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Guests on “Opera Fanatic”

Corelli_Zucker
Franco and Stefan, June 1990

From 1982-94 I hosted the radio program “Opera Fanatic,”on the Columbia University station, WKCR-FM, in New York, where these interviews took place.

The March 3, 1990 program originally was nearly five hours and the March 30, 1991 program was three and one half hours. On the March 3, 1990 program, in particular, Franco wanted me to translate questions and statements into Italian. For the DVD and download version I edited out my Italian, with the result that my English flows oddly since the original sentences in many cases were half English and half Italian.

Franco and Loretta Corelli left the studio shortly after their on-air squabble during the March 30, 1991 program. I filled the remaining air time with unrelated material, omitted here. The original version of the March 30, 1991 program may be purchased on VHS from Bel Canto Society. The noises heard intermittently during the March 30, 1991 interview leaked into WKCR’s studio from an adjacent auditorium and were picked up by the mikes. There is no way of both eliminating these noises and preserving our discussion.

Special thanks to Steve Leopold for providing tapes of both programs. –S.Z.


“Opera Fanatic” had over 80 Celebrity Guests.

Below are some selected biographies.

Jerome Hines

According to Jerome Hines’s autobiography, This Is My Story, This Is My Song (1968), in 1954, when he was singing Boris at the Met, he concocted a publicity stunt: He would fall at the end, feign injury to the point that he couldn’t get up, be hospitalized–and get a headline. Throughout most of the book Jerry reports what an inner voice, which he believed to be God’s, said to him. According to the book the Lord came to him in a dream and told him that if Jerry pulled the stunt he’d get a headline but the Lord wouldn’t help him anymore. When at length Jerry declared, “All right, that publicity stunt is out,” the Lord said, “I will repay you for this.” The result: the Lord created the Cuban missile crisis and arranged for Jerry to sing at the Bolshoi and receive a message of peace from Khrushchev. (Khrushchev “proposed a toast to ‘peace and friendship between our countries.'”) When Jerry landed at Idlewild (now JFK) he was besieged by reporters and made front-page headlines worldwide.

I invited Jerry to tell the story on “Opera Fanatic.” Though he was a religious zealot he said our audience, which was secular, would think him a lunatic, so he begged off. He did have a large religious following that revered him, however, and he gave his own opera, I Am the Way, with himself as Jesus, 93 times. On “Opera Fanatic” he characterized himself as a street fighter and claimed to enjoy our on-air sparring. We ended up doing 12 radio shows together. Also we each sang on an Opera Fanatic’s Gala, at Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse in 1995.

Born Jerome Albert Link Heinz, November 8, 1921, in Hollywood, California, he changed his surname to Hines at the suggestion of manager Sol Hurok, on account of anti-German sentiment. Jerry studied math and chemistry at the University of California at Los Angeles beginning in 1938. He studied voice with Gennaro Curci (Amelita Galli-Curci’s brother-in-law), later with Samuel Margolis and Rocco Pandiscio. Debuting, in 1941, at the San Francisco Opera, as Monterone in Rigoletto, he then sang there as Biterolf in Tannhäuser. He appeared in New Orleans, also with various American orchestras and came to the Met in 1946, where he made his debut as the Sergeant in Boris Godunov. In 1948 he sang the Met premiere of Peter Grimes and, in 1959, that of Macbeth. He appeared with the operas of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, also at the Colón of Buenos Aires as well as at Edinburgh, where he sang Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress, and Glyndebourne. In 1954 he appeared in Munich as Don Giovanni. He also sang in Paris, Vienna, Rome, with the Maggio musicale fiorentino and, in 1958-59, at La Scala. Beginning in 1958 he sang Gurnemanz, Marke and, in 1960–61, Wotan at Bayreuth.

Jerry’s career was based at the Met, where he sang 868 performances of 45 roles in 35 operas over 41 years. He was the Grand Inquisitor in the Don Carlo that inaugurated Bing’s reign as General Manager, in 1950, and appeared in a Met telecast of Don Carlo, as the Grand Inquisitor, in 1980. His repertory included Il barbiere di Siviglia and Gounod’s Méphistophélès. He told me that he found Sarastro uncongenially low, yet he performed the part 55 times at the Met, more frequently than anyone else there. He also performed Ramfis more than anyone else there, 104 times. He was bitter that the Met put him out to pasture, in 1987 (his last performance there was as Sparafucile, on January 24 of that year). His favorite part was Boris.

