Monthly Archives: May 2017

GEORGE LONDON, Bass-baritone * 30 May 1920, Canada + 24 March 1985, New York City, New York, United States;

George London (May 30, 1920 – March 24, 1985), born George Burnstein, was a Canadian concert and operatic bass-baritone.

George London was born to a Russian Jewish family in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and grew up in Los Angeles, California, United States.

In the summer of 1945 Antal Doráti invited his longtime friend, the Hungarian bass Mihály Székely, to sing at the first concert of the newly reorganized Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Because of travel difficulties Székely was unable to arrive in time, so Doráti called upon young George London as a substitute.

After performing widely with tenor Mario Lanza and soprano Frances Yeend as part of the Bel Canto Trio in 1947–48, London was engaged by the Vienna State Opera, where he scored his first major success in 1949.

In 1950 he sang the role of Pater Profundis in Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

He was among the most famous exponents of his five signature roles: Don Giovanni, Boris Godunov, Wotan, Scarpia and Amfortas. He never recorded any role in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, although recital performances of Hans Sachs’ monologues exist on record.

In 1951 he sang at Bayreuth as Amfortas in Parsifal, and reappeared frequently in the 1950s and early 1960s as Amfortas and in the title role of The Flying Dutchman. He made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1951 as Amonasro in Aida, and sang over 270 performances, both baritone and bass-baritone roles, in such operas as The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Arabella, Tosca, Don Giovanni, Boris Godunov, Carmen, Otello, Parsifal, Tannhäuser, The Tales of Hoffmann, Pelléas et Mélisande, and Faust. In 1964, he created the role of Abdul in the American premiere of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage. He was the first American to sing the title role of Boris Godunov at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, at the height of the Cold War in 1960.[1]

He frequently performed in English: Broadway show tunes and negro spirituals. Recordings of both are available.

He recorded many of his roles for RCA Victor, Columbia Records, and Decca. He recorded Verdi’s Requiem with Richard Tucker and Lucine Amara, under Eugene Ormandy. A recording of a live concert with piano accompaniment is also available from VAI, which includes Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death, as well as several Schubert Lieder and a variety of songs in English.

During his Met career, in 1956, he appeared on Ed Sullivan’s television program in an abridged version of Act II of Tosca, opposite Maria Callas, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos. A kinescope of that performance was preserved. Another black-and-white videotape of him in the same role, opposite Renata Tebaldi in a complete performance, is sometimes available. In 1958, London performed the leading role of Wotan, in the groundbreaking recording of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold, conducted by Sir Georg Solti, and produced by John Culshaw for Decca.

Having already sung the Rheingold Wotan and the Siegfried Wanderer roles at the Met in New York in December 1961 and January 1962, he was ready to sing his first complete Ring Cycle. This was to be the now legendary new production mounted by Wieland Wagner at the Cologne Opera in West Germany in May 1962. Wieland Wagner was ready to try out new singers and production ideas in advance of his new Bayreuth Festival production which was scheduled for the summer of 1965 with London as Wotan and the Wanderer.

The Cologne Ring proved to be a great success (a private recording of Das Rheingold from this cycle exists to verify this) but London’s vocal health began to deteriorate rapidly during the 1963–64 season; subsequently the problem was diagnosed as a paralysed vocal cord. This problem increased so much that shortly after singing Wotan in Die Walküre at the Met in March 1965, he canceled his upcoming appearances at the Bayreuth Festival to rest and ideally recover his voice. However, his vocal decline continued so severely that by March 1966, he performed his last appearance at the Metropolitan Opera: the role of Amfortas in Parsifal. London subsequently received injections of Teflon in his paralyzed vocal cord – then the state-of-the-art treatment for this condition – which filled it out and therefore restored his voice to some extent. But he decided the improvement did not let him achieve again his self-imposed highest standards. He therefore ended his singing career in 1967, at 46.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and George London in “Le Nozze di Figaro”

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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Bass-Baritones


ROSA RAISA, Soprano * 30 May 1893, Białystok, Poland + 28 September 1963, Santa Monica, California, United States;

Born Raitza Burchstein in the Russian sector of late nineteenth-century Poland, Rosa Raisa ascended with blinding quickness to the upper echelons of the operatic world. A child witness to a pogrom in which dozens in her hometown were killed, young Raitza left her Russian-language native town and traveled to Italy where she trained with Barbara Marchisio who grounded her in the early and middle nineteenth-century Italian vocal tradition. After a successful Italian debut, she came to the Chicago Opera in the fall of 1913. There she remained for 24 years as reigning dramatic soprano. The lustre of her powerful instrument and the dramatic intensity of her stage personality made her an icon of the Chicago company, regarded with awe and respect throughout the world.

