Wednesday, April 27, 2016

From Karen Slack

Since this sounds like things I often say, I have included this comment by Karen Slack:

Young aspiring Opera singers.... You can not say you want to be a professional singer and be completely unaware of history's great singers. If you don't know the names and voices of some of the greatest singers of the last 200 years (not present "famous" singers or "famous" in the last 75 years) than you must question if in fact this artform is one you really want to pursue. Ask your teachers the same questions and if they don't know names/voices/repertoire and why they were greats.... you are seriously getting a poor education. Singing is so so much more than perfect scales, exercises and tricks!! You MUST study the craft tirelessly, endlessly and passionately. I can't tell you how disappointing it is talking and working with singers in coachings and masterclass who are clueless about these things when you have resources like YouTube, Wikipedia and Google at your fingertips LITERALLY!! I can't imagine an athlete not knowing and studying the GREATEST in their particular sport..... we must do better!

In response to my last post about younger singers not knowing enough about the history of singers I am accepting the week long challenge of my dear friend Stephanie Blythe (Eve Gigliotti we started this on my post) in posting/sharing videos on some of our favorite singers of the past. I came across this incredible soprano a few years ago while I buying historic recordings off of Opera depot. I introduce you to American born dramatic soprano Gladys Kuchta! Her Lady Macbeth and Elektra are pretty freaking exciting!! I nominate Kevin Thompson and Eve Gigliotti to join in our challenge!

Stephanie Blythe: My friends Rusty L. Thom and Kiki Slack have both made excellent comments today on the despair they feel over young singers that they encounter who have no knowledge or connection to previous generations of singers. I have often seen the blank stare that comes when you mention a great artist of the past- what is more discouraging to me is the lack of curiosity. I want to take up a week long challenge and invite three of my colleagues to join me if it is possible. Would Kiki, Rusty, and David Daniels join me, and each invite at least one other colleague to join them? We will share a great artist of the past every day for five days, and I will start with the wonderful Louise Homer.

Born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1871, she was a beloved American contralto who sang over 700 performances at the Metropolitan Opera. "Homer sang a varied repertoire at the Met which encompassed parts from a variety of musical periods and languages. Some of the many roles she appeared in on the Met stage were Azucena in Il trovatore, Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde, Dalila in Samson and Delilah, Emilia in Otello, Erda in Siegfried, Fidès in Le prophète, both Flosshilde and Waltraute in Götterdämmerung, both Fricka and Schwertleite in Die Walküre, Laura in La Gioconda, Lola in Cavalleria rusticana, Maddalena in Rigoletto, Magdalene in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Marguerite in La dame blanche, both Marta and Pantalis in Mefistofele, Mistress Quickly in Falstaff, Nancy in Martha, Naoia in Frederick Converse's The Pipe of Desire, Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice, Ortrud in Lohengrin, the Second Lady in The Magic Flute, Siebel in Faust, Urbain in Les Huguenots, Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera, Venus in Tannhäuser, and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel. She also sang in numerous concerts at the Met, including as a soloist in performances of Handel's Messiah, Rossini's Stabat Mater, and Verdi's Requiem. Her last performance with the company was as Amneris in November 1929.[4] Homer retired from the stage in 1932." (Wikipedia)
It is also interesting to note that Samuel Barber was Homer's nephew!

Day 2! Titta Ruffo one of my all time favorite singers! The quintessential Verdi baritone what style, technique, phrasing, diction, rich dark voice that maintains it's quality from top to bottom. a self taught singer which they say later got him into trouble. I love this Brindisi which he generously displays his bel canto skills( listen out for that ridiculous cadenza)….. check out another of my favorite recording of him at 29 YEARS OLD singing Il Balen from Verdi's Il Trovatore: LA VOCE DEL LEONE is right! Stephanie Rusty Kevin Eve

