Monthly Archives: October 2016

GINO BECHI, Baritone * 16 October 1913, Florence, Italy – 2 February 1993, Florence, Italy;

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Bechi studied at the Florence Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Raoul Frazzi and Di Giorgi. He made his operatic début as Germont père/La traviata at Empoli in 1936, subsequently singing such rôles as Figaro/Il barbiere di Siviglia, Enrico/Lucia di Lammermoor and Rigoletto in the theatres of Alessandria, Bari, Palermo and Reggio Emilia. During 1937 he sang at the Cairo and Rome Opera Houses, and in 1938 was invited to appear as Baldassare in Cilea’s L’Arlesiana at Rome. Here he also participated in the première of Lodovico Rocca’s Monte Ivnor in 1939 and continued to appear regularly at the Rome Opera until 1952. Bechi made his début at La Scala, Milan during the 1939–1940 season as Don Carlo/La forza del destino, followed by Cascart in Leoncavallo’s Zazà opposite Beniamino Gigli and Mafalda Favero. He was active at La Scala throughout World War II, during which he also appeared in 1942 as a guest in Berlin. At the Florence Maggio Musicale in 1941 Bechi sang in the first performance of Alfano’s Don Juan de Mañara and after the end of the war he appeared at opera houses in South America (Rio de Janeiro, 1946; Buenos Aires, 1947) and in the Iberian peninsular (Lisbon and Barcelona).

Meanwhile Bechi continued to pursue a successful career in Italy. He sang the title rôle in Nabucco in 1946 at the reopening of La Scala, where he appeared regularly until 1953 in rôles such as Alfonso/La favorita, di Luna/Il trovatore, Iago/Otello, and Rigoletto. In addition to the normal run of baritone parts which he essayed (including Alfio/Cavalleria rusticana, Amonasro/Aida, Gérard/Andrea Chénier and Renato/Un ballo in maschera) he also sang Severo/Poliuto at Bergamo as part of the Donizetti centenary celebrations in 1948 and the title rôle in Thomas’s Hamlet at Palermo in 1949.

In 1950 Bechi took part in the visit of the La Scala company to Covent Garden, singing Iago and the title rôle in Falstaff, returning to England in 1958 to sing the title part in Rossini’s William Tell at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. His only North American appearances were in 1952, at Chicago, San Francisco and in concert. Later appearances included the title rôle in Salieri’s Falstaff at Siena in 1961, prior to his retirement from the stage in 1965, after which he settled in Florence. During the later part of his career Bechi was featured on the soundtrack of several Italian opera films (for instance Aida opposite Renata Tebaldi (voice)/Sophia Loren (actress) in 1953) as well as in person (La traviata, with Anna Moffo, 1968). He also appeared in several romantic films such as Torna a Sorrento. From 1964 Bechi led an opera class at the Accademia Chigiana and also served as artistic director of the Teatro San Carlo in Lisbon.

Bechi possessed a firm, heroic baritone voice which he used to great dramatic effect in both melodrama and comedy. He was a powerful presence on stage, as may be seen from his film appearance as Germont père in La traviata, a remarkably convincing assumption of this rôle. His complete opera recordings made for HMV with Gigli are uniformly successful.

Courtesy: Naxos Records

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Vilma Fraccaroli and Gino Bechi

Courtesy: Sandy’s Opera Gallery

smiling, different hat, different tie (photo courtesy of Emy Scicluna – Malta)

Courtesy: Sandy’s Opera Gallery

elegant jacket and tie

Courtesy: Sandy’s Opera Gallery

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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Baritones


ARLEEN AUGER, Soprano * 13 September 1939, South Gate Los Angeles County California, USA + 10 June 1993, Loosduinen Zuid-Holland, Netherlands;