Raisa’s parents were Jewish and she remained fiercely proud of her heritage throughout her life, although she converted to Catholicism only weeks before her death in order to make possible burial next to her husband in Italy. Raisa left Poland for Italy, where other relatives had already emigrated. An audition for Maestro Vincenzo Lombardi led to a scholarship at the Naples Conservatory with Marchisio accepting her not as a class member, but as a private pupil. Marchisio also counseled the girl with the “exceptional” voice in matters of career preparation, good health, and adequate sleep. Raisa graduated in June 1911 and sang “Bel Raggio” for the ceremony. After performing in several orchestral concerts, she made her operatic debut on September 6, 1913, at the Teatro Reggio in Parma. Her Leonora in Verdi’s Oberto prompted the reviewer in Orfeo to describe her voice as “magnificent, rich in sonorous and powerful notes of beautiful timbre.” Although reservations about her awkwardness were mentioned, the writer predicted, “she will be splendidly successful.”

Only two months after her first performance on any stage, Raisa sang in Baltimore and Philadelphia before making her Chicago debut, singing first at a singers’ showcase at the Blackstone Hotel, then as Aida. The following January, Raisa sang the only secondary role of her career, taking on the First Flower Maiden in Parsifal. Her first Chicago-Philadelphia Opera Company tour took her to Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, St. Paul, and Milwaukee before the end of April 1914.

In May 1914, Raisa sang at Covent Garden, introducing her voice to English audiences in Aida and later singing Elena in Mefistofele and the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. Paris heard her as Nedda and Desdemona and Modena made its acquaintance with her in a long run of Zandonai’s Francesca di Rimini. Rome followed, then a season in Buenos Aires. Raisa made her La Scala debut in 1916, again as Aida. Later, she created in that theater the role of Asteria in Boito’s Nerone (1924) and was the choice of Puccini and Toscanini for the title role in the 1926 premiere of Turandot.

In 1920, Raisa married Italian baritone Giacomo Rimini. They sang together often and, upon retirement, opened a school of singing in Chicago. Critics were fond of Raisa, absorbed by her dramatic intensity and authority — and a voice described by the feared Claudia Cassidy as “a royal purple dramatic soprano shot with gold and fire.”

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Rosa Raisa as Maliella

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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Sopranos


JOAN HAMMOND, Soprano * 24 May 1912, Christchurch, New Zealand + 26 November 1996, Bowral, Australia;

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One of the great opera stars of the two decades following World War Two, Joan Hammond established a wide international following as a soprano on stage and as a recording artist.

Dame Joan was a woman of many talents. While at school, she won the NSW Junior Golf title and would eventually win the NSW Golf Championship three times and be runner-up in the nationals. In her early years, she trained in voice and violin at the Sydney Conservatorium and played violin with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Although her real love was for singing, success in this field did not begin until her talent was recognised by the wife of the then NSW Governor, who raised funds to send her to Vienna in 1936. There she trained under the best tutors of the day.

While striving to maintain her career during the early years of World War Two, she drove an ambulance in London during the Blitz.

In 1941, she recorded the Puccini aria, Oh My Beloved Father, which became the first classical aria to sell more than a million records. She entertained troops and civilians during the war, even singing in underground air raid shelters and on battleships in northern Scotland.

Returning to Australia in 1946, she resumed her career by singing all the major soprano roles in Europe, the United States and Australia. From 1975 she taught at the Victorian College of the Arts. She was the first artistic director of the Victoria State Opera and in 1974 she was created Dame of the British Empire.

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Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Sopranos


ILVA LIGABUE, Soprano * May 23, 1932, Reggio Emilia + August 17, 1998, Palermo;

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Ilva Ligabue (May 23, 1932, Reggio Emilia – August 17, 1998, Palermo) was an Italian operatic soprano, best known for the role of Alice Ford in Falstaff, which she recorded twice, under Georg Solti (RCA, 1963) and Leonard Bernstein (Sony, 1966).

Ilva Ligabue studied at the Milan Conservatory in the class of Campogalliani and at La Scuola di Canto alla Scala where she made her debut as Marina in 1953.[1] After singing with success at most of the Italian opera houses, she won considerable acclaim in the title role of Beatrice di Tenda at La Scala in 1961, followed by Margherita in Boito’s Mefistofele in Chicago.[1]

She then began appearing abroad, notably in Germany, also singing at the Vienna State Opera, the Paris Opera, and became a regular guest artist at the Glyndebourne Festival and the Aix-en-Provence Festival, where she was especially admired as Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte. She also appeared in Buenos Aires, Chicago and New York City.

