports fans, proved an immensely satisfying experience to singers and song lovers alike: The Three Tenors, who reunite regularly to make great music, remains one of the most original and popular chapters in opera history. “We make these concerts to reach a lot of people,” says Pavarotti. He does just that, and he leaves few hearts untouched. Luciano Pavarotti, legendary singer, humanitarian, died in 2007 of pancreatic cancer.

Biography: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

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luciano pavarotti smoking cigar


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Luciano Pavarotti at Llangollen during his first visit with a choir from his home town, in 1955

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After performing at Massey Hall, Pavarotti was the guest of honour at the a fund-raiser for the women's committee of Columbus Centre. The tenor is seen Jan. 17, 1982 with committee members Georgina Madott, left, and Cathy Bratty.

After performing at Massey Hall, Pavarotti was the guest of honour at the a fund-raiser for the women’s committee of Columbus Centre. The tenor is seen Jan. 17, 1982 with committee members Georgina Madott, left, and Cathy Bratty.  (FRANK LENNON / STAR FILE PHOTO)  

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Posted by on October 20, 2016 in Uncategorized


TATIANA MENOTTI, Soprano * 24 June 1909, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA + 03 October 2001, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain;

Tatiana Menotti (24 June 1909 – 3 October 2001) was an Italian operatic soprano. Born to Italian parents in Boston, Menotti grew up in Trieste. In 1936, she sang the role of Despina in Così fan tutte at Glyndebourne. For 25 years she was a principal artist at La Scala in Milan. She was married to the Spanish tenor Juan Oncina. She died in Barcelona

Photograph of Tatiana Menotti, soprano, bearing a dedication to Prandelli. She sang opposite him several times in 1944: on 14th April at the Teatro Lirico in Milan in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi; on 15th April at the Teatro del Popolo in Turin as Violetta in Verdi’s Traviata, with repeat performances on 27th May at the Politeama Rossetti in Triest, on 24th June at the Teatro Lirico in Milan with the company of La Scala, and on 1st July at the Teatro Comunale in Schio. During 1945 Menotti sang with Prandelli in Massenet’s Manon on 27th October in Pavia and in La Traviata at the Giuseppe Verdi in Triest on 23rd December.

Photograph of Tatiana Menotti, soprano, bearing a dedication to Prandelli.

Cloe Elmo and Tatiana Menotti in “Hansel e Gretel”

Glyndebourne: “Figaro” mit Eleanor Steber, Italo Tajo, Tatiana Menotti, John Brownlee und Ernest Frank 1947/Foto Angus McBean/Glyndebourne Archive

Opera soprano original signature

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Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Sopranos


LAWRENCE TIBBETT, Baritone * 16 November 1896, Bakersfield, California, U.S. + 15 July1960, New York City

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Lawrence Tibbett, Tibbett originally spelled Tibbet (born Nov. 16, 1896, Bakersfield, Calif., U.S.—died July 15, 1960, New York City) American baritone renowned for his success in both opera and motion pictures.

Tibbett began his performing career as an actor and church singer in Los Angeles, where he studied voice with Basil Ruysdael. In 1923, after moving to New York City and beginning vocal study with Frank La Forge, he made his operatic debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Lovitsky in Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. His first major success came in 1925 at the Metropolitan, when he played Ford in Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff. His performance completely overshadowed that of Antonio Scotti, the well-known Italian baritone, who was playing the title role. Over the next several years he sang most of the leading baritone roles at the Metropolitan, continuing with the company for 27 seasons. He was also a popular figure in early talking films and on radio, and he produced the first operas on television.

Tibbett sang in the premiere performances of several native American operas at the Metropolitan, creating the title role in Louis Gruenberg’s The Emperor Jones (the first world premiere to be broadcast live from the Metropolitan) in 1933, Eadgar in Deems Taylor’s The King’s Henchman (1927) and Colonel Ibbetson in Taylor’s Peter Ibbetson (1931), and Wrestling Bradford in Howard Hanson’s Merry Mount (1934). He also played Guido in the first Metropolitan performance of Richard Hageman’s Caponsacchi (1937) and created the title role in Sir Eugene Goossens’ Don Juan de Mañara at Covent Garden, London, in that same year. Films in which he appeared include The Rogue Song, New Moon, The Southerner, and Cuban Love Song. He also did considerable work in radio and recording. He appeared at the Metropolitan for the last time in 1950 in the role of Ivan in Mussorgsky’s Khovanschina, and his last stage appearance was in the musical comedy Fanny on Broadway in 1956. Tibbett’s autobiography, The Glory Road, was published in 1933.

Lawrence Tibbett

Lawrence Tibbett

Lawrence Tibbett

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Mr and Mrs Lawrence Tibbett arrive in Sydney, 1938 – Sam Hood

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Charlie Chaplin with Marion Davies and Lawrence Tibbett, c 1930

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Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey with Lawrence Tibbett, 1939.

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:Gladys Swarthout and Lawrence Tibbett 1937


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Posted by on October 18, 2016 in Uncategorized


ALFRED PICCAVER, Tenor * 5 February 1884, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom + 23 September 1958, Vienna, Austria;

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Alfred Piccaver was a British-American operatic tenor particularly noted for his performance as Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme.
Piccaver was born on 5 February 1884 in the Lincolnshire town of Long Sutton. Before he reached the age of two his parents emigrated to the United States of America and took out American citizenship.