In 1952 he married soprano Lucia Evangelista, with whom he fathered four sons. Besides This Is My Story, This Is My Song his books include interviews on vocal technique, Great Singers on Great Singing: A Famous Opera Star Interviews 40 Famous Opera Singers on the Technique of Singing (1982) and a voice manual, The Four Voices of Man (1997). He recorded for RCA (Macbeth and Lohengrin), Decca (La favorita), Columbia (Messiah), CBS (Le Prophète, Bluebeard’s Castle), Cetra (Manon) and is heard on many live-performance recordings.

Jerry founded and headed Opera Music Theatre International, to train young singers, in New Jersey. OMTI flourished for a time, in part because of Jerry’s success in obtaining lavish state arts funding. But that success fostered charges that the state was playing favorites and that OMTI had received considerably more than its just share. State support was cut back severely. (A program Jerry and I did on the subject was transcribed by Michael Redmond and published in the Sunday Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ). Jerry was devoted to OMTI, but control was wrested from him, in a putsch by some board members.

During Jerry’s last years he took care of his wife, who succumbed to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), October 26, 2000. On January 30, 2003 he told me in a phone conversation, “I was greater than Pinza, Siepi, Christoff, Treigle, Neri and Pasero [with all of whom his career overlapped].” He mentioned that he had been suffering from diarrhea for six months and was going into Mt. Sinai Hospital, in Manhattan, the next day for some tests. On February 4 he died there.


Dodi Protero

Born in Toronto, Dodi Protero studied with Toti Dal Monte (herself a pupil of Barbara Marchisio) and Lorenz Fehenberger, among others. (As a teacher, however, Dodi says she does not restrict herself to any one technique.) She made her debut as the Second Boy in Il flauto magico at Naples’s San Carlo in 1956. Later she appeared at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera, at the Massimo in Palermo, where she sang in the world premiere of Lizzi’s Pantea in 1956, at the Glyndebourne and Salzburg Festivals, in Toronto, Vancouver, Cologne and with many U.S. regional companies. Her extensive repertoire ranged from Parasha (Mavra) to Violetta; her specialty: Mozart. Her recordings: Nuri (Tiefland) (Epic, now on Philips), Sandrina (La finta giardiniera) (Epic) and Serpina (La serva padrona) (Philips). Vienna, City of My Dreams, an Austrian film, features her Susanna (Nozze). For Eurovision she appeared as Clarice (Haydn’s Il mondo della luna) and for North German Television, as Esmeralda (The Bartered Bride). She also performed in a series of opera and operetta telecasts on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. At the time of our broadcast she was Director of Voice for OMTI. In December 2005 she said:

The Board of Education of the State of New Jersey funded OMTI lavishly during its first two years of existence. We told the state we didn’t want to spend all the money at one time, but they told us we had to or we wouldn’t be given as much the next year. After that, funding dried up. After Henry Lewis, William Vendice and Frank Corsaro had left, Jerry and Lucia gave money out of their own pockets. I stayed on teaching without salary for two years, but when the board did not want to pay even for the accompanists in my lessons, I left. The idea of OMTI was wonderful. I felt terrible about what happened.

Lucia had a horrible death. I think Jerry wanted to die after that. The joy of life had left him. They had a wonderful marriage. She didn’t regret having forsaken her career for her family.

I asked her about the fact that OMTI students had not wanted to study with Corelli.

Students were afraid he’d injure their voices with his mechanistic approach. The Corellis felt Jerry had betrayed Franco, although Jerry and I exhorted them to study with him. But Franco didn’t want to teach at OMTI any more after that.

I asked Dodi about Franco’s and Loretta’s birth dates. (For further information about them see “Franco Corelli: Some Missing Information,” in the booklet to D091, Corelli in Concert plus In-Depth Interviews.) She replied, “Buying a false birth certificate in Italy was very common. Dal Monte told me she bought one at considerable expense to take five years off her age.”

I also asked her about a topic that came up during the broadcast, whether or not the opera tradition in Canada was German or Italian. She said:

The most important figures in opera in Canada were Herman Geiger-Torel and Nicholas Goldschmidt. They started the Canadian Opera Company and many opera festivals. They presented Italian operas at first because they were able to sell them to the public, but the tradition was German.

Dodi Protero was born in Toronto, March 13, 1931, and died in New York City, of heart and lung failure, April 22, 2007.


Franco and Jerry

After the March 3, 1990 broadcast (their second together) Franco
declined to appear with Jerry, largely because he and Loretta felt he
shouldn’t share the spotlight. I did nine more broadcasts with Franco
(plus one on RAI, in Italy) and eight more with Jerry–separately.
Jerry turned up at our theater evenings but spoke from the audience,
not the stage. The Corellis’ good friend Licia Albanese wanted to
appear with us onstage. The Corellis nixed the idea, also that of
doing a Webcast together with Giangiacomo Guelfi.