Opera Singer. A coloratura soprano, she earned praise in both opera and recital throughout the world. Born Joyce Arleen Auger, she was raised in Southern California and learned to sing in church while also studying piano and violin and gaining experience in local theater; Arleen graduated from California State University, Long Beach, worked for a time as an elementery school teacher, then after vocal training in Chicago made her first professional appearances in concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A 1967 vocal competition win provided a trip to Vienna where following further study she made her operatic debut later that same year at the Vienna State Opera as The Queen of the Night in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” under the baton of Josef Krips. Arleen kept Vienna as her base for seven years, eventually singing about a dozen roles including Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Constanze of Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio”. She made her New York City Opera debut in 1969 as The Queen of the Night, first appeared at La Scala Milano in 1975 as Le feu in Maurice Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortileges”, and made her Metropolitan Opera bow in 1978 as Marzelline from Beethoven’s “Fidelio” with Karl Bohm on the podium. Throughout her career Arleen was an active concert and recital singer primarily performing the works of Bach, Handel, and Mozart at roughly 60 music festivals, Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, London’s Wigmore and Royal Festival Halls, and other primiere venues. A gifted instructor she taught at Frankfurt’s Goethe University from 1971 until 1977, as well as at the Salzsburg Mozarteum. By far her most watched appearance, with an estimated worldwide audience of 700 million, was her performance of Mozart’s “Exsultate, Jubilate” at the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey on July 23, 1986. Having been long associated with the works of Mozart Arleen was selected to honor the bi-centenary of the great composer’s death with 1990 concerts of the “Exsultate, Jubilate” and the “Great Mass in C-minor” and was to record both pieces for Deutsche Grammophon with Leonard Bernstein. On Mozart’s death anniversary of December 5, 1991, Arleen joined Cecilia Bartoli and Maestro Sir Georg Solti in the “Requiem Mass in D-minor” at Vienna’s St. Stephan’s Cathedral; it was to be her final Mozart performance. Forced to retire in February 1992 she died after three surgeries for a malignant glioma leaving a legacy of around 200 recordings dating from the earliest days of her career, one of which, “The Art of Arleen Auger”, won a posthumous 1994 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance. Since 1995 a memorial scholarship in her name has been awarded to aspiring singers. (bio by: Bob Hufford)

Grave of the greatest Arleen Auger

Courtesy: Find A Grave

Arleen Augér

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Posted by on October 27, 2016 in Sopranos


GIOVANNI MARTINELLI, Tenor * 22 October 1885, Montagnana, Italy + 02 February 1969, New York City, New York, United States;

Giovanni Martinelli was certainly one of the best known and most admired Italian tenors of the 20th Century. He was very popular in America, and was a mainstay at the Metropolitan Opera for a remarkable 32 years, never easing off on his hard-core, bread and butter repertoire, which among other operas, included Aida, Trovatore, Otello, Turandot, La Juive, and Pagliacci. I would call his voice unique among great tenors. He sang with an open, white phonation that was very rare in the verismo world of dark-voiced, low-larynx singing so characteristic of post bel canto opera. That he did so successfully—especially considering the repertoire—is little short of miraculous. He never screamed, he never shouted. He sang the big dramatic roles with the same voice with which he sang lyric roles, and for him it worked. In a word, he always sounded like a tenor, no matter what he sang.

But if a picture tells a thousand words, a few Martinelli recordings tell the entire story of the Martinelli voice. I have tried to choose as many filmed excerpts as I could find, because he was a statuesque man of striking features, and one needs the entire impression: First, a famous Neapolitan song known to everyone:

Beautifully sung, without question: This is the essential Martinelli voice. Now, with that impression still in mind, let us look at an early Vitaphone recording of “Vesti la Giubba.” Canio was one of his most successful roles, with which he, like Caruso, was often associated” :

It is fascinating to reflect upon the fact that he uses exactly the same voice—his voice, always recognizable—to sing two such different kinds of music. And it works! It works even though it is counter-intuitive, considering the different repertoire. Caruso, ever associated with this role, has become imprinted on the mind as the essential Canio, but that need not be the case. The tenors who have sung Canio are countless, and Martinelli’s works perfectly well. The essential thing about Martinelli’s voice, always to be remembered, is that it is essentially sui generis: Always the same sound, always the same color, always Martinelli. That is one of the characteristics of “open” singing: The characteristics of the speaking voice are always more present than they are in the heavily covered voices of the big dramatic tenors. It is not always easy—at least initially—to distinguish the voices of, let us say, Vinay, Del Monaco, Giacomini, Corelli, or Domingo. Certainly there are differences, but one has to stop and listen for a moment. That never happens with Martinelli. He is always immediately recognizable, because the personal characteristics of his voice, of  Giovanni Martinelli’s voice, are always up-front and eternally his. This can be a big advantage in opera, because the audience recognizes the voice of the artist, as well as the character, and it is somehow more intimate. The voices of some singers are like instruments, and often have only that much “personality” about them. Some prefer that, especially in grander, more archetypal operas, such as those of Wagner. Wagner’s characters are often aspects of the unconscious, and “personality” is already determined by archetype. Not so, as a rule, in Latin opera.