Stephanie Blythe: Day Three of the sharing great singers of the past invitational. Kiki Slack, Rusty L. Thom, David F Jarvis My singer for today is the virtuoso coloratura soprano Marcella Sembrich. Here are some very impressive statistics about her career: Born Feb. 15, 1858, she began musical study on violin and piano. After a year off study and the Vienna Conservatory, she gave up violin and piano to study voice, and went to Milan to study with Giovanni Battista Lamberti, the author of "Techniques of Bel Canto." She made her opera debut in Athens, singing lead soprano in "I, Puritani," "Dinorah," La Sonnambula," "Robert le Diable," and "Lucia di Lammermoor." This was all in one year, and she was 19 years old. She studied continually though her career, and became known for her exquisite technique, as we as the beauty of her voice. The bulk of her career was spent at Covent Garden, the Met and the opera in St. Petersburg. She began singing at the Met when it first formed as company, and made her debut as the Met's very first Lucia in "Lucia di Lammermoor".

After 1917, she began teaching at the Curtis Institute, as well as Juilliard. Not only did she teach some of the greatest singers of the day- Alma Gluck, Anna Hamlin, and Edith Piper, many of her students would go on to become famous voice teachers in their own right.

Every summer, she would go to the Alps, but the outbreak of WWI prevented her return, so she took up summer residence in the Adirondacks. Her beautiful studio is in Bolton Landing, NY, right on Lake George, and is now a lovely museum dedicated to her career and the marvelous colleagues and students with whom she worked. Craig Terry and I performed in this glorious space last year, and it was such a memorable occasion! The room had one of the best acoustics we have ever encountered, and the history in the room was palpable. If you are ever in the area, please do yourself a favor and check it out- it contains some very important memorabilia, and will give you a real idea of what it was to be a singer in that time period.

Day Two of the great singers of the past invitational. Thanks for joining, Leonard Warren was born in the Bronx on April 21, 1911. At 24, he joined the Radio City Music Hall Chorus, three years later he won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air, and was given a contract. He had a relatively successful international career, but the bulk of it was spent at the Met. His career also had several important firsts: He was the Rigoletto on the first LP release of an entire opera in 1950, he was Renato in the performances of Ballo In Maschera which were the Met debut of Marian Anderson, and was also in the very first live telecast from the Met in 1948.

I adore his voice- uncommonly round, full of overtones, gorgeous, consistent legato, beautiful Italian. Just so easy, easy. It was one of those voices that seemed like it would wrap around you like a velvet blanket. Another of the true Verdi baritones- he would say of himself: "Always the heavy and never the hero- that's me."

Unfortunately, another famous page in his history is about his death, at the age of 48, of a cerebral hemorrhage. It took place in the middle of a performance of Forza, on March 4, 1960.

KAREN SLACK: Day 5 Stephanie Rusty Eve I had the hardest time trying to decide on a singer! I couldn't make up my mind if I wanted to chose Cheryl Studer, Dorothy Kirsten, Evelyn Lear (who will forever hold a place in my heart) or the great German soprano Elisabeth Rethberg (my birthday twin) or even the Norwegian Goddess herself Kirsten Flagstad. After thinking it over the only person I could rightly close out this challenge with is none other than the great Bulgarian soprano Anna Tomowa Sintow. One of the greatest voices of the 20th century AND my other birthday twin (Sept. 22nd) She sang EVERYTHING gorgeously Verdi, Puccini,Strauss,Mozart,Tchaikovsky,Beethoven,Rossini including the verismo composers Mascagni, Cilea, Giordano. There was NOTHING she couldn't sing stunningly with a generous spirit and near perfect technique. I have so enjoyed this week's challenge and spotlight on some of our favorite singers of the past. THanks to you Stephanie for stepping up and taking posts that Rusty and I made to the next level. I learned so much and hope that other singers particularly the next generation of singers have taken note to learn more and give more. Push yourselves to be more that just a voice but have something to say with your gift. Serve the music to the best of your abilities you have the example now GO! I respect you all more than you know and proud to call you friends! Bravi guys!

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