The Corellis were right, in a way. Our audiences were obsessed with
him. At receptions following the theater evenings, middle-aged women
snatched threads from his jacket, within view of Loretta, while their
husbands waited discreetly in the background.

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Samples from Opera Fanatic

Sutherland’s Influence

Whereas Callas made the world understand that a number of neglected bel canto operas could be exciting for today’s audiences, Sutherland and, even more, Bonynge, propagandized for the presentation of the operas in the manner in which they were first given.

Rossini, the fountainhead bel canto composer, felt that the same vocal line is seldom equally well-suited to any two singers and that vocal lines should be modified so that the underlying melodies are best served by the throats to utter them. In composing, he did not attempt to vary repeated passages or write in climactic high notes and cadenzas, taking for granted that singers would do so on their own. Singers in his day and before as a matter of course adapted vocal lines to suit their artistry and vocal idiosyncracies. (Today they try to regiment their throats to suit the music.) Continue reading Samples from Opera Fanatic

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Opera Fanatic magazine in the News

“…a real find, an offbeat cross between scholarly tome and lurid supermarket tabloid, filled with rare and unconventional treasures.”

“Like it or not, approve of it or not, Opera Fanatic does make fascinating reading. And viewing. . . . the most interesting publication I’ve seen in a long time.”

“Giovanna wouldn’t come across for Pavarotti, even after he cooked spaghetti for her.”

“LaRouche is using the pitch issue to gain credibility and respectability.”

As a result of our efforts, Tebaldi disassociated herself from LaRouche

 

Continue reading Opera Fanatic magazine in the News

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Short Articles by Stefan Zucker

Articles II, III and IV specifically relate to Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas

I. Chest Voice: Some History

II. Chest Voice: the Divas’ Dispute

III. Vocal Technique

IV. Musical Line vs. Dramatic Expression: Two Kinds of Diva

V. Intuition vs. Analysis

I. Chest Voice: Some History

Since W.W.I women for the most part have been afraid of chest resonance, fearing it would ruin their voices. But in the 19th century women used it as a matter of course, a practice they inherited from the castratos. Most women on early recordings sing all notes from F at the bottom of the treble staff on down in chest voice. But they do not sing higher than that in chest voice. Voice teacher Giovanni Battista Lamperti dissuaded his pupil Marcella Sembrich from undertaking Aïda on the grounds that she lacked the requisite chest resonance. (Records attest to Sembrich’s having used chest resonance below G-flat, so presumably Lamperti must have felt her chest voice was too light for the part.) Lamperti did maintain it was unhealthy for the voice for women to carry chest resonance higher than F.

Nineteenth-century Italian opera composers seemingly took for granted that women would employ chest voice. (Consider Mascagni’s preference for Lina Bruna Rasa’s chest-voice-heavy Santuzza.) The majority of roles cannot be communicated adequately without chest color at one point or another. Women often find that unless they abstain from chest resonance, the music at certain moments causes them to use it. A challenge for women with modern vocal techniques is how to fulfill the chest requirement without hurting themselves.

In the last 160 years, while women have used chest voice less and less, men have used it more and more. For discussions of men, chest voice and head voice, see my “Last of a Breed: Giovanni Battista Rubini Ruled as the Paragon of Virtuoso Tenors, King of the High F’s” (Opera News, February 13, 1982) and “Seismic Shocker: Gilbert-Louis Duprez’s History-Making High C” (Opera News, January 1, 1983), also my “Different Kinds of High Notes and the Seismic Shock: Nineteenth-Century Tenors and the Meaning of ‘Falsetto’” (American Record Guide, March 1982). The Rubini and Duprez articles are reprinted in my The Origins of Modern Tenor Singing; see our full catalog.

II. Chest Voice: The Divas’ Dispute

Gavazzi and Gencer claim that not only did they themselves employ chest resonance but that the other divas—in particular, Olivero, Cigna, Adami Corradetti, Simionato and Barbieri—did as well. (Frazzoni made some seemingly inconsistent statements about whether or not she herself used it.) These latter deny having resonated in their chests. I asked Gavazzi to explain this. She claimed they employed chest unknowingly.

This kind of explanation is common among singers. Corelli and Hines cannot conceive of any tenor singing above the staff without routinely covering his tone. Yet Alfredo Kraus and I claim we do exactly that. Speaking on the radio program “Opera Fanatic,” Corelli and Hines insisted we cover automatically, without being aware of it—a view we reject.

Also speaking on “Opera Fanatic,” Kraus asserted that Chris Merritt sings his high notes in falsetto—a view he rejects.

Usually I favor giving the singer the benefit of the doubt: if he says he’s not covering, then he’s not.

