Stefan Zucker on Slezak and Schmidt

See Stefan Zucker discuss Slezak and Schmidt. The clips are from the 13-part series The Tenors of the 78 Era (Die Tenöre der Schellackzeit). The DVDs are out of print. The films originally were shown on Germany’s ARD network (and ultimately were seen in 48 countries). Because my German grammar is faulty I was reluctant to discuss the tenors in that language, so the director, Jan Schmidt-Garre, encouraged me to sprinkle in some German words: “Nachklang” means “echo” and “vorne” means “forward” (as in “forward placement”).

I don’t discuss Slezak or Schmidt in Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, so I thought some of my observations about them might be of interest.

Schmidt’s virtues are tonal beauty, accuracy of intonation, plasticity of rhythm, seamlessness of legato, ease of emission and brilliance of trills and other coloratura. His high Cs and Ds come easily, without his having to resort to “covering” the tone. Critics at the time sometimes claimed his voice was small, the middle and bottom weak. More like a Björling than a Gigli, Schmidt, I think, is inclined to be monochrome; however, this is not true of his “Mal d’amore.” (See My Song Goes ‘Round the World.)

—Stefan Zucker

Rotraut Tanzmair Ich bin einfach nur begeistert. [I am simply enchanted.]

Filippo Moratti Accurate as usual, Stefan.

Jon Fredric West In regards to Schmidt: Yes, such a great lyric tenor, and all your thoughts and comments are spot on. My added thoughts are simply that I feel his technique was strongly influenced by the classical use of the voice, that is to say the operatic side of the issue, and that also influenced his cantorial work to a degree. Schmidt reminds me of Wunderlich quite a bit, but Schmidt’s voice was lighter, probably smaller, and with an incredibly easy top. Yet he could be monochromatic, as you comment, and seemingly used dynamics as the only variant rather than onomatopoetic color. That said, in songs of less formal character, such as the songs from the live performance at Carnegie Hall and the gorgeous “I Hear You Calling Me” (a John McCormack favorite) he proves that he could, when moved, become quite expressive.

Slezak, for me, was another case entirely. One might say a career in reverse. He was a great dramatic tenor who seems to have wanted to sing everything, whether his voice was right for the role or not. A formidable Otello, a magnificent Eleazar (one the Viennese audience still holds as a standard bearer against whom all others are judged, particularly in his reading of the dramatic recitative before “Rachel quand du Seigneur”) a great Canio, Florestan, Manrico, etc. Yet even in a time before the “Fach” system had a chokehold on artists, there is a limit to what your voice should (not could) do. He should have sung “Viens, gentile dame” (in German, as “Komm, o holde Dame”) as a studio study in flexibility for a dramatic voice, not an aria that should have been performed in public. Only a voice such as Wunderlich, Schmidt or lighter should have performed such roles. Then, as he grew older, his fantastic artistry came to dominate his vocal technique. Yes, he had a phenomenal mezza voce and unbelievable understanding of onomatopoetic vocal colorations, but to facilitate the growing dependence on this side of his art he began to “forget” his real voice and sing too light, too bright and too white. This art-song technique helped to destroy his real rounded and full dramatic sound. At the end, in my opinion and others’, his voice was a shell of itself. That criticism said, he was still a top-ranking tenor, and his feeling and soulful understanding of text can take me to a place no other artist can. And what a great comedic actor!

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Joseph Schmidt

Ein Lied geht um die Welt originally was to have been titled Der Sänger des Volkes (The People’s Singer), but the censors balked because Schmidt was a Jew. But popular he and his films were and this one, his fourth (out of a total of seven), was the most so. The press wrote that “the voice of Joseph Schmidt is recorded in its full clarity and natural warmth” and that the audience was “delirious” at the premiere, on May 9, 1933. Then and there, at the crowd’s insistence, he performed songs from the film. Even Goebbels applauded enthusiastically–he reportedly said he was going to have him declared an honorary Aryan. The film is noteworthy for, among other things, Schmidt’s sensitive portrayal of a man consumed by love. In the Buzzi Peccia song “Mal d’amore” his shadings and, especially, his rubatos are so subtly graduated that one has to listen again and again to fathom them. (I’ve watched this segment of the film about 40 times.)

In general, Schmidt’s virtues are tonal beauty, accuracy of intonation, plasticity of rhythm, seamlessness of legato, ease of emission and brilliance of trills and other coloratura. His high Cs and Ds come easily, without his having to resort to “covering” the tone. Critics at the time sometimes claimed his voice was small, the middle and bottom weak. More like a Björling than a Gigli, Schmidt, I think, is inclined to be monochrome; however, this is not true of his “Mal d’amore.”

Had Schmidt had his way Ein Lied geht um die Welt would not have been made, at least as it stands. He had objected to the plot, which revolves around his short stature (in reality, five feet), but the director, Richard Oswald, convinced him to go ahead.

Throughout Schmidt’s career his height was a discussion topic. When he sang in this country, in 1937, he was billed as “The Tiny Man with the Great Voice” as well as “The Pocket Caruso.”

The part of the film that deals with Schmidt’s radio career also is based on his life: When he came to audition for Berlin radio, in 1929, they looked with amusement at this “midget” and asked what he wished to sing. “Whatever you want,” he replied. The pianist plunged in with “Di quella pira”–and Schmidt obliged. Jadlowker (whom he admired) had become too expensive for a radio Idomeneo. Schmidt sightread the principal aria, “Fuor del mar.” The result: his radio debut as Vasco da Gama, in L’Africaine.

Prior to April 1, 1933, when Hitler prohibited Jews from appearing on the radio, Schmidt broadcast nearly every week, including 42 remarkably disparate operas: La Muette de Portici, Robert le diable, Guillaume Tell, Louise, Idomeneo, Dinorah, Dom Sébastien, Il trovatore, Jean de Paris (Boïeldieu), I vespri siciliani, Benvenuto Cellini, Bánk Bán (Erkel), Don Carlos, La fanciulla del West, I masnadieri, Salome (in which he sang Narraboth), Le Postillon de Longjumeau, I due Foscari, Mefistofele, Boris Godunov, Semiramide, Euryanthe, L’elisir d’amore, Un ballo in maschera, Der Barbier von Bagdad and others; all were sung in German. Later, on Vienna radio he performed Il barbiere di Siviglia and I puritani, again in German.

As in the film, his real-life ambition was to sing opera onstage, a goal he reached only in 1939-40 when he performed La bohème 24 times, in Brussels and on tour in Belgium and Holland. (He did not, as is widely believed, appear in La Juive.)

Fleeing the Nazis, Schmidt went to what soon became Vichy France. In 1942 he entered Switzerland illegally and was interned in a labor camp where he died of heart failure, at age 38. His complaints of chest pains had been ignored. “They take me for a malingerer,” he had said. An hour before his death he was singing.–Stefan Zucker

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Jan Schmidt-Garre

Film director Jan Schmidt-Garre studied conducting (with Sergiu Celibidache), philosophy and film and was a volunteer and assistant director with, among others, Ponnelle and Kupfer, at several theaters and at the Salzburg Festival. His films include Bruckners Entscheidung, Celibidache, which won a Silver Medal at the Chicago Film Festival and was nominated for the German Film Prize, and the series The Tenors of the 78 Era. The Joseph Schmidt episode received Special Jury Mention at the Musée du Louvre’s 1998 “Classique en images” international film competition. The series is being shown on TV in many European countries. Portions of it are to be seen on WNET in New York.

Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas has been screened at the Prague International Film Festival, where it won second prize out of 120 entries, the Munich International Documentary Film Festival, where it won a prize, the Leipzig Documentary Film Festival and the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival.

In July it will be shown at the Melbourne International Film Festival. The Bavarian State Opera will screen the film on July 28 at Munich’s Cuvilliés-Theater with Frazzoni, Pobbe, Simionato and Zucker as guests of honor. They will be interviewed.

The film is now being broadcast in Finland (on YLE), Norway (on NRK) and Poland (on PT).

Joseph Schmidt Collection – 2 Movies

Save when ordering our Schmidt Movie Downloads together!

Two titles with Joseph Schmidt: A Star Fell from Heaven, and My Song Goes ‘Round the World.

2 QuickTime Movies; 1 hour, 13 minutes; 640 x 480 pixels, total size approximately 2.6 Gigabytes, in 2 files (We broke them so you could download them one at a time.) Please be patient as these large files download.

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#MV2 A Star Fell from Heaven
(Ein Stern fällt von Himmel)

Schmidt. Elisir + songs. (1936). In German, with new, non-optional English subtitles. 91m. B&W.

See a video clip below.

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#MV11 My Song Goes ‘Round the World
(Ein Lied geht um die Welt)

Schmidt. L’Africaine, songs. (1933). In German, with non-optional English subtitles. 80m. B&W.

See a video clip below.

video

Biography — Stefan Zucker

Stefan Zucker as Salvini in the world premiere of Bellini’s fourth version of Adelson e Salvini, at The Town Hall in New York City, September 12, 1972. In this performance he sang an A above high C, for which the Guinness Book of World Records named him “The World’s Highest Tenor.” In addition to the A he also sang two G-naturals, five F-naturals, nine E-naturals, six E-flats, four D-sharps, 31 D-naturals, one D-flat and six C-sharps above high C as well as 51 high Cs. In some performances of “A tanto duol… Ascolta, o padre i gemiti” from Bellini’s Bianca e Fernando he interpolated not only an A but also a sustained B-flat above high C.
 
 
S T E F A N   Z U C K E R
 
 
Stefan Zucker 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 CarusoSchipaGigliSlezakMcCormackSchmidt 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 Crutchfield, 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.) Here is Stefan on Slezak and Schmidt
 
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 The Origins of Modern Tenor Singing (Bel Canto Society, 1997) 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.
 

 
Here is Stefan interviewing a number of divas in the Opera Fanatic film 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 G. 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 Siff, Stephen Simon, Johannes Somary, Frederic Spotts, Richard Woitach, Bill Zakariasen and many others.
 

 
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 U.S. 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.
 
Interviewing Leyla Gencer during the filming of Opera Fanatic, La Scala, October 1996.
SZ: The other divas were against using chest voice.

LG: This from them who used chest voice all their lives! They have short memories.

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vol. 3

To order all three vols. at once, at a discount, click here

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vol. 3 by Stefan Zucker, 6″ X 9″ X 358 pp. and 139 photographs, beautifully reproduced.

This vol. contains interviews of Corelli, Bergonzi, Kraus and Alagna, among others.

Bergonzi: “De Lucia, Pertile, Merli, Schipa, Gigli and Galliano Masini had their personal styles but weren’t faithful to the composer, because they introduced ritards, rests and effects. Del Monaco was the first singer to respect the composer. Toscanini and Bruno Walter were the only conductors who heeded what the composers wrote.” Bergonzi also declares, “The difference between my singing of Bohème and of Trovatore is the degree to which I cover. Rodolfo is a lighter role, so I cover less, but Manrico is more dramatic, so I cover more.” This statement proves controversial among others interviewed in this book. He describes his breathing method as well as the first five years of his career, when he sang as a baritone in casts that included Gigli and Schipa.

Kraus describes his vocal technique in detail, takes a stand against covering and for a variety of reasons excoriates Gigli, Lauri-Volpi, Caballé and Callas. He discusses being partnered by Callas in the Lisbon Traviata.

The origins of lowered-larynx techniques. Jean de Reszke’s larynx-lowering (with many gorgeous photos from The Metropolitan Opera Archives). Caruso’s technique. Melocchi’s teaching of Limarilli. Corelli’s real view of the Stanley method. Marcello Del Monaco’s pupils, among them Giacomini, Martinucci and Lindroos. Tenor Emilio Moscoso on lessons with Marcello and Mario Del Monaco. A Corelli pupil, Enrique Pina, describes “floating” the larynx. Araiza’s describes combining larynx-lowering with mask placement. Aspiration. Matteuzzi and Morino—unaffected by Del Monaco and Corelli. Olivero attacks Del Monaco’s technique.

