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Sunday, August 31, 2014


The Mighty Voice of Kurt Baum

 

Kurt Baum has always held a special place in my heart, because he was the first great opera singer I heard.  I was 17 years old, whichI has been a very long time ago.  I was listening  to the radio one Saturday afternoon, when the Texaco Opera Theater came on. It was the first opera I had ever I had ever heard.  It was Aida, and Rhadames was being sung by none other than the great Kurt Baum.  I simply could not believe what I was hearing.  I didn’t know such voices existed.  I knew” Celeste Aida” from having played it on the piano, but hearing Baum sing the phrase“un trono, vicino al sol “ as he brought the great aria  to its thundering ending was a totally new experience for a 17 year old with no experience at all in opera.  I never looked back.  It’s still one of my favorite arias.  This might be a good place to start:


Not the most beautiful voice in opera, but one of the mightiest in the business!

Baum was born in Prague in 1908, and became famous for his 25 seasons at the Met  as a superb House Tenor who was always available, always good and always popular with with the Met audience.  His huge repertoire included Aida, Rosenkavalier, Trovatore, Lohengrin, Pagliacci, Carmen,Tosca / Turridu, Samson, and many, many others, including William Tell.  Here is the stunning “O Muto Asil:”


What an extraordinary voice!  He always sang at full blast and always drew great attention to himself.  There were very few voices like it!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Mado Robin

 

Madeleine Marie Robin, generally known as Mado Robin, was a French coloratura soprano,noted for her extreme upper range.  She is commonly considered to have had one of the highest female voicesof all time, similar in many ways to that of Yma Sumac.  Robin was born in Yzeures-sur-Creuse, Touraine.While some considered her  to have been a singer in the general category of the vaudeville singers of earlier days, she was in fact an extraordinary singer and considered a serious vocal artist in France, where she was, generally speaking, treated with respect and greatly appreciated. She appeared widely in concert, and on Radio and TV. I think one famous recording tells the tale.  Here is perhaps the most extraordinary of all recordings of “Spargi d’amaro pianto:”


At age 17, she married Alan Smith, an Englishman, who died shortly after World War II in a car crash. She had one daughter.

Robin died in Paris in 1960 from cancer (some sources state liver cancer, others leukaemia) a few days before the 1500th performance of Lakmé at the Opéra-Comique, which had organized the event for her birthday.

A museum to her life opened in her home town in 2009.

Dear reader:  If you wish to make a comment on this blog, please feel free to contact me at:

Edmund StAustell@ gmail.com    Your comments are always welcome.    Edmund

 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Martha Angelici





Martha Angelici (May 22, 1907 – September 11, 1973), was a French operatic soprano of Corsican  origin, particularly associated with the French lyric repertoire.
Angelici was born in Cargese. While still very young she moved with her family to Belgium, where she studied voice in Brussels with Alfred Mahy. She began singing for the Belgian, Dutch and Luxemburg radio in 1933, and gave her first public concert at the Kurzaal of Ostend in 1934. Her first stage performance was in Marseille, as Mimi in La bohème, in 1936.
She made her debut at the Opéra-Comique in 1938, where she had a long and successful career, and made her debut at the Palais Garnier in 1953, as Micaela in Carmen, other notable roles included Leila, Pamina, Nedda, etc. She made a few guest appearances at the Monte Carlo Opera and La Monnaie in Brussels. She was also much admired in French baroque music notably in Rameau's Les Indes galantes, and was much loved as a concert singer, especially of Corsican songs.
She was married to the director of the Opéra-Comique, François Agostini. She died in Ajaccio, aged 66.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDxHzNqW5VQ




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eq3LKfJgMk




Friday, August 1, 2014

Robert Weede, by James A. Drake


ROBERT WEEDE

 

 

"This place is worse than Hell," a frustrated Mario Lanza wrote to his manager from the steaming-hot Army Air Force base in Marfa, Texas, where the young tenor had been assigned for his stint as a draftee during the summer of 1943. “Oh, how I wish I could have Robert Weede here now," Lanza lamented.  "I could sure use some singing lessons."