The dispute over chest voice may be a special case, however. The anti-chest divas were raised in the belief that chest resonance is vocally unhealthy. They also were told it fractures continuity of musical line. Still, certain powerful emotions and coloristic demands sometimes flushed chest out of them. But they hate to admit it. Each diva views her vocal technique as having the sanctity of religion. Each is mortified if the world knows she sinned. Barbieri insisted she wouldn’t attend The Bavarian State Opera’s showing of Opera Fanatic if Gencer were there, on the grounds that Gencer had insulted her by saying in the film that she—Barbieri—used chest voice.

Why should opera lovers care about whether or not someone sings with chest voice? Because the affective consequences are very great. My viscera aren’t satisfied if chest isn’t used in certain passages, the phrase “un gel mi prende” (Norma), for example.

III. Vocal Technique

With the exception of Adami Corradetti, who at least from the 50s onward didn’t have a placement-based method, the divas in the film used a technique of resonation called “masque placement” (“placement” of the tone at the front of the face, anywhere between the forehead and the lower teeth). Masque placement prevailed in the period in which they sang.

For much of the19th century many singers placed their voices at the top of the head, at a point between but above the ears. Gemma Bellincioni, the first Santuzza, used this placement.

Today masque placement is being edged aside by mechanistic approaches, which do not involve placement at all. Instead, they require manipulation of the lips, mouth, tongue, soft palate, nostrils, jaw, position of the head or of the larynx.

With the exception of Adami Corradetti, who did not think about breathing, the divas used a breathing method involving pressing in at the diaphragm. Before, during and after the divas’ period a variety of other breathing techniques have been in use.

The divas all subscribe to the view that there is one god, one country and one singing technique—their own. (Olivero concurs that this is her stand.)

For more detailed information about these and six other fundamentally different kinds of vocal technique, see Opera Fanatic magazine, issue 2. (See our full catalog)

IV. Musical Line vs. Dramatic Expression:
Two Kinds of Diva

The divas divide into two groups. The first group strove not to vary tone color for dramatic expression but to maintain consistency of tone color for the sake of musical line. Half the divas in the film—Barbieri, Cerquetti, Cigna, Pobbe and Simionato—belong to this group (as do virtually all singers today). From their point of view, a change in tone color compromised musical line as much as a break in legato. That they didn’t vary tone color didn’t prevent them from being emotionally intense. They relied on good diction and musicianship to serve librettists and composers.

For the second group, varying tone color for dramatic expression was paramount. Adami Corradetti (as a performer but not as a teacher), Frazzoni, Gavazzi, Gencer and Olivero are in this group. To my ears, these performers succeeded in changing tone color without damaging the musical line and thereby heightened emotional impact. The singers in the first group acted with their faces and bodies. The singers in the second group also acted with their voices.

One can find counterexamples. Frazzoni and Gencer didn’t always come alive interpretively. Cerquetti sometimes inflected her tone, most notably on a live recording of Ballo. Cigna on some occasions colored hers as well.

V. Intuition vs. Analysis

During the interviews it became clear that the divas respond to words and to the music’s emotions but don’t analyze its structure. They never think about clarifying a vocal line by showing through emphasis which notes are melody, which mere ornamentation. The notion of each piece containing a hierarchy of notes is foreign to them.

Unlike the majority of singers (Italians in particular), most of the divas in the film turned out to have studied instruments. Perhaps that contributed to their musical intuitions. Simionato had no such background, yet her musicianship was no less expressive.

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Corelli is Favorite Tenor of the Century in “Opera Fanatic” poll

Listeners to “Opera Fanatic” on WKCR-FM recently voted for Favorite Tenor of the Century. With 47 singers receiving a grand total of 600 votes, the results were:

First place: Corelli, with 185 votes or 30.8% of the vote

2nd: Björling 177 (29.5%)

3rd: Caruso 69 (11.5%)

4th: Gigli 50 (8.3%);

5th: Vickers 17 (2.8%)

6th: McCormack 14 (2.3%)

7th: Carreras and Melchior 7 (1.2%) each

9th: Bergonzi, Del Monaco and Zucker (host of “Opera Fanatic”) 5 (0.8%) each

12th: Kraus and Pavarotti 4 (0.6%) each

14th: Di Stefano, Gedda, Lanza, Tauber and Tucker 3 (0.5%) each

19th: Domingo, Lauri Volpi, Rosvaenge, Schmidt, Shicoff, Slezak and Urlus, 2 (0.3%) each

26th: Bonci, Consiglio, De Lucia, De Muro, Fleta, Koslovsky, Leech, Lemeshev, Mann, Merli, Pears, Peerce, H. Price, Ralf, Schipa, Schreier, Simoneau, Tamagno, Tagliavini, Thill, Wittrisch and Wunderlich 1 vote (0.2%) each.