Roberto Alagna describes placing “behind the nose and between the eyes.” He explains that he sometimes switches to larynx lowering and re- corded an album with it. Like Corelli he learns technique by singing along with records—in his case Gigli’s above all—and recording himself doing so. He discusses tenors on old records as well as his personal life.

Elena Filipova recounts how after learning larynx lowering from Rina Del Monaco (Mario’s wife) her career blossomed. Then she studied a more extreme version with Alain Billiard, lost range, agility and her pianissimo, and her career collapsed. She regained her voice from studying placements with Hilde Zadek. “She reintroduced me to my head resonance.”

Bill Schuman (today’s most prominent voice teacher) explains his technique, which involves floating the larynx, mask placement and, for high notes, lifting the palate, top-of-the-head placement plus smiling and, for breathing, using the diaphragm as a pump. Also interviewed are four of his current or former pupils, Met tenors Giordani, Costello, Fabiano and Valenti. (Schuman dismissed Valenti from his studio for concurrently studying a more extreme lowered-larynx method with Arthur Levy and dismissed Fabiano and Costello for reasons discussed in the book.)

Reviews of forty-seven CDs and DVDs of today’s top tenors, among them Kaufmann, who continues in Corelli’s footsteps, Cura, Villazón and Fraccaro, who continue in Del Monaco’s, Grigolo, Flórez, Brownlee, Banks, Filianoti, Cutler, Bros and Calleja, who continue in Kraus’s and Licitra, who continued in Bergonzi’s, as well as Galouzine, Beczala, Álvarez, Antonenko and Vargas.

Corelli advocates that inadequate singers be booed, citing in particular Chris Merritt in I vespri Siciliani at La Scala. Listeners to “Opera Fanatic” confess their booing, including some who booed Corelli and the notorious organizer of the Scotto booings.

Franco Corelli and Simona Dall’Argine in Tosca, offstage
Aureliano Pertile as Nerone in the world premiere of Boito’s Nerone (1924)
Miguel Fleta as Cavaradossi
Carlo Bergonzi as Rodolfo in Bohème. “Each one of these great tenors at the apex of tenors, Bergonzi, Pavarotti and Domingo— I don’t think you can find defects. He who doesn’t have one thing has another. They all are worthy of the names they have.”— Carlo Bergonzi
Del Monaco as Don José in Carmen, Met, 1952 “Del Monaco was a highly passionate Don José, complementing my own portrayal. And yet he never hurt me— never a bruise, a scratch or anything even though he was a very physical Don José. He threw me to the ground, knelt down, bent over me. We were very effective together— an intense, passionate couple— and audiences were excited. Yet, despite his apparent violence toward me and his apparently brutal treatment of me, he never caused me any pain.” — Giulietta Simionato, in outtakes from the film Opera Fanatic
Alfredo Kraus as Roméo, 1986
“When I performed blood clots came out of me! I felt the sound in my chest and teeth. But up high, where you need the mask, I couldn’t find my sensations. Above high A I couldn’t feel the sound at all, on account of the swelling… Thank God I had the courage to continue to sing with an instrument that no longer was responding and to endure the nastiest and most malicious criticisms.”—Roberto Alagna

Sample PDFs:

Huntley Dent, Reviewing in Fanfare: The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors:

“In Fanfare 38:5 I began my review of Stefan Zucker’s vastly entertaining first volume on Franco Corelli by saying, ‘Turn to this book if you want to hear operatic singing spoken of with heartfelt emotion and lifelong understanding.’ That recommendation holds good for Vols. 2 and 3 as well, and the entertainment value proceeds apace. But a question naturally arises. Is even a great tenor like Corelli worthy of three-volume treatment? I’d say yes, resoundingly, because Zucker’s broader topic is tenordom from its roots in the 18th and 19th centuries. He maintains, as other vocal experts do, that a major turning point was the popularization of a high C sung from the chest, for which credit goes to the French tenor Gilbert-Louis Duprez—Zucker considers him ‘the most influential singer ever.’

“As the subtitle of all three volumes indicates, the scope of these books extends to 54 tenors, making Corelli a central focus while surveying a wide landscape. We get a wealth of information about how the mechanics of singing, and the teaching of singers, actually works. This is a hotly contested realm, and Zucker enters with bold opinions about technical matters that the lay reader (so to speak) is likely to find new and intriguing, such as ‘placing in the mask’ and ‘the lowered larynx.’ Without absorbing such fine-grained technicalities, a reader won’t be able to grasp topics such as ‘tenors who covered’ and ‘tenors who didn’t cover.’

“Fanfare‘s readership, being record collectors, will be particularly intrigued by Zucker’s opinions about the recordings and videos of every current tenor of note; these appear in Vol. 3. He has decided views on the strengths and weaknesses of Jonas Kaufmann, Vittorio Grigolo, Juan Diego Flórez, et al. to whom he applies rigorous standards of vocal production as well as his own personal preferences. A taste in voices is a very personal matter for opera lovers, and a devotee of Flórez, is likely to nod in agreement when Kaufmann is criticized, and vice versa. Arguing silently with someone else’s opinions is endemic to music criticism, and Zucker offers ample scope for entering the fray.

“Technical matters aside, opera is a gossipaceous arena, and these books are rich in anecdotes. Have you heard the one about Corelli and Boris Christoff fighting a duel with swords on the stage of the Rome Opera? The cause was that Corelli had taken Loretta Di Lelio, who subsequently became his wife, away from Christoff. The two combatants were both wounded. Do you crave inside knowledge about Corelli repeatedly sending his wife to Italy so that he could keep his mistresses away from her eagle eye, or how far he and Mario Del Monaco went to jealously undermine each other’s career? No one who loves opera is immune from curiosity about its scandals, rivalries, and intrigues. Zucker satisfies this curiosity in abundance.

“Perhaps even more fascinating—and aimed higher—are the interviews with Corelli and other tenors, exposing their private opinions about a host of operatic subjects, including famous historical incidents. Corelli was intelligent and thoughtful, and being, for many, the prince among Italian tenors in his generation, he’s a credible witness to how opera looks from a conqueror’s vantage point.

“For example, regarding the starry recording of Gounod’s Faust that Decca made with him, Joan Sutherland, and Nicolai Ghiaurov: ‘Ghiaurov screamed and was only good in the laugh [of Méphistophélès], Sutherland hooted. I was the only one who truly sang, with a free voice and an expressive top. I threw away some recitatives, though, because I didn’t know them well enough.’ Each reader will have to sort out ego, expertise, professional rivalry, and sharp-eyed criticism, yet all are intriguing elements in the serious-ridiculous-inspiring art of opera.

“I can’t resist quoting a lengthy passage from a Corelli interview in Vol. 2 that centers on ‘the Rome walkout,’ a notorious incident in the career of Maria Callas at which Corelli was present. On January 2, 1958 Callas was starring in a gala performance of Norma at the Rome Opera, with the president of Italy and most of Rome’s social elite in attendance. When she walked out after the first act, a scandal ensued. Corelli was singing Pollione and he recounts the affair at first hand.

“Corelli: Callas was a little sick, and that didn’t permit her to sing at her best. Some in the audience heckled her. When she came offstage after Act I, she was completely calm, but then she began to stew and announced she was canceling. The management went to her, to push her to continue the performance. She became a lioness and began to scream. She threw some vases and a chair. Little by little she lost her voice. When she left the theater, however, she looked elegant, as if nothing had happened.

“Zucker: Are you suggesting that she could have continued the performance had she not started to scream?

“Corelli: Absolutely. She was in possession of a fabulous voice and an excellent technique. As late as 1958 she was always able to sing. She could have continued.

“Zucker is himself a tenor and hosted Opera Fanatic on WKCR-FM in New York for many years. Whether he is breaking down voice teaching into eight categories, interviewing illustrious tenors like Alfredo Kraus and Carlo Bergonzi (in Vol. 3), skewering three botched biographies of Corelli, or recounting, after interviews with over 100 singers how most handle the passaggio (the tricky break between the chest and head voice), Zucker has created three luscious page-turners.

“According to him, today’s tenors are restricted to one or two modes of vocal production—the art of ‘chiaroscuro,’ as Zucker calls it, died with Beniamino Gigli. But one could as easily mourn the era when opera singing was a blood sport and tenors bought into their stage image as romantic ideals.

“Corelli unblushingly declares, ‘People assume that in my old age I am hearing Verdi and Puccini in my mind’s ear. No! The music I am hearing and that keeps me going is the sound of Teresa Zylis-Gara having orgasms.’

“As in Vol. 1, these two later volumes are lavishly illustrated with lithographs and photos, totaling over 483 for the whole series. The paper is heavy and enameled. Having devoted years to this project and laying out tens of thousands of dollars to publish and illustrate the books, in the forewords Zucker asks for donations to Bel Canto Society. Considering the treasure trove contained between the covers of all three volumes, it should be any reader’s pleasure to comply.”

Because of the unprecedented nature of these books, Fanfare published two reviews by two separate authors. The first is above. The second is below.

Ken Meltzer, Reviewing in Fanfare: The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors:

“Stefan Zucker is well known to many of us who, to borrow his phrase, are ‘opera fanatics.’ As President of Bel Canto Society, Zucker has produced numerous recordings, both video and audio, documenting great singers throughout the ages. As host of the radio program ‘Opera Fanatic,’ which aired on Columbia University’s radio station, Zucker interviewed scores of opera personalities, including many of the finest singers, past and present (he was also editor of Opera Fanatic magazine). A singer who traces his lineage to 19th-century artists Giovanni Battista Rubini and Giacomo David, Zucker earned the title of ‘The World’s Highest Tenor’ from the Guinness Book of World Records when he sang an A above high C at the 1972 New York City Town Hall world premiere performance of the fourth version of Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini. Now he has written three books that are fascinating, thought-provoking, informative, and entertaining.

“From 1990–2003, Stefan Zucker maintained a friendship and correspondence with the legendary Italian tenor Franco Corelli. Corelli was a frequent guest of Zucker’s, both on the ‘Opera Fanatic’ radio program, and at live events held in various theaters. During the interviews, Corelli chatted with Zucker at great length on a wide variety of topics, and answered audience questions. Zucker’s conversations with Corelli—both the aforementioned public discussions, as well as some in private—form the cornerstone for the three volumes of Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing. Those Corelli discussions are of extraordinary value. I also had the privilege of interviewing Franco Corelli in the early 1990s for my own opera radio show, which then aired on Baltimore’s classical music station, WBJC-FM. I spoke with Corelli for a couple of hours in his New York apartment. It was clear even from that relatively brief encounter that Corelli was an intensely searching, thoughtful, and self-critical artist, and a keen student of the technique and artistry of his predecessors. Those qualities emerge in even greater depth and detail during the course of the various Zucker interviews. In the three volumes under review, Zucker examines not only Corelli’s life, career, and artistry, but also a host of other issues relating to the history and development of tenor singing from the 1800s to the present. The topics are numerous, wide-ranging, and sometimes, well off the expected path. As you might consider (at least, initially) purchasing fewer than all three volumes, I think it important to list various chapter titles, or a summary of their content:

“Volume I: Del Monaco, Corelli, and Their Influence; Nuance Versus Massive Darkened Tone; Donzelli, Duprez and Nourrit; Jean de Reszke; Tamagno; De Lucia; Caruso; Pertile; Martinelli; Schipa: Unaffected by Caruso; Schipa’s Specter; Gigli; Lauri-Volpi vs. the Verismo Style; Björling; Tagliavini; Richard Tucker; Del Monaco: Corelli’s Chief Role Model and Rival; Polar Opposites: Corelli and Di Stefano; Pavarotti; Domingo; Carreras; The Fluctuating Fortunes of Vibrato; Eighteen Radamès Recordings Compared; Appendices.