 

The young Mario Lanza was not alone in seeking out Robert Weede for help with vocal technique.  "Bob was our 'voice repairman,'" said Jan Peerce of Weede's uncanny ability to pinpoint, analyze and, as Peerce put it, to "repair" other singers' vocal problems.  Other first-rank singers including Norman Treigle, Dominic Cossa, and John Alexander also sought Weede's help and advice at key points in their careers.  At no time would Weede accept any remuneration for assisting his colleagues when they were experiencing vocal problems. 

 

Jan Peerce had sought Weede’s help during the only vocal crisis that the otherwise-durable tenor ever experienced.  Weede helped Peerce regain his voice, and appeared with him in San Francisco on The Standard Hour radio series, where they sang the duet “Le minaccie i fieri accenti” from La Forza del Destino:

 

[Dear Readers:  address links are not working properly.  The simplest thing to do is just check out the videos on Google Youtube by the name of the video, such as " le minacci, Forza, Weede, Peerce. "  That usually works well.  Sorry for the hassle--been having a lot of trouble with Google lately, surprise, surprise!"]

http://youtu.be/6ESSpgn7ubM

 

Weede also appeared on radio with Peerce’s young brother-in-law, Richard Tucker, on The Squibb Hour, where Tucker had become a frequent guest artist after being signed by the National Concert Artists Corporation, an agency which secured radio appearances for both up-and-coming and well-established classical musicians. 

 

On The Squibb Hour, accompanied by Lynn Murray and his orchestra, the young Tucker and the already-established Weede sang “Within the Temple There,” an English version of “Au fond du temple saint,” the tenor-baritone duet from I Pescatori di Perle:

 


 

Although Tucker had not yet made his Metropolitan Opera debut when he appeared on The Squibb Hour, Weede was first-rank baritone by then.  Born Robert Wiedefeld in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 22, 1903, he studied voice at the Eastman School of Music in the mid-1920's, and subsequently went to Milan for additional study in 1929-1930.  Upon his return to the U.S., he began performing in regional opera companies, and by 1936 his growing reputation earned him a Metropolitan Opera audition. 

 

Weede made his Met debut on May 15, 1937, as Tonio in a double-bill performance of Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana.  Not until the rehearsals were in progress did he realize that another promising young American baritone, Thomas L. Thomas, had been scheduled for his debut the same day, as Alfio in the Cavalleria performance.  The next day, both baritones were lauded in the New York press for their extremely impressive debut performances. 

 

In the wake of the success of Weede’s Metropolitan debut, he was offered a recording contract by Columbia Records.  One of his most successful Columbia disks was of “Si puo?,” the prologue from Pagliacci, with Frieder Weissmann conducting:

 Dear Readers:  The following address seems to work!

 

 

After his initial success at Tonio, Weede spent the the next three seasons at the Met performing in concerts and galas, usually singing one aria (typically, the Pagliacci prologue) and perhaps singing in a trio, quartet, or other ensemble, but garnering very little attention from the New York critics for these brief appearances.

 

All of that changed on the evening of February 27, 1941, when Weede first appeared in the title role in Rigoletto, in a cast that included Jussi Bjoerling as the Duke of Mantua, Hilde Reggiani as Gilda, and Bruna Castagna as Maddalena.  Amid this strong cast, it was the previously-unheralded Weede who netted the praise of all of the major critics. 

 

"It was not much of a Rigoletto at the Metropolitan for anybody but Robert Weede last night," wrote Irving Kolodin in the New York Sun. "However, what this American baritone accomplished in his first appearance at the opera house in this role was striking enough to make the occasion a memorable one, not only for him, but also for the audience."

"As a primary asset," Kolodin continued, "Mr. Weede has a voice—a big voice, moreover, which fills the opera house with ease and doesn't require the forcing to which he sometimes resorted.  But it has quality as well as size ... [and] he was entitled to the robust applause he received."