Finally, here is a recording of his “Questa o Quella,” from Rigoletto, which is very interesting, for several reasons:

Did you notice how sympathetic the Duke sounds? He has a very distinct personality in this recording, and it is much more elegant than usual, because it is sung in a recognizable voice that has the characteristics of a more conversational speaking voice, presenting a view of women that, while it remains cynical, is nonetheless expressed in a curiously human way that is more reflective and world-weary than it is foppish, thereby adding another quality to the Duke’s character that actually makes him a more interesting person.

Finally, here is another old Vitaphone clip showing Martinelli is a piece from Marta, one we might more readily associate with a lyric tenor like John McCormack:

To reiterate, it is always Martinelli; same voice, same tenor.  Always brilliant, always believable, be it the tragic Otello or the sentimental and heart-broken Lionel.

One of the great tenors of all time!

Courtesy: Great Opera Singers

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Italian tenor opera singer Giovanni Martinelli with wife, Adele Previtali, 1915

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Giovanni Martinelli in 1920.


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Posted by on October 26, 2016 in Tenors


CONCHITA SUPERVIA, Mezzo-soprano * 9 December 1895, Barcelona, Spain + 30 March 1936, London, United Kingdom;

Conchita Supervía (9 December 1895 – 30 March 1936) was a highly popular Spanish mezzo-soprano singer who appeared in opera in Europe and America and also gave recitals.

Early life
Supervía was born in Barcelona to an old Andalusian family and given the baptismal name of María de la Concepción Supervía Pascual. She was educated at the local convent but at the age of twelve entered the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu in Barcelona to study singing.

Professional career
She made her stage debut in 1910 at the young age of 15 at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, Argentina in Stiattesi’s Blanca de Beaulieu. Then she sang in Tomás Bretón’s Los Amantes de Teruel and as Lola in Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana.

In 1911 she sang the role of Octavian in the first Italian language production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. In 1912 she appeared as Carmen at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in her native city, a role with which she would be associated for the rest of her career.

She made her American debut in 1915 as Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther at the Chicago Opera, where she also sang in Mignon and Carmen. Back in Europe by the end of the First World War she was invited to Rome, where she started the Rossini revival that made her world-famous – as Angelina in La Cenerentola, Isabella in L’italiana in Algeri and Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, in the original keys.

All in all, she made more than 200 recordings mostly for the Fonotipia and Odeon labels, featuring not only her famous roles in opera but also a vast song repertory in Catalan, Spanish, French, Italian and English, as well as pieces from zarzuela and even operetta. (She had appeared in a legendary production of Franz Lehár’s Frasquita at the Opéra Comique.)

In 1930, she made her London debut at the Queen’s Hall. The following year she married a Jewish businessman from London, Ben Rubenstein, and settled there. (She already had a teenage son, George, from a previous association.)

Her Covent Garden debut was in 1934 in La Cenerentola and in 1935 she repeated that part, plus L’Italiana in Algeri and Carmen. In 1934, Supervía appeared in the Victor Saville British motion picture Evensong as a singer named Baba L’Etoile, opposite actor Fritz Kortner.

Vocal qualities
She had a powerful chest register linked to a flexible upper voice that could cope easily with florid passages, allied to a musicianship of great individuality and infectious flair. Her voice is not without its critics; a pronounced vibrato that in the lower part of the voice became almost a machine-gun rattle, ‘as strong as the rattle of ice in a glass, or dice in a box’, in a comment attributed to the British critic, Philip Hope-Wallace.

Many who heard her in the flesh have said that this vibrato was more evident on records than on the stage – an example of the microphone exaggerating a singer’s faults. In the 1920s Supervía sang at La Scala as Hänsel in Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel but, strangely, she never sang the Rossini roles or Carmen at La Scala though she sang there in every season until 1929.

Later, during her career, pregnancy forced her to cancel her planned appearances in the autumn of 1935. On 29 March 1936 she entered a London clinic to await the birth of her baby, which was stillborn on 30 March; a few hours later she herself died. She was buried with her baby daughter, in a grave designed by Edwin Lutyens, in the Willesden Jewish Cemetery in Northwest London. The grave, which had fallen into disrepair, was refurbished by a group of admirers and re-consecrated in October 2006.

in a garden

wearing a fine feathered hat


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Posted by on October 25, 2016 in Mezzo-Sopranos


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 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

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