“Volume II: Six Revolutions Have Shaped Singing; Seismic Shock (Gilbert-Louis Duprez and the high C from the chest); The Dying Out of the Castrati and Their Traditions and the Decline of Florid Singing; Heroes on the Rise; Last of a Breed (Rubini); Corelli: Tenore del Mondo; Corelli’s Covering; A Note on Vocal Placement; Corelli: The Hamlet of Vocal Technique—and Why His Voice Declined; Corelli’s Letters to Lauri-Volpi, 1962 (?) — 1973; Grace Bumbry; Callas Critiques Corelli; Lauri-Volpi Attacks Corelli’s Technique; Observations on a Career and a Life; Franco Corelli: Some Missing Information; To Return or Not to Return?; Three Botched Bios; Fanizza Refutes Seghers; The Duel with Christoff and ‘Barbieri sola, sola’; Potter’s Corelli Chapter; Collaborating with Corelli; Appendices.

“Volume III: An Evening in the Theater with Franco Corelli and Stefan Zucker, Merkin Concert Hall, June 5, 1991; From Del Monaco to Chris Merritt; Booing: True Confessions; Conversations with Carlo Bergonzi; Alfredo Kraus; The Origins of Lowered-Larynx Techniques; Jean de Reszke’s Larynx-Lowering; Did Caruso Use a Laryngeal Method?; Some Lessons with Melocchi (1879–1960); Corelli’s Real View of the Stanley Method; Some Mario Del Monaco Successors; My Lessons with Marcello and Mario Del Monaco (Emilio Moscoso); Del Monaco’s Diaphragm; A Corelli Student (Enrique Pina); Francisco Araiza: A Rossini Tenor Who Lowers His Larynx; Olivero Attacks Del Monaco’s Technique; Different Singing Techniques; The Rise and Fall of Elena Filipova; Roberto Alagna on Sometimes Using Mask Placement, Sometimes a Lowered-larynx; Bill Schuman, Marcello Giordani, Stephen Costello, James Valenti and Michael Fabiano; Four Lowered-Larynx Tenors (Kaufmann, Cura, Villazón, Walter Fraccaro); Mask-Larynx-Hybrid Tenors (Galouzine, Beczala); Mask-Placement Tenors Who Don’t Cover (Grigolo, Filianoti, Florez, Brownlee and Banks, Cutler, Bros, Calleja); Mask-Placement Tenors Who Do Cover (Álvarez, Antonenko, Vargas, Licitra, Botha); Summation.

“Throughout the three volumes, Zucker spends a great deal of time discussing the ‘lowered-larynx’ technique, taught by Arturo Melocchi, and adopted by Corelli’s chief rival, Mario Del Monaco. That technique, as described by Zucker, ‘is based on singing with the larynx lowered to the bottom of the neck.’ According to Zucker and Corelli, this can lead to a vocal production capable of extraordinary power, but little nuance or dynamic variety. Corelli chose to adopt a variant of the technique, one in which the larynx ‘floats’ in order to allow for greater vocal pliability. But this is just one of many technical aspects covered; not only by Zucker and Corelli, but by several other singers interviewed by the author. And among the gems of these three books are Zucker’s interviews in Volume III with tenors Carlo Bergonzi and Alfredo Kraus, both masters of their craft who are able to describe their techniques and approach to performance in precise, compelling, and endlessly fascinating detail. [The purpose of the technical discussions is to show the choices and tradeoffs that caused tenor singing to evolve, from the late eighteenth century until today.—SZ] Other highlights are a series of letters written by Corelli to his teacher and friend Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (Volume II). The letters are quite touching, both for the respectful, tender way Corelli addresses his mentor, but also for the glimpses of self-doubt that begin to creep in during the early years of Corelli’s vocal decline. Also of considerable value are the various scholarly articles by Zucker that trace the history of tenor and castrato singing. Taking us from the sublime to the ridiculous is a 40-page chapter (Volume III) dominated by various opera fans who explain why they believe it is a higher calling to sabotage performances by booing, in order to demonstrate to the world they know more than anyone else. [Corelli advocated booing. Some of the listeners confessed to having booed him. He stood his ground.—SZ] If you are all too familiar with this type of buffoon, it will get your blood pressure going. It certainly did mine. And if you are at all prudish, be forewarned that these books include quite a bit on topics of a sexual nature. They range from the perhaps expected allusions to singers’ affairs and illegitimate children, to graphic discussions of sexual acts preferred by some artists (and even recommended by the author as a way to improve vocal technique!). The author provides fair warning that prurient subjects are on the horizon. But you are just as likely to encounter such material out of the blue (no pun intended). Of course, the concept of the operatic tenor as a sexually charismatic figure is undeniable, and has long been a subject of fascination and discussion. Perhaps the author, either by conscious or subconscious motivation, includes such material to advance discussion of that topic. I’m not easily shocked or offended, and these diversions did not impact my overall enjoyment of the books (they didn’t add to it, either). But in any case, you’ve been forewarned.

“Given the length and breadth of the three volumes of Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, this is a review that could go on for pages, far more than I am allotted. Suffice it to say that I found all three volumes compelling reading. Zucker is an opinionated writer, but he is also a highly informed one who consistently provides the material to support his opinions. His appraisals in Volume I of the respective strengths and weaknesses of the ‘Three Tenors,’ for example, are as spot on as any I’ve read. And I will give him the highest compliment I can give an author who writes about singers. When I read Zucker’s descriptions, I immediately want to go to the artist’s recordings and listen once again. In addition, the numerous photos, many quite stunning, are reproduced beautifully with the utmost clarity, and the entire copy is printed on the kind of high-quality paper rarely used nowadays. For those who are endlessly fascinated by tenors and their unique impact on the world of opera (as I am), Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing has a tremendous amount to offer, and in a fashion you are unlikely to find anywhere else. If you are at all curious, try Volume I. If you like it, I feel comfortable in saying you will enjoy the others as well. Recommended to fellow tenor fanatics.”

Alan Bilgora Reviewing in The Record Collector:

“For devotees of opera, the singing voice and in particular record collectors, either on 78 rpm discs, LPs or CDs, and, even more especially, lovers of the tenor voice Stefan Zucker’s first two volumes were fascinating and informative. However, Volume 3 can now be considered a ‘must’ and is compulsive reading. As with the first two volumes, this book is lavishly illustrated with many unusual photographs and printed on superior paper, and surely the set must constitute the most comprehensive and illuminating survey of tenor singing technique ever published. It should be compulsory reading in every music academy where singing is taught, but that is unlikely, as reference to great singers of both the past and recent past seems to be taboo. One hopes that, even if for reference alone if not for its informative and colourful content, it will be read for decades to come by devotees of operatic singing and of the most popular voice, that of the tenor.”

A Review in Kirkus Reviews:

“The author, an accomplished singer, former host of Columbia University’s radio show Opera Fanatic, and a preeminent scholar, shares transcripts of salon-style interviews in the 1990s with Corelli. As with the other volumes, the photographs included here, particularly those featuring singers in full costume, are quite stunning, capturing the visual glamour alongside the work’s deep, rich dissection of methods.

“Strictly for opera connoisseurs, but for those in the know a treasure trove of information on tenors, methods, and performances.”

Nino Pantano Reviewing in The Italian Voice:

“Franco Corelli Volume 3 arrived and any page that one finds is loaded with fascinating detail and beautiful photographs. There are many tenors mentioned including some current ones. This splendid book by Stefan Zucker deserves our plaudits, readership and thanks. Mr. Zucker may be an iconoclast but where else and who else can produce such a range of reading on the human voice. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” prevails in the brilliance, charm and love that Stefan Zucker has put into these volumes. They keep opening a magic box that modern events have tried to silence by declaring them of the past, forgotten, or of no use. Open the magic box and a pinata of voices come out to enlighten and make one listen to a continuing era of beauty, individuality and creativity!” Bravo Stefan Zucker!


Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 2

To order all three vols. at once, at a discount, click here

Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vol. 2 by Stefan Zucker, 6″ X 9″ X 352 pp., with 139 lithographs and photographs, beautifully reproduced.

If you order this book plus four or more qualifying books, DVDs, videos, CD sets or photos at the same time, you can receive a sixth item of your choice for FREE from this list. After you have placed the required five items in your shopping-cart, you can select your free item from the list that will appear at the bottom of your shopping-cart page.


Stefan Zucker on six revolutions that have reshaped singing.

In this volume, in discussions with Stefan, Franco Corelli looks back on his life and career. Here are a few examples:

FC on the “Rome Walkout”: Callas was a little sick, and that didn’t permit her to sing at her best. Some in the audience heckled her. When she came offstage after Act I she was completely calm, but then she began to stew and announced she was canceling. The management went to her, to push her to continue the performance. She became a lioness and began to scream. She threw some vases and a chair. Little by little she lost her voice. When she left the theater, however, she looked elegant, as if nothing had happened.

Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965
Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965

SZ: Are you suggested that she could have continued the performance had she not started to scream?

FC: Absolutely. She was in possession of a fabulous voice and an excellent technique. As late as 1958 she always was able to sing. She could have continued.

FC: There’s always rivalry onstage. To go up against Nilsson I had to learn how to put forth 110 percent of the voice that I had. At La Scala in 1964 they screamed “hams” at us because we held high notes so long, trying to outdo each other in Turandot. Nilsson was born dominant—her voice was, too.

FC: In the Faust recording Ghiaurov screamed and was good only in the laugh. Sutherland hooted. I was the only one who truly sang, with a free voice and an expressive top. I threw away some recitatives, though, because I didn’t know them well enough.

SZ: Are you able to judge to what extent your pleasing appearance affected your career?

FC: Besides voice, musicality and physique du rôle are important. Callas also said that you need a nice physique du rôle. If I hadn’t had my voice my appearance wouldn’t have helped. But if I were a hunchback I would not have had the career that I did.

Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965
Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965

Some chapters focus on Corelli’s personal life and how it intertwined with his singing, including interviews with his wife and two long-term mistresses.

Mrs. Corelli: I was extremely jealous. I didn’t have ten fingernails, I had twenty, to scratch out the eyes of women who were after Franco. I gave up my singing career to keep an eye on him. Still, if a man is determined to cheat there’s nothing you can do about it.

FC: People assume that in old age I am hearing Verdi and Puccini in my mind’s ear. No! The music I am hearing and that keeps me going is the sound of Teresa Zylis-Gara having orgasms. She was my great love, and I think about her all the time. She was the reason I made so many pretexts to send Loretta [Mrs. Corelli] back to Italy.

FC: Barbieri had paid people not only to applaud her but also to boo me. The man I assaulted had been paid by her!

Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965
Callas and Corelli in Tosca, March 19, 1965

Loretta’s past was the real reason Corelli and Boris Christoff dueled with swords on the stage of the Rome Opera. (They wounded one another.)

Corelli’s letters to Lauri-Volpi: some are affecting.

Three unsatisfactory Corelli biographies and an OK one as well as John Potter’s Tenors.

Corelli had a no-holds-barred rivalry with Del Monaco, with each trying to block the other’s career.

Callas, Corelli and Gobbi in Tosca, March 19, 1965
Callas, Corelli and Gobbi in Tosca, March 19, 1965

Roberto Bauer (Rudolf Bing’s Italian factotum): Franco told La Scala as well that he wouldn’t sing anymore in seasons that also include Del Monaco… He says he knows himself very well and realizes he is capable of socking Del Monaco in the jaw if he ran into him unexpectedly.

A collector’s item, the three volumes contain 483 lithographs and photographs, many published for the first time, of tenors from the 1820s to today. For this volume The Metropolitan Opera Archives contributed twenty-one pages of correspondence by Bing and Bauer about the Corelli–Del Monaco rivalry, and John Pennino of the Met Archives provided a list of the Met’s payments to Corelli and comparisons to those to Del Monaco and Callas.

Sample PDFs:

Alan Bilgora, Reviewing in The Record Collector:

“Both Stefan Zucker’s first and now second book and, no doubt, when published, Volume 3, should be made compulsory reading for all music critics and reporters who review operatic performances. If, indeed, the singers’ names are mentioned these days they receive a cursory comment such as ‘acceptable’, ‘adequate’, ‘pleasing’ or maybe ‘confident’. An understanding of the singing voice and the use of a vocabulary as used by Stefan Zucker might enable these critics to give an appraisal of the singer’s vocal timbre, and of how they technically acquitted themselves in difficult arias or concerted pieces. This is an art that has, seemingly, been lost.