 

In the New York Post, critic Edward O'Gorman wrote that "Mr. Weede has an enviable baritone voice, one that is full and robust, capable of a wide range of expression and yet one that has none of the coarseness usually encountered in a voice of its type. Its chief characteristic is perhaps its pliability.  But the element that distinguished Mr. Weede's characterization of Rigoletto was neither vocal nor histrionic, although each was telling in its way, but an uncanny sense of theatre that balanced the two in a performance that was a personal triumph for the singer ...."

 

Writing in the New York World-Telegram, Robert Bagar said that "Mr. Weede's singing proved thoroughly compatible with the demands of the part.  His impersonation grew in stature as the evening wore on, and in the emotional give-and-take of the third act he dominated the stage."  Although Weede’s first appearance in Rigoletto was apparently not recorded, his performance of the demanding role during a Saturday matinee radio broadcast on January 31, 1942, was preserved in an off-the-air recording:

 


From 1941 to 1953, Weede added Amonasro in Aida, Manfredo in L' Amore dei tre re, Shaklovity in the Met premiere of Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, and Scarpia in Tosca to his Metropolitan Opera repertoire.  It was as Scarpia that he sang his last performance with the Met, a matinee broadcast from Detroit on April 17, 1953, with an all-American cast including tenor Eugene Conley as Mario Cavaradossi and Dorothy Kirsten as Floria Tosca. 

 




 






 

 


 

 

 
 



 



                                                                                  JAMES A. DRAKE

                               

Robert Weede, By James A. Drake


ROBERT WEEDE

By James A. Drake

 I am both honored and pleased to be able to once again present Dr. James A. Drake as our guest author today.  A recently retired college president, James A. Drake is a distinguished author of seven books, four of which are biographies of great opera singers of the twentieth century.  Although not a musician (he earned a doctorate in philosophy and taught primarily in social-science disciplines before he became a university administrator), Dr. Drake earned the confidence of the legendary soprano Rosa Ponselle, with whom he collaborated on her autobiography for Doubleday and Company. With a foreword by Luciano Pavarotti, the Ponselle-Drake collaboration yielded excellent reviews and was named "Music Book of the Month" by the National Book Clubs of America in 1982.  The book was also promoted during a Metropolitan Opera broadcast in the 1982-83 season. By that time, Dr. Drake had been selected by Sara Tucker, widow of the celebrated tenor Richard Tucker, to write an authorized biography of the great singer, who had died in 1975 while at the peak of his career.  For the Tucker book, Luciano Pavarotti again contributed a foreword, and the biography was officially released at a special event hosted by maestro James Levine at Lincoln Center.  Once again, Dr. Drake's newest work received a "Music Book of the Month" award.

 
                                                         Robert Weede
 

"This place is worse than Hell," a frustrated Mario Lanza wrote to his manager from the steaming-hot Army Air Force base in Marfa, Texas, where the young tenor had been assigned for his stint as a draftee during the summer of 1943. “Oh, how I wish I could have Robert Weede here now," Lanza lamented.  "I could sure use some singing lessons."

 

The young Mario Lanza was not alone in seeking out Robert Weede for help with vocal technique.  "Bob was our 'voice repairman,'" said Jan Peerce of Weede's uncanny ability to pinpoint, analyze and, as Peerce put it, to "repair" other singers' vocal problems.  Other first-rank singers including Norman Treigle, Dominic Cossa, and John Alexander also sought Weede's help and advice at key points in their careers.  At no time would Weede accept any remuneration for assisting his colleagues when they were experiencing vocal problems. 

 

Jan Peerce had sought Weede’s help during the only vocal crisis that the otherwise-durable tenor ever experienced.  Weede helped Peerce regain his voice, and appeared with him in San Francisco on The Standard Hour radio series, where they sang the duet “Le minaccie i fieri accenti” from La Forza del Destino:

 


 

Weede also appeared on radio with Peerce’s young brother-in-law, Richard Tucker, on The Squibb Hour, where Tucker had become a frequent guest artist after being signed by the National Concert Artists Corporation, an agency which secured radio appearances for both up-and-coming and well-established classical musicians. 

