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Friday, April 5, 2013

Quick Top Ten List

Greetings from Fargo, North Dakota, where I am directing my all-time favorite opera: Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro"!

It's been over three months since my last blog -- apologies all around. Life just got very, very busy... 

Opera McGill produced two hugely successful productions during the last three months. In January we produced the Canadian premiere of John Musto's "Volpone" in a stunningly beautiful production. Then, in late March, we produced Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in another gorgeous production. I directed both and enjoyed the processes immensely! The casts of students were superb, the designs were terrific, and the operatic collaborations involved were quite fulfilling. 

I wrote the following late last night, after a long day of Nozze rehearsal. I thought it was an interesting look at my vocal values. I hope some readers will enjoy it and if you're not aware of the recordings mentioned, go and google them!

Ive been thinking about what voices still sit in my head and sing, communicating music and text in such a vivid way that my ideal of what sung sound should be becomes altered forever. The following list is not finite, nor researched very well. The list represents who I am in an opera rehearsal, I can reference pop music as well as opera or musical theatre. The human voice has the capacity to encompass the whole world, as should great singing. Those who think otherwise, or think that great singing is just one type of technique used in just one type of musical genre, had best not read the list!

Top ten best solo vocal moments recorded  in the 20th century, according to me:

10) Judy Garland: "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"
Much of what I hold up as important in communicating music and text is displayed effortlessly by Ms Garland in The Wizard of Oz

9) Luciano Pavarotti: "Nessun dorma"
A thrilling rendition given by a simply golden voice, in the 3 Tenors CD. Simply radiant, effortless!

8) Birgit Nilsson: "Salome"
Listening to this recording is like being dragged down a rocky mountain by your hair. You end up bloody, but alive, and every sensation in your body is on fire!

7) Jennifer Holiday: "And I am telling you" from Dreamgirls
Unbelievable belting, vocal trauma and fry, all put to use to create an unforgettable vocal image of an emotionally charged woman. One of the best vocal slides recorded.

6) Ewa Cassidy: "Fields of Gold"
Recorded a few weeks before her death, you'd think that this was the original, not Sting's. A smooth, silky, heart-wrenching, honest voice taken from the world way too early.

5) Franco Corelli: End of Act One of "Turandot"
I prefer the recording done live in Rome, but the recording with Birgit is pretty flawless. This was THE tenor of the 20th century! No one else sang with so much bow on the string, so much virility in his burnished, bronzed timbre that rang and rang. Corelli holding that big high note at the end, right before he banged the gong, is operatic theatre at its best!

4) Barbara Streisand: "Don't Rain On My Parade"
Best vocal 'mix' of all-time. Simply stunning use of consonants and text to create her vivid, emotional thrust in this song that propels the listener right to the end.

3) Joan Sutherland: "Casta diva"
Perfect bel canto style in the perfect bel canto aria by the best bel canto composer.

2) Ted Neely: Garden of Gethsemane from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (movie)
Where this guy goes with his voice is off the human scale, as far as rock belting a character's text goes. Gives his entire voice, every last shred of his vocal folds, to the service of this musical, dramatic, and vocal scene!

1) Mirella Freni: "Deh vieni non tardar" from Le Nozze di Figaro
The Solti recording, with Norman and others, is not a great Figaro recording, but Freni reached recorded PERFECTION in this recitative and aria. Mozart perfection blended with vocal beauty, but most importantly, perfect use of text in music.

Care to disagree? Tell me who I left off? Remember, it's a top ten, not a top hundred...