“Stefan Zucker has continued to use the fulcrum of his discussions about the revolution in tenor singing, by continuing to examine further the careers of and rivalry between Franco Corelli and Mario Del Monaco. However, this is not before developing the important aspect of the disappearance of the castrati and the gradual loss of florid singing (happily there is now a renaissance). This he does by discussing the lives of those legendary singers Duprez, Nozzari, Nourrit, David and Rubini. Clearly expanding on several other well known commentaries, he highlights the advent of emitting top notes from the chest, as opposed to using a voce mista, spending time on discussing the important aspect of covering the tone, particularly in the passaggio and on any acuti. He uses, among others, examples by Gigli and Di Stefano to support his points. Zucker also gives a list of singers both male and female, who, in his opinion, covered their tones and some who did not.

“Corelli’s emergence as a tenor of the front rank is frequently attributed to his being self taught, gaining only some technical advice from a tenor friend Carlo Scaravelli, who was studying singing with Arturo Melocchi. Thankfully we now have in printed form more details of those highly individual and unconventional yet probing interviews that Stefan Zucker had with this singer. Stefan Zucker as an interviewer frequently walks where others might fear to tread and sometimes their directness might be likened to a political inquisition rather than an artistic one. In Corelli’s case, however, Zucker appears to have gained not only the tenor’s trust, but also access to his psyche. We can now read the singer’s surprising, very candid and considered revelations, in which he is prepared to discuss his initial concerns about the basic timbre of his voice and about himself as an artist and singer. Corelli has, seemingly, also felt obliged to admit much about the insecurities that plagued his life, studies, love and marriage, and an intimate admission of having had another great love (I leave the reader to find out who this was), together with his constant seeking for what might be considered by the reader as some sort of vocal Nirvana. He confesses that initially unsatisfied with his progress as a young singer, he took lessons from what he states was ‘half the teachers in Italy’, including those who had been noted singers, like Nino Piccaluga, Nazzareno De Angelis, Francesco Merli, Apollo Granforte, Riccardo Stracciari and he even at one time consulted with Titta Ruffo.

“Stefan Zucker in particular questions strongly some inaccuracies published in what he calls ‘three botched’ biographies on Corelli, and one rather shadowy subject that focused on advice sought from Lauri-Volpi. The implications are that these requests were somewhat casual and sporadic and that Lauri-Volpi is certainly quoted as saying he never formally taught Corelli. However, we can now read the numerous heart-felt and warm letters dating from the early 60’s to 1973 between Corelli and the veteran tenor, who is always addressed as Commendatore. They reveal Corelli’s gratitude covering a period of some thirteen years, when they used to speak regularly on the telephone to discuss his career progress, the roles he was currently undertaking and how he was coping or if there were alternative ways to deal with vocally difficult passages in the score. They also many times met at Lauri-Volpi’s and his wife (the former soprano) Maria Ros’s home to iron out certain problems, both technical and artistic. These sessions evidently led to Corelli occasionally altering his placement of tone into the ‘mask’, an effect that puts the tone in a more forward position. This was something that was not only advice given by Volpi, who was, when he thought necessary, critical but therefore helpful about some of Corelli’s singing, and was of course, also something advocated by many singing teachers.

“During the narrative covering the various stages of his career, his true age and that of his wife Loretta are laid bare (both losing a few years to help their public image) and also how their long and stormy relationship had much to do in affecting his choices of roles, and where and with whom he sang. Although Loretta herself is quoted and, as might be expected, showed a natural jealousy and displeasure about any of his amorous affairs, she did over the years also gain a poor reputation for being a difficult person to deal with. Nevertheless, at one point Corelli firmly stresses that she was only reacting in a manner as directly instructed by him, that no doubt at the time was in order to avoid too close a contact with some of his avid fans and likewise the ‘press’. Like many marriages there were ‘ups and downs’ both allowing artistic temperament to bear often on their relationship. After all, Loretta was prepared to give advice on his performances, having herself been a singer and, if not a star, recorded evidence certainly shows a very talented performer. It is apparent from some of the events described in the book that Corelli was at times quite cruel to her, and he certainly would not qualify as being an ideal husband: nevertheless they did stay married.

“There is one chapter where Zucker warns readers that if the subject offends them, they should go to the next one. It deals with various comments from other tenors about sex, and its possible effect on a singer before a performance, and Corelli’s own comments are revealing about his early behaviour and the sexual proclivities he had indulged in before singing. There are too, many glowing comments about some of his leading ladies, including Maria Callas, Birgit Nilsson, and Magda Olivero and what he learned from them. In return some of his leading ladies like Grace Bumbry (and others not all that well-known) have outlined in brief what they thought about singing with him as an artist and a personality.

“On the conflicting careers of both Corelli and Del Monaco, there can be no doubt that each saw in the other a tenor who was capable of performing successfully in roles in which they overlapped. Zucker points out that both tenors at one time had altered and refined their techniques to incorporate the Melocchi teachings, where the lowering of the larynx imparted a larger and darker, if perhaps a less malleable sound, with Del Monaco admitting to originally having had a rather small and insignificant voice that was developed by the Melocchi method.

“Corelli admits to initially admiring Del Monaco (whose career had blossomed a few years before his own) for his committed singing and performances while Bing, in one letter to Del Monaco expresses regret that two artists of their calibre should be so worried about the other’s successes. For the first time reams of correspondence that flowed between Roberto Bauer (Rudolph Bing’s Italian agent) and the Met management are now published in the book, and show the huge demands made by Corelli, once he had become established. Although Bing, in his biography 5000 Nights at the Opera, admits that Corelli was “what being a great tenor star was all about” he realised his true value as a ‘crowd puller’, but in his correspondence he is very critical and shows his disappointment about some of Corelli’s behaviour as a human being. It becomes evident that it was often difficult to accommodate his demands, from either fees or from an artistic point or view. His firm refusals to accept a contract for any season that might contain performances by Del Monaco certainly show that Corelli’s intransigence on the matter seriously curtailed Del Monaco’s appearances in certain theatres. Del Monaco, too, was also capable of writing things that ‘fanned the flames’ and did not help in smoothing out their rivalry. What is very interesting is a scale of fees paid to Corelli over a period from 1961 to 1975 that rose from $1500 to $4000 (which would probably equate to something like $25,000 per performance today) plus large and growing travelling, rehearsal and tour per week expenses. Del Monaco’s fees are shown running from 1950 to 1959, and even allowing for inflation during the applicable years, they were still small by comparison.

“Zucker deals with several of Corelli’s recorded performances and his illuminating analyses of how Corelli uses his voice when singing various well-known arias and concerted excerpts demonstrate a varying use of technique that shows that Corelli was continuing to seek out what was the best way for him as a singer.

“The book is published in hard-back and printed on high quality paper and like volume 1 is lavishly illustrated with many rare photographs. I look forward to reading the final volume that promises to be even more informative, about balancing Corelli’s and other top tenors’ contributions that raised them to a high place in the pantheon of great voices of the 20th Century.”

Huntley Dent, Reviewing in Fanfare: The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors:

“In Fanfare 38:5 I began my review of Stefan Zucker’s vastly entertaining first volume on Franco Corelli by saying, ‘Turn to this book if you want to hear operatic singing spoken of with heartfelt emotion and lifelong understanding.’ That recommendation holds good for Vols. 2 and 3 as well, and the entertainment value proceeds apace. But a question naturally arises. Is even a great tenor like Corelli worthy of three-volume treatment? I’d say yes, resoundingly, because Zucker’s broader topic is tenordom from its roots in the 18th and 19th centuries. He maintains, as other vocal experts do, that a major turning point was the popularization of a high C sung from the chest, for which credit goes to the French tenor Gilbert-Louis Duprez—Zucker considers him ‘the most influential singer ever.’

“As the subtitle of all three volumes indicates, the scope of these books extends to 54 tenors, making Corelli a central focus while surveying a wide landscape. We get a wealth of information about how the mechanics of singing, and the teaching of singers, actually works. This is a hotly contested realm, and Zucker enters with bold opinions about technical matters that the lay reader (so to speak) is likely to find new and intriguing, such as ‘placing in the mask’ and ‘the lowered larynx.’ Without absorbing such fine-grained technicalities, a reader won’t be able to grasp topics such as ‘tenors who covered’ and ‘tenors who didn’t cover.’

“Fanfare‘s readership, being record collectors, will be particularly intrigued by Zucker’s opinions about the recordings and videos of every current tenor of note; these appear in Vol. 3. He has decided views on the strengths and weaknesses of Jonas Kaufmann, Vittorio Grigolo, Juan Diego Flórez, et al. to whom he applies rigorous standards of vocal production as well as his own personal preferences. A taste in voices is a very personal matter for opera lovers, and a devotee of Flórez, is likely to nod in agreement when Kaufmann is criticized, and vice versa. Arguing silently with someone else’s opinions is endemic to music criticism, and Zucker offers ample scope for entering the fray.

“Technical matters aside, opera is a gossipaceous arena, and these books are rich in anecdotes. Have you heard the one about Corelli and Boris Christoff fighting a duel with swords on the stage of the Rome Opera? The cause was that Corelli had taken Loretta Di Lelio, who subsequently became his wife, away from Christoff. The two combatants were both wounded. Do you crave inside knowledge about Corelli repeatedly sending his wife to Italy so that he could keep his mistresses away from her eagle eye, or how far he and Mario Del Monaco went to jealously undermine each other’s career? No one who loves opera is immune from curiosity about its scandals, rivalries, and intrigues. Zucker satisfies this curiosity in abundance.

“Perhaps even more fascinating—and aimed higher—are the interviews with Corelli and other tenors, exposing their private opinions about a host of operatic subjects, including famous historical incidents. Corelli was intelligent and thoughtful, and being, for many, the prince among Italian tenors in his generation, he’s a credible witness to how opera looks from a conqueror’s vantage point.

“For example, regarding the starry recording of Gounod’s Faust that Decca made with him, Joan Sutherland, and Nicolai Ghiaurov: ‘Ghiaurov screamed and was only good in the laugh [of Méphistophélès], Sutherland hooted. I was the only one who truly sang, with a free voice and an expressive top. I threw away some recitatives, though, because I didn’t know them well enough.’ Each reader will have to sort out ego, expertise, professional rivalry, and sharp-eyed criticism, yet all are intriguing elements in the serious-ridiculous-inspiring art of opera.

“I can’t resist quoting a lengthy passage from a Corelli interview in Vol. 2 that centers on ‘the Rome walkout,’ a notorious incident in the career of Maria Callas at which Corelli was present. On January 2, 1958 Callas was starring in a gala performance of Norma at the Rome Opera, with the president of Italy and most of Rome’s social elite in attendance. When she walked out after the first act, a scandal ensued. Corelli was singing Pollione and he recounts the affair at first hand.

“Corelli: Callas was a little sick, and that didn’t permit her to sing at her best. Some in the audience heckled her. When she came offstage after Act I, she was completely calm, but then she began to stew and announced she was canceling. The management went to her, to push her to continue the performance. She became a lioness and began to scream. She threw some vases and a chair. Little by little she lost her voice. When she left the theater, however, she looked elegant, as if nothing had happened.

“Zucker: Are you suggesting that she could have continued the performance had she not started to scream?

“Corelli: Absolutely. She was in possession of a fabulous voice and an excellent technique. As late as 1958 she was always able to sing. She could have continued.

“Zucker is himself a tenor and hosted Opera Fanatic on WKCR-FM in New York for many years. Whether he is breaking down voice teaching into eight categories, interviewing illustrious tenors like Alfredo Kraus and Carlo Bergonzi (in Vol. 3), skewering three botched biographies of Corelli, or recounting, after interviews with over 100 singers how most handle the passaggio (the tricky break between the chest and head voice), Zucker has created three luscious page-turners.

