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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Irina Konstantinovna Arkhipova

Irina Konstantinovna Arkhipova was a Russian mezzo-soprano, and later contralto, opera singer. She sang leading roles first in Russia at the Sverdlovsk Opera and the Bolshoi Theater, and then throughout Europe and in the United States.
Born: January 2, 1925,  Moscow, Russia

Died: February 11, 2010, Moscow, Russia


She  studied at the Moscow Conservatory from 1954 to 1956 and sang with the Sverdlovak Opera where her roles included Marina in Boris Godunov, Eboli in Don Carlos Charlotte in Werther.  Her  first Bolshoi performance was as Carmen, one of her greatest roles.  The Bolshoi became her operatic home and she sang all her greatest roles there.
Here is a splendid rendition of Caccini's Ave Maria:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Radu Marian

Radu Marian

Born in 1977 in Romania, Marian is quite popular in a historical repertoire he has helped bring back to the modern classical music scene. He has been the recipient of many awards and singing prizes, especially in Eastern Europe and Russia. He is much respected, and is commonly featured at important music festivals throughout Europe.

Radu Marian is a true soprano, "soprano" being a vocal part, not a gender. Because of a medical condition, he never went through puberty, so his voice did not change. He was a boy soprano who became an adult soprano. The result is his clear, pure and high sound that makes his singing so very attractive and beautiful. Here is Radu Marian singing "Lascia ch'io pianga," Almirena's aria from Rinaldo:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Great American Tenor Richard Crooks

Born: June 26, 1900 - Trenton, New Jersey, USA
Died: September 29, 1972 - Potola Valley, California, USA

Richard (Alexander) Crooks, studied with Sidney H. Bourne and Frank LaForge in New York. Richard Crooks first visited Loon Bay, the lake expansion of the Saint Croix River, in 1923. Crooks was a guest of the musical accompanist and arranger Frank La Forge. La Forge had built a studio on his father-in-law's 2700-acre summer estate, and operatic proteges such as Lily Pons and Gladys Swarthout not only honed their talents but also enjoyed camping forays along the river. The grassy knoll overlooking Loon Bay was a favorite camping spot.

After several busy concert seasons as an oratorio and song recital specialist, including participation in the American premiere of Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, Richard Crooks traveled to Germany where he made his operatic début in Hamburg as Cavaradossi in 1927. His career took him to the Berlin State Opera, Belgium, and Sweden.

Following appearances in Berlin and other European centers, Richard Crooks returned to the USA, making his American debut in 1930 in Philadelphia as Cavardossi. In February 1933 he made his Metropolitan début in New York as Massenet' s Des Grieux and remained with the company for the next ten years as well as singing in other houses.

Although limited in the upper register, Richard Crooks possessed a voice of uncommon sweetness mixed with virility, and he learned to produce the top notes as cleverly mixed head tones. Max de Schauensee remarked that Crooks was "admired for [his] consistently high standard of tone and [vocal] production. He was a sound musician but an indifferent actor." On this latter point, Peter Davis remarked in The American Opera Singer that "from his photographs at least, Crooks always gave the impression of a friendly insurance salesman. But the voice was by far the most attractive among the American tenors of his generation."

Here is the lovely "Songs my Mother taught me"

Here is Richard Crooks' most famous recording, "The Holy City"

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dan Beddoe, The Great Welsh Tenor


The Welsh operatic tenor, Dan Beddoe, was born in Aberdare, Wales, UK on March 16th 1863. He died in December 1937 at the age of 74.

A Cincinnati Enquirer review of a May 1931 performance stated that he "stole the show with voice clear and ringing" with "countless" calls for encores and "with the entire audience of many thousands rising en masse to pay him special tribute."

A December 1931 New York Evening Post article, recalling his singing in the Messiah and the Elijah for the Oratorio Society of New York, noted that he had "been singing for a generation" since his first appearance there in 1903 and described  how he was "in marvelous voice and received a standing ovation after each aria he sang.

A New York Times review of the same performance noted that "For Dan Beddoe it was the fortieth year of public appearance. He has become almost indispensable to the Society's performances of the Messiah. The 64-year-old tenor sang as always in keeping with the spirit of the work and with fine musicianship. Age does not stale the many resources of his art."

Here is the great Welsh tenor singing "O Danny Boy:"

And here is "A Moonlight Song:"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

John Charles Thomas, , The Great American Baritone

John Charles Thomas, The Great American Baritone

John Charles Thomas was born in 1891 in Meyersdale, Pa., the son of a Methodist minister.  After study for a medical a career, he won a scholarship to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore in 1910.  In 1912 Thomas left the Peabody and toured with a musical troupe, and starred in many musicals, including “Her Soldier Boy”, Maytime, “Naughty Marietta,” and “Apple Blossoms.”  His opera career began in 1925 as Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida.  He went on to sing in San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia.  He would remain at the Met until 1933 , singing opposite great sopranos of the day, such as Rosa Ponselle.  Thomas sang a very wide variety of songs:

Here is “The Last Time I saw Paris”


And here is the”Green Eyed Dragon”


And you can find many videos on Youtube that make for wonderful listening!

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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, which 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 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.

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Edmund StAustell@    Your comments are always welcome.    Edmund