The singing of Stefan’s mother, Rosina Wolf, is referred to several times in the film. She knew some of the divas because they had the same coach, Giuseppe Bertelli, a conductor at the Rome Opera. Her repertoire ranged from Carmen to the Queen of the Night to Butterfly, Salome, Isolde, Brünnhilde and Norma. She performed Nelly in the world premiere of the fourth version of Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, at New York’s The Town Hall, in 1972. (Stefan Zucker was the Salvini.) In 1976 she appeared with him on RAI, Italian state television, in music from Puritani.
She sang on the one hand with more fire and on the other with greater pathos and inwardness than anyone else (possibly excepting Tamagno). As many of the divas say in the film, they based their interpretations first and foremost on the words. Rosina’s were founded instead on her emotional response to the music. For her, feeling was everything. One hears the platitude that interpretations are boring when singers don’t fathom the words.
She used to say:
The words in some cases inspired composers, who then interpreted the words for us by setting them in particular ways. When a composer has set words well, the singer seldom needs to add to that. When singers base their interpretations on words, the results can be emotionally superficial. Such interpretations often become fussy and busy. Instead, one must have the temperament to feel the music and find the right colors for it. We first come to opera because of our emotional response, which usually has little to do with the words as such. As a singer, one also has to go beyond the words.
She used both the voce infantile and chest resonance. For the sake of vocal health she typically refrained from using chest resonance above E-flat at the bottom of the staff and never used it without mixing in some head resonance.
Rosina’s recordings currently are out of print. I intend to do something about that.
Rosina greatly admired Olivero, whose interpretations first and foremost are word-based.
Stefan Zucker is the author of Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vols. 1, 2 and 3. He appears in ten films: Bella Figura, aka Müssen Sänger dick sein (with Plácido Domingo, Nathan Gunn, Renata Scotto, Sharon Sweet, Deborah Voigt and Anthony Tommasini, Marieke Schroeder, director), Aïda’s Brother’s and Sister’s: Black Voices in Opera and Concert (with Grace Bumbry, Simon Estes, Barbara Hendricks, Reri Grist, George Shirley, Shirley Verrett, Camilla Williams and Bobby McFerrin, Jan Schmidt-Garre and Marieke Schroeder, directors), Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas (with Iris Adami Corradetti, Fedora Barbieri, Anita Cerquetti, Gina Cigna, Gigliola Frazzoni, Carla Gavazzi, Leyla Gencer, Magda Olivero, Marcella Pobbe and Giulietta Simionato, Jan Schmidt-Garre, director) and the series The Tenors of the 78 Era, aka Die Tenöre der Schellackzeit, including the films Caruso, Schipa, Gigli, Slezak, McCormack, Schmidt and The Gramophone—in which he sings as well as talks. Stefan is principal English-language commentator. (Others include Alan Bilgora, Iris Adami Corradetti, Rodolfo Celletti, Anita Cerquetti, Will Crutcheld, Rina Gigli, Jürgen Kesting, Magda Olivero, Michael Scott, Giulietta Simionato, John Steane and Robert Tuggle, Jan Schmidt-Garre, director. Stefan interviews Adami Corradetti, Cerquetti, Rina Gigli, Olivero and Simionato for the Gigli film.)
Stefan has lectured on the history of singing at the Mannes College of Music and the Museum of Modern Art (New York). He is the author of Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing and more than 650 articles and reviews in American Record Guide, Globe & Mail, International Dictionary of Opera, Opera News, The Opera Quarterly, Professione Musica and many other publications as well as on the Bel Canto Society website. He is the producer of more than 1,000 LPs, videos, CDs and DVDs and is the president of Bel Canto Society.
He was the editor of Opera Fanatic magazine and hosted the radio program “Opera Fanatic,” on the Columbia University radio station, on which he interviewed guests ranging from Lorenzo Alvary, Francisco Araiza, Klara Barlow, Carlo Bergonzi, Bianca Berini, Grace Bumbry, Nedda Casei, John Cheek, Giuliano Ciannella, Franco Corelli (11 times), Eugenio Fernandi, Salvatore Fisichella, Marisa Galvany, Dénes Gulyás, Aage Haugland, Jerome Hines (12 times), Rita Hunter, Alfredo Kraus, Kathleen Kuhlmann, Theodore Lambrinos, Franz Mazura, Adelaide Negri, Leo Nucci, Ticho Parly, Claudia Pinza, Louis Quilico, Nicola Rossi Lemeni, Bidú Sayão, Maria Spacagna, Cheryl Studer, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Gabriella Tucci and Virginia Zeani to Schuyler Chapin, Carlo Felice Cillario, John W. Freeman, Rudy Giuliani (most famously), Laszlo Halasz, Albert Innaurato, Arthur Kaptainis, Charles Ludlam, Ethan Mordden, Henry Pleasants, Everett Quinton, Ira Si , Stephen Simon, Johannes Somary, Frederic Spotts, Richard Woitach, Bill Zakariasen and many others.
Stefan appeared five times in An Evening in the Theater With Franco Corelli and Stefan Zucker.
He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The World’s Highest Tenor.” He performed a number of times each in New York City’s Avery Fisher Hall, Florence Gould Hall, The Danny Kaye Playhouse, Merkin Concert Hall, The Town Hall and at Columbia and Harvard Universities and gave a seven-concert tour of Romania under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State and the Romanian Government. Among singers with whom he has sung in galas are Lucine Amara, Russell Christopher, Jerome Hines, Theodore Lambrinos, Ronald Naldi, Adelaide Negri and Arturo Sergi. He has sung on ABC-TV, NBC-TV and RAI-TV—a highlight was an excerpt from I puritani, with Rosina Wolf, on L’altra Domenica (Italy’s 60 Minutes, four hours long), hosted by Isabella Rossellini. He has appeared extensively on radio stations up and down the East and West coasts—highlights include three installments of “The Listening Room,” hosted by Bob Sherman on WQXR—and on RAI-radio, seven installments of “La barcaccia” (one with Corelli), hosted by Enrico Stinchelli and Michele Suozzo. He was under contract for five years to RCA Records and recorded the album Stefan Zucker: The World’s Highest Tenor. Through a teacher-to-teacher genealogy he traces his vocal technique back to Giovanni Battista Rubini and Giacomo David—hence his tone quality and extended range.
After studies at a number of conservatories in the US and Europe he obtained a Bachelor of Science in philosophy from Columbia University and completed the course work for the Ph.D. in that subject, at New York University. He was president of the NYU Philosophy Association for four years. While a graduate student he taught philosophy at several New York area colleges. His principal philosophical interests are epistemology, logical empiricism and the philosophy of Rudolf Carnap.
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