“According to him, today’s tenors are restricted to one or two modes of vocal production—the art of ‘chiaroscuro,’ as Zucker calls it, died with Beniamino Gigli. But one could as easily mourn the era when opera singing was a blood sport and tenors bought into their stage image as romantic ideals.

“Corelli unblushingly declares, ‘People assume that in my old age I am hearing Verdi and Puccini in my mind’s ear. No! The music I am hearing and that keeps me going is the sound of Teresa Zylis-Gara having orgasms.’

“As in Vol. 1, these two later volumes are lavishly illustrated with lithographs and photos, totaling over 483 for the whole series. The paper is heavy and enameled. Having devoted years to this project and laying out tens of thousands of dollars to publish and illustrate the books, in the forewords Zucker asks for donations to Bel Canto Society. Considering the treasure trove contained between the covers of all three volumes, it should be any reader’s pleasure to comply.”

Because of the unprecedented nature of these books, Fanfare published two reviews by two separate authors. The first is above. The second is below.

Ken Meltzer, Reviewing in Fanfare: The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors:

“Stefan Zucker is well known to many of us who, to borrow his phrase, are ‘opera fanatics.’ As President of Bel Canto Society, Zucker has produced numerous recordings, both video and audio, documenting great singers throughout the ages. As host of the radio program ‘Opera Fanatic,’ which aired on Columbia University’s radio station, Zucker interviewed scores of opera personalities, including many of the finest singers, past and present (he was also editor of Opera Fanatic magazine). A singer who traces his lineage to 19th-century artists Giovanni Battista Rubini and Giacomo David, Zucker earned the title of ‘The World’s Highest Tenor’ from the Guinness Book of World Records when he sang an A above high C at the 1972 New York City Town Hall world premiere performance of the fourth version of Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini. Now he has written three books that are fascinating, thought-provoking, informative, and entertaining.

“From 1990–2003, Stefan Zucker maintained a friendship and correspondence with the legendary Italian tenor Franco Corelli. Corelli was a frequent guest of Zucker’s, both on the ‘Opera Fanatic’ radio program, and at live events held in various theaters. During the interviews, Corelli chatted with Zucker at great length on a wide variety of topics, and answered audience questions. Zucker’s conversations with Corelli—both the aforementioned public discussions, as well as some in private—form the cornerstone for the three volumes of Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing. Those Corelli discussions are of extraordinary value. I also had the privilege of interviewing Franco Corelli in the early 1990s for my own opera radio show, which then aired on Baltimore’s classical music station, WBJC-FM. I spoke with Corelli for a couple of hours in his New York apartment. It was clear even from that relatively brief encounter that Corelli was an intensely searching, thoughtful, and self-critical artist, and a keen student of the technique and artistry of his predecessors. Those qualities emerge in even greater depth and detail during the course of the various Zucker interviews. In the three volumes under review, Zucker examines not only Corelli’s life, career, and artistry, but also a host of other issues relating to the history and development of tenor singing from the 1800s to the present. The topics are numerous, wide-ranging, and sometimes, well off the expected path. As you might consider (at least, initially) purchasing fewer than all three volumes, I think it important to list various chapter titles, or a summary of their content:

“Volume I: Del Monaco, Corelli, and Their Influence; Nuance Versus Massive Darkened Tone; Donzelli, Duprez and Nourrit; Jean de Reszke; Tamagno; De Lucia; Caruso; Pertile; Martinelli; Schipa: Unaffected by Caruso; Schipa’s Specter; Gigli; Lauri-Volpi vs. the Verismo Style; Björling; Tagliavini; Richard Tucker; Del Monaco: Corelli’s Chief Role Model and Rival; Polar Opposites: Corelli and Di Stefano; Pavarotti; Domingo; Carreras; The Fluctuating Fortunes of Vibrato; Eighteen Radamès Recordings Compared; Appendices.

“Volume II: Six Revolutions Have Shaped Singing; Seismic Shock (Gilbert-Louis Duprez and the high C from the chest); The Dying Out of the Castrati and Their Traditions and the Decline of Florid Singing; Heroes on the Rise; Last of a Breed (Rubini); Corelli: Tenore del Mondo; Corelli’s Covering; A Note on Vocal Placement; Corelli: The Hamlet of Vocal Technique—and Why His Voice Declined; Corelli’s Letters to Lauri-Volpi, 1962 (?) — 1973; Grace Bumbry; Callas Critiques Corelli; Lauri-Volpi Attacks Corelli’s Technique; Observations on a Career and a Life; Franco Corelli: Some Missing Information; To Return or Not to Return?; Three Botched Bios; Fanizza Refutes Seghers; The Duel with Christoff and ‘Barbieri sola, sola’; Potter’s Corelli Chapter; Collaborating with Corelli; Appendices.

“Volume III: An Evening in the Theater with Franco Corelli and Stefan Zucker, Merkin Concert Hall, June 5, 1991; From Del Monaco to Chris Merritt; Booing: True Confessions; Conversations with Carlo Bergonzi; Alfredo Kraus; The Origins of Lowered-Larynx Techniques; Jean de Reszke’s Larynx-Lowering; Did Caruso Use a Laryngeal Method?; Some Lessons with Melocchi (1879–1960); Corelli’s Real View of the Stanley Method; Some Mario Del Monaco Successors; My Lessons with Marcello and Mario Del Monaco (Emilio Moscoso); Del Monaco’s Diaphragm; A Corelli Student (Enrique Pina); Francisco Araiza: A Rossini Tenor Who Lowers His Larynx; Olivero Attacks Del Monaco’s Technique; Different Singing Techniques; The Rise and Fall of Elena Filipova; Roberto Alagna on Sometimes Using Mask Placement, Sometimes a Lowered-larynx; Bill Schuman, Marcello Giordani, Stephen Costello, James Valenti and Michael Fabiano; Four Lowered-Larynx Tenors (Kaufmann, Cura, Villazón, Walter Fraccaro); Mask-Larynx-Hybrid Tenors (Galouzine, Beczala); Mask-Placement Tenors Who Don’t Cover (Grigolo, Filianoti, Florez, Brownlee and Banks, Cutler, Bros, Calleja); Mask-Placement Tenors Who Do Cover (Álvarez, Antonenko, Vargas, Licitra, Botha); Summation.

“Throughout the three volumes, Zucker spends a great deal of time discussing the ‘lowered-larynx’ technique, taught by Arturo Melocchi, and adopted by Corelli’s chief rival, Mario Del Monaco. That technique, as described by Zucker, ‘is based on singing with the larynx lowered to the bottom of the neck.’ According to Zucker and Corelli, this can lead to a vocal production capable of extraordinary power, but little nuance or dynamic variety. Corelli chose to adopt a variant of the technique, one in which the larynx ‘floats’ in order to allow for greater vocal pliability. But this is just one of many technical aspects covered; not only by Zucker and Corelli, but by several other singers interviewed by the author. And among the gems of these three books are Zucker’s interviews in Volume III with tenors Carlo Bergonzi and Alfredo Kraus, both masters of their craft who are able to describe their techniques and approach to performance in precise, compelling, and endlessly fascinating detail. [The purpose of the technical discussions is to show the choices and tradeoffs that caused tenor singing to evolve, from the late eighteenth century until today.—SZ] Other highlights are a series of letters written by Corelli to his teacher and friend Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (Volume II). The letters are quite touching, both for the respectful, tender way Corelli addresses his mentor, but also for the glimpses of self-doubt that begin to creep in during the early years of Corelli’s vocal decline. Also of considerable value are the various scholarly articles by Zucker that trace the history of tenor and castrato singing. Taking us from the sublime to the ridiculous is a 40-page chapter (Volume III) dominated by various opera fans who explain why they believe it is a higher calling to sabotage performances by booing, in order to demonstrate to the world they know more than anyone else. [Corelli advocated booing. Some of the listeners confessed to having booed him. He stood his ground.—SZ] If you are all too familiar with this type of buffoon, it will get your blood pressure going. It certainly did mine. And if you are at all prudish, be forewarned that these books include quite a bit on topics of a sexual nature. They range from the perhaps expected allusions to singers’ affairs and illegitimate children, to graphic discussions of sexual acts preferred by some artists (and even recommended by the author as a way to improve vocal technique!). The author provides fair warning that prurient subjects are on the horizon. But you are just as likely to encounter such material out of the blue (no pun intended). Of course, the concept of the operatic tenor as a sexually charismatic figure is undeniable, and has long been a subject of fascination and discussion. Perhaps the author, either by conscious or subconscious motivation, includes such material to advance discussion of that topic. I’m not easily shocked or offended, and these diversions did not impact my overall enjoyment of the books (they didn’t add to it, either). But in any case, you’ve been forewarned.

“Given the length and breadth of the three volumes of Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, this is a review that could go on for pages, far more than I am allotted. Suffice it to say that I found all three volumes compelling reading. Zucker is an opinionated writer, but he is also a highly informed one who consistently provides the material to support his opinions. His appraisals in Volume I of the respective strengths and weaknesses of the ‘Three Tenors,’ for example, are as spot on as any I’ve read. And I will give him the highest compliment I can give an author who writes about singers. When I read Zucker’s descriptions, I immediately want to go to the artist’s recordings and listen once again. In addition, the numerous photos, many quite stunning, are reproduced beautifully with the utmost clarity, and the entire copy is printed on the kind of high-quality paper rarely used nowadays. For those who are endlessly fascinated by tenors and their unique impact on the world of opera (as I am), Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing has a tremendous amount to offer, and in a fashion you are unlikely to find anywhere else. If you are at all curious, try Volume I. If you like it, I feel comfortable in saying you will enjoy the others as well. Recommended to fellow tenor fanatics.”

This volume stands as an impressive resource for opera fans and scholars, with the author breaking down many of Corelli’s performances in detail, explaining vocal techniques and their origins. The romance, passion, and competition of modern opera come alive in this sequel, aimed at aficionados.

—Kirkus Reviews

Nino Pantano Reviewing Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 2 in The Italian Voice and Brooklyn Discovery

“This volume, Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing (volume 2), by Stefan Zucker comes at a time when many traditional opera customs are being looked upon with such inquisitional curiosity by today’s book burners. The directors’ various brain and sexual disorders appear to be silencing the singers and appealing to guilt laden complexes that seem to be working on the side of the devils. Make-up gone, Canio castrated, Don José executed by Carmen and Calàf beheaded by Turandot. How can a book, however scholarly on opera singers and composers, have any relevance today? Well, this wonderfully entertaining and enlightening book has been a source of unalloyed joy and pleasure to me, and Stefan Zucker’s (Bel Canto Society) insatiable appetite for gossip, rivalry and jealousy among these artists speaks volumes.

“I was blessed to have been an opera-file as a young man when Franco Corelli (1921–2003) was having his triumphs. My love of the voice of the great tenor Enrico Caruso made me a follower of the careers of so many legendary names. Since Franco Corelli began his rise in the 1950’s I can aptly say I saw and heard him with his brilliant powerful voice, film star persona and the excitement of his physical presence that made him unique. No one today can rival those exceptional qualities. He had sex appeal, power, pathos and could diminish a tone until it became a whisper. His larynx lowering was part of his vocal magic. I believe that Giacomo Lauri-Volpi was the tenor who influenced Corelli the most. Franco Corelli’s personal letters to Lauri-Volpi are very touching and show his great admiration for this legendary tenor. Franco and Loretta were very devoted to Lauri-Volpi and his wife Maria, and Lauri-Volpi still sang in his eighties.

“The author, Stefan Zucker, gave concerts with his mother, famed soprano Mme. Rosina Wolf, embellishing the nine high C’s in the La Fille du Regiment aria. Stefan’s mother knew Franco Corelli, who baby-sat for her while she was performing in Italy in 1951, watching young Stefan. Stefan became one of the great personalities in the opera world creating a “buzz” and a “stir” with his comments and his “Opera Fanatic” radio show, which featured many opera singers and was truly an anchor for Franco Corelli.