 

On The Squibb Hour, accompanied by Lynn Murray and his orchestra, the young Tucker and the already-established Weede sang “Within the Temple There,” an English version of “Au fond du temple saint,” the tenor-baritone duet from I Pescatori di Perle:

 


 

Although Tucker had not yet made his Metropolitan Opera debut when he appeared on The Squibb Hour, Weede was first-rank baritone by then.  Born Robert Wiedefeld in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 22, 1903, he studied voice at the Eastman School of Music in the mid-1920's, and subsequently went to Milan for additional study in 1929-1930.  Upon his return to the U.S., he began performing in regional opera companies, and by 1936 his growing reputation earned him a Metropolitan Opera audition. 

 

Weede made his Met debut on May 15, 1937, as Tonio in a double-bill performance of Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana.  Not until the rehearsals were in progress did he realize that another promising young American baritone, Thomas L. Thomas, had been scheduled for his debut the same day, as Alfio in the Cavalleria performance.  The next day, both baritones were lauded in the New York press for their extremely impressive debut performances. 

 

In the wake of the success of Weede’s Metropolitan debut, he was offered a recording contract by Columbia Records.  One of his most successful Columbia disks was of “Si puo?,” the prologue from Pagliacci, with Frieder Weissmann conducting:

 


After his initial success at Tonio, Weede spent the the next three seasons at the Met performing in concerts and galas, usually singing one aria (typically, the Pagliacci prologue) and perhaps singing in a trio, quartet, or other ensemble, but garnering very little attention from the New York critics for these brief appearances.

 

All of that changed on the evening of February 27, 1941, when Weede first appeared in the title role in Rigoletto, in a cast that included Jussi Bjoerling as the Duke of Mantua, Hilde Reggiani as Gilda, and Bruna Castagna as Maddalena.  Amid this strong cast, it was the previously-unheralded Weede who netted the   

All of that changed on the evening of February 27, 1941, when Weede first appeared in the title role in Rigoletto, in a cast that included Jussi Bjoerling as the Duke of Mantua, Hilde Reggiani as Gilda, and Bruna Castagna as Maddalena.  Amid this strong cast, it was the previously-unheralded Weede who netted the praise of all of the major critics. 
 

"It was not much of a Rigoletto at the Metropolitan for anybody but Robert Weede last night," wrote Irving Kolodin in the New York Sun. "However, what this American baritone accomplished in his first appearance at the opera house in this role was striking enough to make the occasion a memorable one, not only for him, but also for the audience."

"As a primary asset," Kolodin continued, "Mr. Weede has a voice—a big voice, moreover, which fills the opera house with ease and doesn't require the forcing to which he sometimes resorted.  But it has quality as well as size ... [and] he was entitled to the robust applause he received."

 

In the New York Post, critic Edward O'Gorman wrote that "Mr. Weede has an enviable baritone voice, one that is full and robust, capable of a wide range of expression and yet one that has none of the coarseness usually encountered in a voice of its type. Its chief characteristic is perhaps its pliability.  But the element that distinguished Mr. Weede's characterization of Rigoletto was neither vocal nor histrionic, although each was telling in its way, but an uncanny sense of theatre that balanced the two in a performance that was a personal triumph for the singer ...."

 

Writing in the New York World-Telegram, Robert Bagar said that "Mr. Weede's singing proved thoroughly compatible with the demands of the part.  His impersonation grew in stature as the evening wore on, and in the emotional give-and-take of the third act he dominated the stage."  Although Weede’s first appearance in Rigoletto was apparently not recorded, his performance of the demanding role during a Saturday matinee radio broadcast on January 31, 1942, was preserved in an off-the-air recording:

 


From 1941 to 1953, Weede added Amonasro in Aida, Manfredo in L' Amore dei tre re, Shaklovity in the Met premiere of Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, and Scarpia in Tosca to his Metropolitan Opera repertoire.  It was as Scarpia that he sang his last performance with the Met, a matinee broadcast from Detroit on April 17, 1953, with an all-American cast including tenor Eugene Conley as Mario Cavaradossi and Dorothy Kirsten as Floria Tosca. 