Alfred was trained as an electrical engineer but he had a talent for singing and in 1905 he enrolled at the Metropolitan School of Opera where the school’s director Heinrich Conried recognised his considerable vocal ability and in 1907 sent the young Alfred to Prague where he studied with the famous teacher Ludmilla Prochazka-Neumann (1872-1954).

This led to a three year contract with the Deutsches Landes-Theater in Prague where he made his debut on 9 September 1907 in Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. In the following three years, he sang in operas by Flotow, Verdi, Wagner, Mozart, Puccini and Gounod. This variety stood him in good stead, because in 1910, he was invited to appear as a guest in Mattia Battistini’s touring company that was performing in Prague.
He must have impressed Battistini because Piccaver was persuaded to travel with the company to their next venue in Vienna where the Vienna Hofoper showed an interest in him. However, he continued to sing with the Prague company for the remainder of his contract and it was not until 6 September 1912 that he gave his first performance with the Vienna State Opera as a permanent member.

Piccaver had a warm, velvety, lyric tenor voice with a fine cantilena style and excellent legato and diction. Later on it became what an English critic has described as ‘slack muscled’ and acquired a baritonal quality, but in the early years he was known to the Viennese as ‘the Caruso from Prague’. His roles included Rodolfo, ( Puccini called him ‘my ideal Rodolfo’) Cavaradossi, Canio, Radames, Florestan, Lensky and Walther.

Piccaver loved Vienna and the Viennese way of life, so much so that when the director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Giulio Gatti-Casazza, made a lucrative offer for him to appear at the Met he turned it down. He was never asked again. In return, the Viennese were devoted to ‘Picci’, as he was affectionately known. When the First World War broke out Piccaver as an American citizen was unaffected, though when America joined the war in 1917 he was found trying to leave the country but was spared internment if he agreed to continue singing at the Opera. After the war his career at the Vienna State Opera was interrupted by appearances in Chicago in 1923, 1924 and 1925 and at Covent Garden in 1924.

In 1923, for reasons that are not clear, he claimed British nationality as he was entitled to do as a result of his place of birth, though Alfred Piccaver always considered himself an American. On 31 December 1931 his contract with The Vienna State Opera was terminated as a result of a dispute over his salary. He continued to live in Vienna and to make guest appearances in opera in Austria and abroad but with the political situation in Austria worsening he decided to return to Britain in 1937.
He made records and concert appearances in London and even appeared on the BBC’s fledgling television service in 1939. After the war he returned to Vienna for the re-opening of the Vienna State Opera House in 1955 and decided to stay.

He died in his favourite city on 23 September 1958. The Austrian government gave him a state funeral.

Alfred Piccaver, the operatic tenor, outside the portside Grand Staircase entrance.

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Alfred Piccaver – funny photo showing the tenor playing with his dogs.

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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Tenors


GIULIETTA SIMIONATO, Mezzo-soprano * 12 May 1910, Forlì, Emilia-Romagna, Italy + 05 May 2010, Rome, Lazio, Italy;


Giulietta Simionato (12 May 1910 – 5 May 2010) was an Italian mezzo-soprano. Her career spanned the period from the 1930s until her retirement in 1966. She famously slapped Maria Callas across the face once, although eventually the two became friends.


Born at Forlì, Romagna, she studied in Rovigo and Padua, and made her operatic debut at Montagnana in 1928. In 1928, she sang in Verdi’s “Rigoletto”. The first fifteen years of her career were frustrating, she was only given small parts, but she attracted growing attention in the late 1940s, and by the end of her career was recognised as one of the most respected singers of her generation. In 1936, she made her debut at La Scala and appeared there regularly between 1936 and 1966. She made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1953, where she likewise appeared regularly between 1963 and 1965.

Simionato made her United States opera debut in 1953 as Charlotte in Jules Massenet’s Werther at the San Francisco Opera with Cesare Valletti in the title role. In 1959 she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, as Azucena in Il Trovatore, with Carlo Bergonzi, Antonietta Stella, and Leonard Warren. Simionato also appeared at the Edinburgh Festival (1947), the San Francisco Opera (1953), the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos (1954), the Lyric Opera of Chicago (1954–1961), the Vienna State Opera (from 1956), and the Salzburg Festival. In 1957, she sang in Anna Bolena with Maria Callas. In 1961, she withdrew from three performances at the Metropolitan Opera, with Trigeminal Neuralgia.

Simionato had a large repertory including Rossini’s Rosina and Cinderella, Charlotte in Werther, and Carmen. She also excelled in the Verdian repertoire, asAmneris, Eboli and Azucena, and as Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana.

She was a major recording artist, and in addition many of her performances gained live radio broadcast or were captured on film. Fono has gathered her recordings on the CD, The Color of a Voice. She retired in 1966, and married Dr. Cesare Frugoni.

She continued to inspire admiration through teaching and various directorial positions, with amazing vitality even in her 90s. She was featured in Daniel Schmid’s award-winning 1984 documentary film Il Bacio di Tosca (Tosca’s Kiss) about a home for retired opera singers founded by Giuseppe Verdi. She also appeared in a hilarious interview by Stefan Zucker in Jan Schmidt-Garre’s 1999 film, Opera Fanatic.

She died in Rome one week before her 100th birthday.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

as a young woman

as Carmen

again as Carmen

as Santuzza

studio portrait

wearing a polka dot dress

wearing a print dress

smart hat and flowers

in fur with a rose


Photographs courtesy of Sandy’s Opera Gallery

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Posted by on October 15, 2016 in Mezzo-Sopranos

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