“I met Stefan at the home of TV opera pioneer Lina Del Tinto and her husband Harry Demarsky and found Stefan to be not only extraordinarily intelligent, but a delightful dinner companion with a strong wit and willing ear. Mr. Zucker discusses 54 tenors spanning 200 years from cast ratings to castrati!

“The great composers wrote music as well as the embellishments so championed by the great singers of the day. The singers’ knowledge allowed them to enhance the music with phenomenal scales and variations.

“But things changed and composer Gioacchino Rossini felt that a grand era was ending and that singing was becoming lackluster. Gilbert-Louis Duprez formed a high C in singing that swept the opera world.

“Farinelli and Velluti were not the name of a law firm in Italy but were two of the great castrati who, like dinosaurs, reigned supreme. The castrati recalled my grandmother Rosalia’s Easter and Thanksgiving feast, which was a delicious capon with its tender breast meat—always tasty—never fowl. These birds were a delicious blend of male and female capabilities that evoked unique (eunuch) rich voices and many rhapsodic fans of both culinary succulents and operatic ecstasy! The last castrato, Alessandro Moreschi (1858–1922), made a series of recordings with the Vatican choir in 1902–04 for the Gaisberg Brothers, who also recorded the young Enrico Caruso as well as 93 year old Pope Leo 13th. While Moreschi was not a great castrato, he sang with rooster like tones, haunting and sad.

“Rossini admired the castrati who themselves added the coloratura and vocal displays that thrilled and drove audiences to a Farinelli frenzy. When my grandparents re-visited Gangi, Sicily in the Madonie Mountains near Palermo in 1939, they took their son my Uncle Ignacio along. They planned a big surprise. The surprise was a farm girl who scrambled pigs testicles in a pan with eggs and milk. It was made for adolescent young men and was called “La Festa di Pape.” (The feast of Popes) He had the good sense to say NO, thank you! He is 91 today and a retired ballroom dancer. (Bill Tano) guess he didn’t need that extra testicular jolt!

“Giovanni Battista Velluti who was a “ladies man” rather than the opposite (man’s lady), was the last operatic castrato hero, and Rossini and others mourned the loss of the great “senza gazze.”  Giovanni Battista Rubini (1795–1854) was a fabulous high C tenor who studied with Andrea Nozzari and sang some of the repertory of Giovanni David, who was called the “Paganini of Song.” Two wonderful illustrations of Rubini are enchanting. There is a lengthy segment on “Balls” and the varied surgeries that made castrati.

“The new school of “high C ” tenors took hold ultimately, leading to such stars as Francesco Tamagno (1850–1905) Verdi’s first Otello, Enrico Caruso (1873–1921), Beniamino Gigli  (1890–1957), Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (1892–1979), Giovanni Martinelli (1885–1969), Mario Del Monaco and Franco Corelli. When Enrico Caruso passed away in 1921, the world went into mourning. Tenor Giovanni Martinelli said Lauri-Volpi, Beniamino Gigli and he had to sing the late Caruso’s roles. Mario Del Monaco (1915–1982)  was a handsome, robust voiced tenor whose rise to fame was about the same as Franco Corelli’s. They became intense rivals. I saw both these great tenors in their primes. As soon as Del Monaco heard of Corelli coming to the Metropolitan Opera, he left. Del Monaco was not a relaxed singer. You felt the tension and saw his muscles collaborate, and his burnished and dramatic tones rocked the house. Del Monaco, whom I saw in Norma with Callas at the Met made a film where he was heard as “The Young Caruso.” He was also quite an exhibitionist—but that’s another story. Franco Corelli would step back, open up and out would fly these free and furious notes, defiant and heroic. Once he tapered the tone to a whisper at the end of Celeste Aida. His defiance of his Turandot, Birgit Nilsson was an outpouring of two volcanoes, his melting kiss was a triple gelato almost too much to bear. Corelli said it would not be out of place if he saw Del Monaco and punched him in the jaw. Corelli did bite Birgit Nilsson on the neck in Turandot when she held their duet note longer than he and ran offstage in Italy to challenge a student who booed him—with sword in hand!

“A friend, artist and Italofile James Albano, told me of Corelli’s singing of Calàf in Vienna that had women throwing their keys at him. Corelli’s wife Loretta was in constant tension about these real or imagined liaisons. She said “I was extremely jealous. I didn’t have 10 fingernails, I had 20, to scratch out the eyes of women who were after Franco.” Corelli said that soprano Teresa Zylis-Gara was his greatest love (She was a brilliant Tosca), but he and Loretta stayed married. Franco Corelli sang at The Metropolitan Opera from 1961 until 1975. In 1975, Corelli and Tebaldi sang a legendary concert at Brooklyn College. That’s the year they both left the Metropolitan Opera. They were, according to Zucker, associates and friends, not lovers. There is a chapter on Corelli’s various liaisons, mistresses and flirtations.

“This splendid book has many glorious photographs including those of Franco and Loretta. They were a handsome couple, and one extraordinary shot of Franco Corelli as Turiddu and Brooklyn’s great tenor Richard Tucker as Canio. Can you imagine, seeing them both on the same night? I did! Corelli was a superb Turiddu and Tucker a great Canio. Corelli’s “Addio alla Madre” was impassioned and Richard Tucker’s heartbreaking “Vesti la Giubba” and his screamed “La commedia è finita” haunt the memory! They too were rivals but “friendly” ones. Tucker and Corelli became closer as time passed. Tucker told Corelli how to secure a note (or the other way around), and they were much friendlier after that. Metropolitan Opera Manager Sir Rudolf Bing used to assuage them by threatening to pay the other one dollar more! I recall seeing Franco Corelli at Richard Tucker’s (1913–1975) wake at the Campbell Funeral Home in New York in 1975, and he looked, in his grief, as if he had been punched in the stomach. Tucker had a brilliant 30 year career with the Metropolitan Opera. Tucker still lives on through The Richard Tucker Music Foundation run by his industrious son Barry. Beniamino Gigli (1890–1957) had a voice of incredible sweetness and honeyed tone. He could “cover” and also add some delicious “fortes” and made about 20 films including Forget Me Not, in England where he sang “Non ti scordar di me” and “Mamma.” In Mamma (1940) Gigli sang the title song and the delightful “Se vuoi goder la vita,” where his diminishing tones were breathtaking. Corelli listened and learned. He was no Gigli but he was renowned for his dimuendos and silvery masculine tones. Gigli’s final film was the charming Taxi di notte in 1953. I would go to the Benson Theatre with my grandparents Antonio and Rosalia Pantano to see his films. She would loudly curse the villains, both wife and her lover, and weep for the poor cuckolded Gigli! Gigli succeeded the mighty Caruso at the Met (1920–1932 and again in 1939 to demonstrate his Radamès. He came back to America for three Carnegie Hall concerts at age 65 in 1955. I attended one of the concerts where Gigli sang a dozen arias and about 15 encores. He “covered” beautifully and his “covering” pianissimi were still prominent, his top, a bit short but quite thrilling. At age 65 he was still a wonder. His intoxicating and emotional “E Lucevan le stelle” tore the house down. His “Oy Marie,” and ““Quann’ a femmena vo’” drove the audience to a frenzy. It’s all been recorded and is incredible to see, but also to witness—amazing! According to Zucker, Gigli’s greatest gift was “chiaroscuro of timbre.” I met Franco Corelli at a Michael Sisca’s “La Follia” concert when he was about 80. I kissed his hand in respect. He said “No, no, no!” But I thanked him for the visceral thrills he gave me and so many others. Corelli was a very nervous performer. His professional recordings don’t have the special “edge” that his “live” performances had. I recall with a shiver and a smile his incredible performances in his prime, but I never listen to his recordings for comfort or inspiration. Occasionally I play Gigli (I love his Spanish song “Marta”) and I always find comfort in Caruso. When not in a tenor mood, it’s great basso Ezio Pinza who moves me. Once in a while I play (castrato) Moreschis’s “Ideale” with his haunting ironic torment. On occasion, Martinelli, Peerce, Tucker, Melchior and Sicilian tenor Di Stefano help fill the void.

“I wish to thank Stefan Zucker for his brilliant and stimulating book with its vital and vibrant photographs. It is what opera is really about and of the importance of all these great artists who used their vocal talents to remind us of the troubadour. Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Puccini surely second the motion. Soprano Gigliola Frazzoni said, “Corelli was the Callas of tenors!” This splendid book has 351 pages adorned with 144 magnificent photographs of Franco Corelli in costume and with his wife Loretta and other artists from Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi to great baritone Tito Gobbi. Illustrations of the distant-past singers are incredibly artful and truly make the reader part of the action. Whether its romance, gossip, technical truths or memory refreshing, this book stands out as stimulating reading for the next year and decades to come. I strongly recommend Stefan Zucker’s Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, volume 2, as I did volume 1.

“We eagerly await Hitler’s Tenor, a book on Beniamino Gigli, another tenor from the Adriatic (Recanati) whose world-wide fame put him among the gods of opera as well as thrilling audiences worldwide for over 40 years! Some may object to the relationship of Gigli to the German Nazi regime, but all that will come out in Stefan Zucker’s forthcoming book. My advice is listen to Corelli and Gigli! It is artistry, voice and the universal pleasure reserved for angels and tenors.”

Customers Review Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing: Fifty-Four Tenors Spanning 200 Years, vol. 2

Submitted by Paul Pothwell on Tuesday, 01/23/2018 at 6:06 pm.

These are beautiful and informative books. Exquisite photographs throughout. So much information, they are hard to put down. The quality is superb, I can’t wait for volume 3.
I can’t recommend them highly enough to anyone interested in opera.
Thank you, Mr Zucker.
————————————————

Now reading and enjoying volume 2. Again.
Excellent read, excellent quality.  Fabulous collection
of photographs. And last but far from least, informative. 
The only thing lacking, Sir, is an autograph of yours.
Thank you again for these great books.
Sincerely,
Paul

Paul Rothwell 
Gresham, OR

Submitted by Col. William Russell (ret.) on Friday, 01/19/2018 at 7:04 pm.

As with Zucker’s first volume, this one again is superbly written and well-illustrated. True, not all will agree with Zucker’s comments and observations but he presents them so concisely and persuasively that he makes his points with clarity and conviction. Books like this often have a limited availability so grab it while you can. Hopefully, there will be a volume 3.
Col. William Russell (ret.)
Springfield, VA

Submitted by Michael J. Peterson on Wednesday, 01/24/2018 at 1:14 pm.

I purchased Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 1 first, which was so impressive that within a very few days of reading the fantastically historic and organized book I had to order Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 2. Both of these volumes give a huge wealth of information about not just the singers, but even reference: 

*recordings which are available in various places online
*feuds between rival factions and singers
*the color, timbre, range and stylistic approaches of the voices
*massive collections of interviews with Franco Corelli which form the basis of the book
*endless photographs of singers about whom I’ve heard but never seen
*explanations of vocal technique and famous instructors who taught these singers

Stefan Zucker is a masterful interviewer and author with his engaging style and cross referencing which makes this book, Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 2, a serious need for any singer who should know and understand the stylistic differences in the singers’ art, and be aware of not only resources to find examples of their work by title, but to be fully founded in the singers’ art.

All of which leads me to recommend this book to any student of voice including those whom I teach (the Garcia Method through Margaret Harshaw – IU School of Music 1981), music history, opera buff or casual reader who would like a comprehensive set of beautifully bound books with glossy covers and the best quality paper I have in my library.

I cannot wait until the hoped for release of Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol. 3 
I’ve already searched to buy it to have “the rest of the story.”
Michael J. Peterson 
Frankfort, IN 

Submitted by Jane DeRocco on Friday, 01/19/2018 at 10:38 pm.
Volume 2, of course, is a continuation of Volume 1, with the same format, approach, and high quality. The illustrations alone are worth the price of the book. The text describes Corelli in his historical context and is always illuminating. Although the technical jargon may not be as meaningful to non-singers, that should not discourage anyone from buying this book. Corelli’s singing was always special; his voice had a brilliance to it that others lacked and his singing was always dramatic and expressive. He deserves to be a standard by which others are measured. I hope Volume 3 will be available soon.