A sensitive and intelligent singer and a fine actress, other notable roles included Amelia in Un ballo in maschera and Desdemona in Otello. Alan Blyth wrote that “those who saw and heard her will always remember the liveliness of her characterizations and the aplomb of her singing”, representing an Italian vocal style “outgoing yet disciplined”.

Her complete opera recordings include Alice in Falstaff conducted by Downes, Solti and Bernstein, Verdi’s Messa da Requiem on CD and DVD under Giulini, as well as live recordings including Verdi’s Otello in Dallas in 1962 with Del Monaco and Vinay (singing Iago) and Verdi’s I masnadieri in Rome in 1972 with Raimondi, Bruson and Christoff.

Ligabue was married to the Italian baritone Paolo Pedani.

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Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Sopranos


BORIS CHRISTOFF, Bass * 18 May 1914 Plovdiv, Bulgaria + 28 June 1993 Rome, Italy;

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Boris Christoff (Bulgarian: Борис Кирилов Христов, official transliteration Boris Kirilov Hristov pronounced [bɔrˈis ˈkirilɔf ˈxristɔf]; 18 May 1914 – 28 June 1993) was a Bulgarian opera singer, widely considered one of the greatest basses of the 20th century.

Born in Plovdiv, Christoff demonstrated early his singing talent and sang as a boy at the choir of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia. In the late 1930s he graduated in law and started a career as a magistrate. He continued singing in his spare time in the Gusla Chorus in Sofia, achieving an enormous success as the chorus soloist in 1940. Thanks to a government grant, Christoff left in May 1942 for Italy where he was tutored for two years in the core Italian bass repertoire by the great baritone of an earlier generation, Riccardo Stracciari.

Performance career
After several guest appearances and recitals in Austria in 1944 and 1945, Christoff returned to Italy in December 1945. He made his operatic debut as Colline in La bohème at Reggio Calabria on 12 March 1946. In following years Christoff appeared in a number of roles at Milan’s La Scala, Venice’s La Fenice, the Rome Opera, Covent Garden in London, the opera theatres in Naples, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, etc.

In 1950 he was invited to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City but was refused entry into the USA as a result of the McCarran Immigration Act, which banned citizens of Eastern bloc countries from entering the country. The role was instead filled by the young Italian basso, Cesare Siepi. After the restrictions were loosened, Christoff made an operatic debut in the United States in 1956 at the San Francisco Opera. He refused any further invitations to the Metropolitan and never appeared there. After a brief absence from the scene due to brain tumour surgery in 1964, Christoff resumed his career in 1965, though at a much slower pace. In 1967 he was allowed to return to Bulgaria for the first time since 1945, for the funeral of his mother.

In the 1970s Christoff on-stage performances were all but frequent.[clarification needed] He brought his career to an end with a final concert at the Accademia di Bulgaria in Rome on 22 June 1986. He died in Rome in 1993 and his body was returned to Bulgaria, where he was given a state funeral and buried in Sofia’s Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

Voice, repertoire, character
Christoff had an excellent voice with a distinctive dark tone. Although it was not as large as some other bass voices, he had no trouble making an impact in big auditoria, like the San Francisco Opera. Owing to his stage presence and dramatic temperament, he was a worthy heir to the grand tradition of Slavonic basses exemplified by Fyodor Stravinsky, Lev Sibiriakov, Vladimir Kastorsky, Feodor Chaliapin, Alexander Kipnis and Mark Reizen, among others. He sang mostly in Verdi and the Russian repertoire, and was also a refined performer of vocal chamber music. Among his most famous roles were those of Tsar Boris (Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov), Philip II (Verdi – Don Carlo), Mephistopheles (Gounod – Faust and Boito – Mefistofele), Ivan Susanin (Glinka – A Life for the Tsar), Zaccaria (Verdi – Nabucco), Tsar Ivan (Rimsky-Korsakov – Ivan the Terrible), Dosifei (Mussorgsky – Khovanshchina), Gomez da Silva (Verdi – Ernani), Fiesco (Verdi – Simon Boccanegra), Attila (Verdi – Attila), Padre Guardiano (Verdi – La forza del destino), Galitzky and Kontchak (Borodin – Prince Igor) and others.

Christoff made studio recordings of eight operas (Don Carlo, Boris Godunov and Faust twice each) and numerous live recordings (radio or stage performances). He was much admired as song singer and he recorded more than 200 Russian songs by Mussorgsky (he was the first to record all his 63 songs), Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, Borodin, Cui, Balakirev as well as traditional songs, mostly with piano accompaniment. He initiated the tradition of making studio recordings of Boris Godunov with the same basso singing three roles (Boris, Varlaam, Pimen).