Some of Weede’s most successful Tosca performances, however, occurred not in the U.S. but in Mexico City, where he sang Scarpia to the Floria Tosca of Maria Callas during the summer of 1950.  They were also cast together in Aida, and later, in Chicago, the two would sing together again in Il trovatore and Madama Butterfly.  But it was their pairing in Tosca that netted enthusiastic reviews from the critics and wild applause from the audience:


Weede also made successful debuts with other opera companies, chiefly in Rigoletto, beginning with the Chicago Opera in 1939, San Francisco in 1940, and at the New York City Opera in 1948.  There he reprised his success as Tonio in Pagliacci, but also sang in the world premiere of William Grant Still's short-lived Troubled Island, in a cast that included Robert McFerrin, Marie Powers, and Marguerite Piazza. 


In 1956, Weede left the opera stage to appear on Broadway as Tony Esposito in the original production of Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella, at the Imperial Theater in New York City.  Reviewing the opening performance, New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson praised Loesser’s musical adaptation of the “romance of a lovely waitress who marries a rich, ebullient vintner.” 

 

Singling out Weede’s performance as Tony, Atkinson wrote, “The music is beautifully sung.  Robert Weede, as the vintner, is a wide, artless-looking man with a powerful voice that can travelthe full range from romantic fervor to despair.  He sings the part with the authority of a professional.”

 

Weede was also seen on Broadway in Milk and Honey from 1961-63 (which was also recorded by Columbia Records) and Cry for Us All  in 1970.  But neither Milk and Honey nor Cry For Us All impressed critics and audiences to the same degree that Weede's Most Happy Fella had.  For that, Weede was nominated for, and received, the 1956 Tony award for "Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical." 

 

Because of his engaging personality, both onscreen and off, and his first-rate acting and nuanced characterizations, Weede's voice was only infrequently assessed by the same criteria that are applied to almost other operatic voices.  One who had no difficulty doing so was Max De Schaunsee, who had reviewed every major singer since Giovanni Martinelli arrived in New York in 1910. 


Speaking of Weede's voice at the time of his early success as Tonio in Pagaliacci, De Schaunsee described it "as a big voice, but not a beautiful voice in the usual sense of that phrase--not in the class of Lawrence Tibbett, or John Charles Thomas, or Leonard Warren and Robert Merrill.”

 

“Although he was definitely a baritone,” De Schaunsee said, “Weede’s singing often took on more of a tenor quality in his middle and upper range.  But it was not as a singer per se that he made his mark.  He was a superb actor, an actor who could sing, an actor who was an artist in the finest sense of that word."


Robert Weede died in 
Walnut Creek, California, on July 9,1972.  But through his numerous recordings and radio appearances, and the relatively few television appearances he made, he earned a form of immortality that few artists experience in their lifetimes.  


                                                                                  JAMES A. DRAKE

                               

 


                                                                                 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tancredi Pasero, The Great Bass












Tancredi Pasero, The Great Bass

 

Many thanks to my dear friend Françoise Crameri  for having introduced me to this wonderful bass some time ago.  Widely known in Europe,  Tancredi Pasero (1893-1983) is not as widely known in America as he should be.  La Scala, where he debuted in 1926, became his artistic home, and although he sang abroad, including at the Met during the early 30's, he was primarily based in Italy.  His first debut was in Turin in 1917, as Ramphis in Aida.  It is possible that to many Americans, Pasero sounds very "old-fashioned," having been trained in a traditional bel-canto technique, one of the characteristics of which (or in Pasero's case almost a trademark of which) was a rapid vibrato, very rare in the age of verismo.  I personally love it, and many Europeans also are fond of it, but it is an unusual sound in this country and many are simply unaccustomed to such singing technique, which is a pity, actually, because he was extraordinary.  Here is one of his best recordings.  If this is the first time you have heard Pasero, be prepared to be amazed; this is one of the great voices of the 20th century:


Isn’t that simply extraordinary!

I know of no other bass that has that sound.  And what about that amazing vibrato!!  Oh, how I wish that bel canto singing would return.  We have lost so much in the last 100 years.  It is such a pity.  Here is one of the most famous of all the great bass arias, “O Tu, Palermo”

 
Bring Back Bel Canto,  PLEASE!