Jane DeRocco
Utica, NY

Submitted by Remo Caminada on Tuesday, 01/29/2018 at 2:44 pm.

With the books Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, the great Stefan Zucker gave us and the following generations an incredible gift. Talking about and with all the great tenors, mostly singing in or influenced by the Golden Age of classical singing, we get closer to the real artistic value of all the master tenors who brought the art and the love for classical singing to us today. Zucker’s efforts over decades, his clear imagination and knowledge of sophisticated singing techniques, make the quality of all the interviews possible and for us readers accessible.

With love and gratitude,
Remo Caminada
Reggio Emilia, Emilia-Romagna
Italy

Submitted by Tobias Mostel on Tuesday, 01/29/2018 at 10:44 pm.

One of the best things about the book is the collection of writing about singing. This kind of writing has fallen by the wayside in our contemporary world. Now critics write about the quality of the production, the sets and the costumes. Often it is possible to get through a whole review without any lengthy discussion of the singing. In my considered opinion, any audience that comes out of an auditorium talking about the sets of an opera has been subject to a failure of singing. Who cares about sets? Who cares about the production designer? In opera it is singing that’s the issue, not the scenery. There is no scenery talk at all in vols. 1 or 2. I heard Corelli in all his roles at the Met. In fact, I was in the boys chorus in the revival of Turandot.  I was a page in Act II and onstage for the whole riddle scene. Corelli did his best against Nilsson whose high notes were loud, legendary and lengthy. My mother, Kate, said that Nilsson reminded her of Eva Turner who, she said, cleaned the dust off the chandelier on the intake of breath. On the exhalation, the dust was restored.

Volume 2 has extensive interviews with Corelli. I am of two minds about interviews with performers. Some of them know what they’re talking about, others don’t know what they’re talking about and offer rationalizations of what they do. I put Corelli in the latter class. Corelli spends much time being politic about other singers. He has nothing of interest to say about Milanov and little of interest about Callas, though he talks about her a lot. Mostly he’s interested in himself—this was true onstage, too. Corelli could create a no-man’s-land space around himself onstage. No other performer could get through. He did not do this all the time, but he did it some of the time. Any sense of ensemble or drama suffered when he indulged in this behavior.

My standards of stage behavior come from my father, Zero Mostel. I take Zero as the standard against which all stage performers are measured. Corelli, due to his self-indulgence, doesn’t do very well. A picture on page 149 of Corelli and Price shows what I mean. Stefan notes that “Both singers seem to be posing for the camera without relating to each other.” Price was notorious for this. Farrell was in the same class. Part of the thrill of opera is the drama. When performers ignore this, the drama suffers. Opera without drama is ham without eggs. Drama must be part of an opera performance. No amount of high notes will make up for the lack of drama.

In the long middle section of the book Stefan discusses many recorded performances of Corelli. This is for serious students of the voice. My only sorrow is that he doesn’t discuss what everyone else was doing, too. This brings to mind the scene in the boiler room of Fellini’s movie And the Ship Sails On. All the singers try to out-sing each other on higher and higher notes to the engine-room crew which is not that interested. Much of the talk from singers in the book is about outdoing others. At the end of the book, Stefan attacks other biographers of Corelli. This section is fun. It is always interesting to read scholars running each other over the coals of accuracy. Stefan is right up there with Gore Vidal in the accuracy department.

On page 269 is perhaps the most honest self description in the history of music, perhaps in the history of art. Bravo to Stefan for getting it out of Corelli! [Corelli volunteered it out of the blue.—SZ] Also there is much discussion of the egos of the stars. This is exciting stuff. It’s good to have the who, what, why, where and when of stories that have been floating around the standee line for years. All in all this is a fine book largely about Corelli and the art of singing. Anyone interested in these subjects will consider the money well spent on such a fine book with so many excellent pictures.

Tobias Mostel
Tallahassee, FL

Submitted by Joe Pearce on Sunday, 02/11/2018 at 3:04 pm.

FRANCO CORELLI AND STEFAN ZUCKER
A TEAM FOR THE AGES
As with vol, 1, I enjoyed 2 very much. Stefan’s knowledge is never a surprise, but I’m always impressed by just how much Franco C. understood about singing—his and other people’s—and for that matter how much he knew about other tenors of both his own time and before. I didn’t let Stefan’s warning about skipping that one crazy chapter with all the sex deter me, but I don’t know if it helped the book all that much (although if it got into the right hands and was mentioned in reviews, it might have done the job). It’s too bad Stefan and Franco never had another of those “let’s-compare-tenors-in-fifteen-or-twenty-recordings-of ….”– say, Trovatore or Turandot, as that section on Aïda  in vol. 1 was truly memorable–especially when they both had good things to say about the Gigli 1946 set, which I grew up on and still love. [The chapter on recordings of Aïda was written by me, without Franco’s participation.— SZ]

Joe Pearce, President
The Vocal Record Collectors’ Society

You can write your review by going to your account, and type in the comment box at the bottom of the account page.

Here is the email to which these customers responded:

Thank you very much for having bought Franco Corelli and a Revolution in Singing, vol.2.

I have a favor to ask you: would you review the book, with a view to having your critique published on our Web sites, on Facebook and in our e-newsletters?

Stefan Zucker

DIVAS AND CHEST VOICE

By Stefan Zucker

The film clips below are excepted from Opera Fanatic: Stefan and the Divas, with Iris Adami Corradetti, Barbieri, Cerquetti, Cigna, Frazzoni, Gavazzi, Gencer, Olivero, Pobbe, Simionato; Zucker; Schmidt-Garre, dir. (1998) 93m. In English and in Italian with English subtitles. Color/B&W.

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. Giuditta Pasta, who created Norma and became Bellini’s favorite soprano, was described by Stendhal as having a voice “not all molded from the same metallo, as they would say in Italy (i.e., it possesses more than one timbre); and this fundamental variety of tone produced by a single voice affords one of the richest veins of musical expression which the artistry of a great cantatrice is able to exploit….Madame Pasta’s incredible mastery of technique is revealed in the amazing facility with which she alternates head-notes with chest-notes.” Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860) was a critic, essayist and poet, some of whose verses were set by Schubert. A great Pasta admirer, he described the effect of her chest tones in a performance of Norma in 1841: “Hoarse, savage sounds came out from her chest, scorn and bitterness seemed to shake the heart of the listener harshly.”

Chest voice is a means of communicating fear, rage, contempt, torment and suffering of the soul. Can you conceive of Callas without chest voice?

I. Chest Voice: Some History

Since WWI 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. Many 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.) He 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. Verdi, in a letter to Ricordi, demanded that a singer being considered for Amneris, Antonietta Fricci, have “the G and A-flat in chest voice for her fourth-act melody. If she doesn’t, that would be more fatal than whether or not the high B-natural were powerful or weak.” Indeed, two Francesco Lamperti pupils, Teresa Stolz and Maria Waldmann, who respectively sang Aïda and Amneris at Aïda’s La Scala premiere, reputedly used ample amounts of chest. Consider Mascagni’s preference for Lina Bruna Rasa’s chest-voice-freighted 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 175 years, while women have used chest voice less and less, men have used it more and more. (Of course in popular music women have used chest extensively for decades.) 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.

Giulietta Simionato and Stefan Zucker

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. 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 unhealthy vocally. 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. Olivero maintained that Gavazzi had stolen the opportunity to broadcast and record Adriana Lecouvreur from her and was offended that in the film Gavazzi said that in performance she, Olivero, used chest voice. Barbieri insisted she wouldn’t attend the Bavarian State Opera’s world-premiere 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 it. Barbieri declared, “She doesn’t know what she’s listening to.”

III. Musical Line vs. Dramatic Expression

Two Kinds of Diva

Simionato: My vocal color always was the same. I couldn’t change it like a painter who changes the color in his painting with his brush. The color is what it is.

Frazzoni: I try to adapt my sound to the situation. When I performed Butterfly I did only that part that year because I had to make my voice smaller and childlike for the first act. But in the second act I became a spinto and threw out all the voice I had.

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.

Some of Today’s Singers Have Their Say

Donald George: Beautifully written and discussed! Bravo!!

Jon Fredric West When I was in school in the 60s good girls didn’t use chest register. That Horne did caused consternation. Voice teachers including my own said Price would ruin her voice on account of it. Yet she sounded fine when she sang her final Carnegie Hall recital at age 64. She still was able to vary chest with the lighter sound with which she had graduated Juilliard. [I’m astonished that 100 percent of the commentators below favor using chest. In 1996, when Opera Fanatic was filmed, this would not have been so.—SZ]

JFW: I believe in making a register change on E, so that from E down chest can be used in accordance with the needs of the character. I don’t think it vocally healthy to use it higher, but if the singer is competing against a loud orchestra it can be brought higher on occasion. I teach my students accordingly. Jaime Barton in “O don fatale” overindulges in chest voice to the point that her chest register sounds like a different voice. Still, I find her ability jaw dropping.

Alexandra Deshorties I think as usual people are disposed to see the world in black or white and from their own set of shoes. I tend to agree with La Gencer. My philosophy is that each body being different, even based on the universal technique [only one singing technique?—SZ], there will be some variations from singer to singer, and it is foolish to say that one will never use it, just as it is foolish to say that one should always use it. It seems to me that a lot of this is an interpretive choice. Where most sopranos are constrained to chest, I myself work very hard at maintaining and experimenting with a mix, so as to have a choice to use my chest voice or not, should I feel it is inappropriate or ineffective.

I think chest voice, color and other interpretive devices of the human voice are at the service of expression, text and the general needs of the craft. It is overall an exploration and a delicate balance to strike. In the end it is a question of honesty and centering of a dialectic and ever-delicate balance between form and substance. I have to say, delivered honestly and not as a device, I strongly believe in the cathartic importance of a heightened emotional impact.

Michael Chioldi There are absolutely healthy ways to sing with chest voice. In fact you need this resonance to help match the qualities of sound throughout the vocal range. Every single diva who sang in this interview used voce di petto [chest voice], in my opinion. And I absolutely agree with the later divas in the interview.

It seems to me that the problem lies with the definition of the phrase itself. As long as the voice is supported with the breath and the mask resonance stays present, there should be no problem. Which is in fact what the divas all seemed to agree on.

Maria Callas absolutely used chest voice and taught it in her famous master class at Juilliard.

The lack of chest resonance in a voice can leave the bottom without vibrancy and excitement. I believe there is a balance of how and when to use it, but to deny it altogether seems counterintuitive.

Franco Farina This seems to me to be a confusion of terminology. Voce di petto in a proper usage meant chest register. The fact is their demonstrations were excellent examples of the proper use of chest register. Placement is a separate vocal concept from registration. If you attempted to focus or place the voice in the chest that would be wrong and would produce an ingollata [throaty] sound.

Linda Roark-Strummer I think, after listening to the video, that what we all are dealing with is semantics, as Mr. Farina says. The chest voice can be a useful tool for training purposes and as a COLOR in some roles.

I trained it and I used it. Certainly, in roles like Abigaille, and the Lady and Herodias, I employed it for effect—a color. BUT I always kept it in a position that was in line with the rest of my voice and kept the space over it. I didn’t push it to the belting stage. THAT is something else and it is dangerous. Barbieri claimed she didn’t use it. When Peter [Strummer] and I listen to her, yes, she did. I don’t know why she didn’t admit it. The singers from the Golden Age trained it and used it. There is nothing wrong with it unless it is not trained properly and used intelligently. I have found that chest voice can help with problems in register changes (in women), when used properly and under the guidance of a teacher who understands it. I teach my students how to use it properly.

Kevin Short Bravo to you for a wonderful and very interesting interview. My views are that whether they realized it or not Simionato and Barbieri both accessed their chest voice. They both kept their production elevated and forward with regard to their soft palate and their masks. They also sing with wonderful space and as some would say “sing in the tube.” In this way the chest is engaged without directly singing in the chest. There is a sort of cavern created.