While he was a grand performer on stage, Christoff had difficult off-stage relations with fellow singers and producers, which sometimes grew into public scandals. In 1955 he fell out with Maria Callas during the performances of Medea at the Rome Opera and in 1961 his contract with La Scala was terminated after an open conflict with fellow Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov whom Christoff blamed for collaborating with the Bulgarian communist regime. Herbert von Karajan tried to make him sing the title role in Don Giovanni which would have been inappropriate for his range; this prompted him to sever relations with von Karajan.[citation needed]

He was the brother-in-law of the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi.

Many recordings are available. The following list contains just a few.

His complete songs by Mussorgsky are available, produced by EMI.
He recorded the Verdi Requiem 3 times, once under Tullio Serafin in Rome 1959, once with Herbert von Karajan and once with Bruno Bartoletti.
Two recordings of Boris Godunov are available with Christoff singing three roles: Boris, Pimen, and Father Varlaam.
Two performances in major Wagner roles are available, both sung in Italian: Gurnemanz in Parsifal conducted in Rome 1950 by Vittorio Gui, and Pogner the goldsmith in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, conducted (studio) by Lovro von Matačić in Torino 1962.
Lugano Recital 1976 [DVD]


A Monument of Boris Christoff near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

Resulta ng larawan para sa Boris Christoff

Boris Christoff with his wife, 1960.

Boris Christoff at the age of four.

Boris Christoff with his mother at their home, Sofia, 1963.

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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Bassses


CLARICE CARSON, Soprano * 23 December 1929, Montréal, Quebec, Canada + 2 May 2015, Toronto, Ontario Canada;

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Clarice Carson (née Katz), soprano (born 23 December 1929 in Montréal, QC; died 2 May 2015 in Toronto, ON). One of Canada’s most prominent opera singers, Clarice Carson sang with the Metropolitan Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, the CBC and many major companies in North America, South America and Europe. She shared the stage with such opera stars as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Louis Quilico and Léopold Simoneau, and worked with such leading conductors as Zubin Mehta, Eugene Ormandy, James Levine and Richard Bonynge, among many others. She was inducted into the Canadian Opera Hall of Fame and was the first Canadian honoured with a commemorative plaque at the National Opera Center in New York.
Education and Early Career
Carson studied with Pauline Donalda and Jacqueline Richard in Montréal, and with Julia Drobner in New York. She made her public debut at a Sarah Fischer Concert in Montréal in 1956. Her first operatic roles were with the Opera Guild of Montréal: as the Lady-in-Waiting in Macbeth (1959), Micaëla in Carmen (1960), and Siebel in Faust (1963).
Career Highlights
She spent the 1965–66 season with the New York City Opera, where she made her debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, and a tour in 1966–67 with the Metropolitan Opera National Company, as the Countess, Violetta in La Traviata, and the Female Chorus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. She then spent three seasons (1967–70) at the Metropolitan Opera, where she made her debut as Pamina in The Magic Flute. One of her most successful roles there was Musetta in La Bohème.
She frequently sang in the United States (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston, San Francisco), Canada (Montréal, Toronto, Vancouver, Québec City, Edmonton, Stratford) and Europe (Barcelona, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Rouen, Nice). She sang the title role in Tosca for CBC TV in 1970 with Louis Quilico as Scarpia, and for the Canadian Opera Company (COC) in 1972. She was also Elisabeth deValois in Don Carlos for the COC in 1977. She returned to the Metropolitan in 1975–76 to portray Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte.
Carson sang several leading roles for the Opéra du Québec: the title role in Suor Angelica and Giorgietta in Il Tabarro (1971), Desdemona in Otello (1973), and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, and Alice Ford in Falstaff (1974). She appeared in New York in concert versions of such seldom heard operas as Berlioz’ Les Troyens (1972) and Pfitzner’s Palestrina (1973). Her bright lirico-spinto encompassed a wide repertoire ranging from Constanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio to Elsa in Lohengrin, Maddalena in Andrea Chenier, and the title roles in Aida, Salome, and Turandot.
Personal Life
Her husband, in a second marriage, was Philon Ktsanes, a Greek-American tenor and vocal coach. After retiring in 1986, she served as an active board member of the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists (IRCPA), where she mentored many young singers.
Carson was inducted into the Canadian Opera Hall of Fame at Place des Arts by Opéra de Montréal in 1998. In 2013, she became the first Canadian to receive a commemorative plaque acknowledging her career at the National Opera Center in New York. Carson donated her musical scores and recordings to IRCPA, which plans to open a reference library in her name in the fall of 2017.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

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Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Sopranos

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