Thank you for all of the work you do, Stefan!! I have been a fan of yours for many years!  Cheers

Rosa D’Imperio I love this film—great job! What I get from it is that they are referring to using a supported chest blend in the body, always mixing head voice on the breath, “sul fiato,” and NOT raw “belted” chest. This is the healthy chest. They all sang a well-developed integrated register-balanced healthy chest mix.

Drew Minter Was astonished that Barbieri and Simionato could sing so beautifully in chest voice (still), and yet they called it head voice. Yet they are talking about the primary resonators (still in the head just as they said) and not the vocal mechanism (which is indeed what you or I or Gencer in her amusing fashion call chest mode). I see what they mean.

But I can’t understand why they are so afraid of the term!!!!

Gilbert Den Broeder Not the shortest story. But very interesting and worthwhile to read.

Ricardo Tamura Dear Stefan, it is an honor to answer a question from you whom I consider to be a very knowledgeable person in vocal matters!

In my modest opinion, before one discusses whether chest voice should be used or not, it is essential to define what “chest voice” actually is! What many people call “chest voice” is actually a sound that is artificially produced by lowering the larynx.

The singers in the movie who said that chest voice should not be used apparently understood chest voice in this way.

My opinion is that the singing voice should be as natural as possible, and therefore I don’t agree with this way of singing. I do believe that it will damage the voice with time.

The voice should be produced “sul fiato [on the breath],” as Barbieri said in the movie. When this happens the larynx remains in its natural, “neutral” position, and singing happens “in the whole body,” which some people call “chest voice.”

In my view, that is the understanding of the other singers, who said they “approve” of chest voice.

I agree with all the opinions presented, and I don’t find that they contradict each other. I also totally agree with your comments.

Especially nowadays, there is a tendency to replace the “singing sul fiato” with the so-called “singing in the mask.” Again (in my modest opinion), “singing in the mask” is being misunderstood as meaning “throwing the air into the mask.” This also causes an artificial sound, because now the larynx tends to be in a raised position.

Voices that are produced in this way do lack the feeling that grasps our viscera, as you said. And this also probably damages the voice in the long run.

But the difference is not about singing in the chest or the head (or the mask) but about keeping the larynx in a neutral (natural) position or not!

Thank you very much for the opportunity to discuss this subject with you!

Raúl Melo If I may be so bold, my take on this question is a lack of precise terminology. Understanding singing is a mental game more than a physical one. In my case I have with age developed a kind of “chest voice.” Rather than a change in support (all your great divas said “Sul fiato; SEMPRE” [on the breath always]), it’s a change in feeling. I generally take a breath before I find the bottom of my voice. These lovely women just SANG. They accessed the bottom and top of their voices healthily. [Pobbe combined a mechanistic technique—a technique based on manipulating anatomy, the larynx, for example—with a sensation-governed one. The others placed in the mask and used their diaphragms as if they were bellows.—SZ]

It’s the same question as passaggio [the notes where chest voice meets head voice] and cover for tenors; always a big question. In my experience to cover is not to make the voice darker or covered, it’s simply a vowel modification. That’s why Maestro Kraus could honestly say, “I don’t cover”; completely true in my experience. M. Kraus simply went to a brighter E at the top, other tenors go to an AW. I go somewhere in between; to a French ã as in “enfant.” Is it covered? No, it is modified. The same is true with passaggio. Rather than a narrow corridor I imagine a great river making a bend; never narrowed. This is why singing great music is more a mental game than a physical one. Both are necessary (Sul fiato; SEMPRE), but language doesn’t capture the essence of what you are doing.

So watching those great divas sing those snippets (Oh my god how lovely, healthy, beautiful . . .) they were being as honest as Kraus was. They didn’t feel it in the chest; they just sang on the breath. At the top of their voices they didn’t feel it getting white, it just went into the mask. I had a good teacher who said to me: “Theory is what the rest of us do to figure out what geniuses are doing.” It’s we lesser mortals who try to understand. It’s our language that is not sufficient, not our love, not our understanding.

Roger Ohlsen I just loved your article on chest voice. I find it interesting that a lot of people equate chest voice with belting, but it’s different, so that’s the problem. It’s amazing and frightening that some of the greatest singers didn’t know what they were doing, but they could feel what they were doing, and they did it on feeling, not logic, because they could be singing in chest voice without realizing it. Amazing! It’s like some modern sopranos who believe they have a break around top F below high C, like tenors, and of course they don’t. I don’t think chest voice ever hurt anybody if they did it properly.

Anyway I thought it was a great article.

Ewa Płonka I think that divas love chest voice and would gladly use it; however, it is often being unadvised by coaches, conductors and teachers. So that’s that. I wonder if the public would care that much about the matter. I know I love to use it, that’s for sure.

Ida Faiella I disagree with what I think is an outdated theory about chest voice. I think it is a great asset to the voice and adds a great deal to range and dramatic ability.

The only one who speaks intelligently about it is Gencer; she knows what she is doing. So many singers are just on autopilot!

In my CD Poetry Into Song I use a good deal of blatant chest as a dramatic vehicle. While I agree with the thinking that it is not always beautiful, it is powerful dramatically.

I do continue singing, which amazes my singer friends. Did the Chausson piece “Chansons Perpetuelle” in March and a more pop concert last weekend of songs with lyrics by my old friend Sheldon Harnick and Dorothy Fields whose son played piano for me.

Lloyd W. Hanson The range of chest voice is simply a relaxation of the vocal folds such that they are able, in their entirety, to oscillate all the composite vocal folds, both their thyro-arytenoid muscle and their vocalis muscle. In short both of the muscle fibers of the vocal folds are in oscillation. This induces a substantial mass that is capable of producing a rich and exciting phonation.

The singer is capable of tightening the vocal folds somewhat in this process but that will produce a guttural or extremely rough phonation which is only used for dramatically forceful utterances.

In addition, the development of a relaxed and rich chest voice is a key element in the development of the singer’s extremely accessible high voice. Arpeggios from a yodel down into chest voice and then upward in a double-octave arpeggio into the high voice are an excellent vocalize to develop the high voice.

Peter Terrell The problem is terminology. The expression “chest voice” was used because in the lowest register you get a sensation of something happening lower down—in the chest, which some label as resonance (or an impression of resonance down there). “Chest voice” should not mean the forced pulling down of the normal voice, as one of the singers demonstrated, insisting this was the “chest voice.” All the singers were able to demonstrate correct “chest voice” notes. I would suggest the low sensation is an effect of singing with efficient production in that region, not a cause.


Robert James Miller Really fascinating!

Zoya Zharzhevsky It’s funny. They say that there is not such a thing as chest voice, and then they start to sing with what I’d describe as a perfect chest voice!

Elliot Matheny Bravo! Very thorough article, sir!

Michael Hardy “This from THEM!” Leyla nailed it with that immortal line! [Proprio loro.]

It’s not considered good taste, especially with Anglo-Saxon critics etc., and now the Latins have followed them…can you imagine Burzio getting a gig these days?

Tomas Magieras Auškalnis Is there any “voce di petto?” A very amusing argument. All of them could be Hollywood actresses of high calibre (no irony meant here). And Leyla Gencer with her sober charm, humour and assertiveness. Love her.

Jonathan Linton Good fun!

Susie Weinstock I really loved this video, Stefan. thx for ur posted commentary too.

David Uffer Does she, doesn’t she? Only the lightest lyrics and coloraturas disdain it. All others, whether they admit it or not, use it, some to galvanizing effect.

Patrick C. Byrne Astounding. I tried the yodel to chest technique. What an easy method.

You never cease to amaze me, Stefan. The Met needs you to hire singers and ditch whoever is in charge. There is so little excitement anymore.

Peter van der Waal Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your DVD of you visiting the great singers and talking about the use of chest! Amazing! I am 34 years old and have always been very interested in historical singers. In musicology I specialized in a Dutch singing teacher called Cornelie van Zanten who studied with the elder Lamperti [Francesco] and Stockhausen and who had many interesting pupils, such as Julia Culp and Jacques Urlus.

Patrick Mack At first I thought this read ‘Divas and Chest Hair’. Now that’s interesting.

Filippo Moratti Stefan, I cannot but agree with what you said about chest voice and resonance. I saw Opera Fanatic a few weeks ago, since I’m slowly approaching the study of singing, singing technique and interpretation, I thought I might want to know something more on how and why singing has changed so much over the years.

I find your work really interesting, especially because, in my opinion, it enlightens not only the preparation of roles but also the actual singing technique these divas had.

Opera Fanatic is a piece of history, since you had the chance of interviewing them in their latest years, as a witness to their “singing from the soul.”

Do you think interpretation and the correct use of voce infantile and chest voice are something that can be taught and used even today? [Yes.]

Thank you again for your work.

Peter Bonelli Nicely done, Stefan Zucker. Bravo!

Laura Lauretta E’ MOLTO IMPORTANTE PER ESEGUIRE UN BEL CANTO, LA TECNICA DELLA RESPIRAZIONE! BASATA SUL DIAFRAMMA !!!! For bel canto a breathing technique based on the diaphragm is very important! [I take this statement to mean that one should press in at the diaphragm. There is widespread disagreement about singing technique, and many would disagree with Laura Lauretta.—SZ]

Stimme Passion Sehr sehenswert. Very worthwhile to see—I love the Divas!

Basia Jaworski heb je de docu ooit gezien, Peter? Is echt fantastic! Have you ever seen the documentary, Peter? It’s really fantastic!

Peter van der Waal Zeker Basia!! Love it!!!

Stefan, just wanted to tell you I admire your work.

Basia Jaworski het is eigenlijk een must. Ik heb hem weet ik niet hoe vaak bekeken. Heerlijk! It’s actually a must. I got it. I don’t know how often I’ve viewed it. Delicious!

Gerrit Jan Fonk Geweldig Wat een ladies! What ladies!

Marcela Castano‎ It’s fantastic!


A Comment from a Customer

What a wonderful video, Mr. Zucker! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! The clips with Madame Gencer alone are amazing! What a wonderful character! I can imagine the ruckus that would have ensued had all these divine been in one room together! What a phenomenal archive of our tradition as singers! Truly wonderful!

I LOVE this website! I have been a fan for some time. Thank you for your tireless work and obvious passion for our sacred art. Please accept my most heartfelt congratulations on such a tremendous accomplishment! I cannot express my gratitude enough for your efforts to preserve the history and tradition carried through the ages by our most treasured singers. This is truly a treasure trove for any up and coming singer who wishes to discover where their roots lie. What a miracle to hear first hand from artists like Cerquetti, Simionato, Gencer, Araiza, Hines, Corelli—and the list goes on! I have garnered so much important information here and I feel that my artistry has benefitted a great deal. Please keep up the tremendous work, which I hope will serve to inspire our current singers as they aspire to greatness.—Barbara Quintiliani, soprano

Thanks for so many fine, incisive interviews with great singers that addressed real issues about singing and not just PR clap-trap!—Ken Smith

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Stefan Zucker

Stefan Zucker as Salvini in the world premiere of Bellini’s fourth version of Adelson e Salvini, at The Town Hall in New York City, September 12, 1972. In this performance he sang an A above high C, for which the Guinness Book of World Records named him “The World’s Highest Tenor.” In addition to the A he also sang two G-naturals, five F-naturals, nine E-naturals, six E-flats, four D-sharps, 31 D-naturals, one D-flat and six C-sharps above high C as well as 51 high Cs. In some performances of “A tanto duol... Ascolta, o padre i gemiti” from Bellini’s Bianca e Fernando he interpolated not only an A but also a sustained B-flat above high C.
Stefan Zucker as Salvini in the world premiere of Bellini’s fourth version of Adelson e Salvini, at The Town Hall in New York City, September 12, 1972. In this performance he sang an A above high C, for which the Guinness
Book of World Records named him “The World’s Highest Tenor.” In addition to the A he also sang two G-naturals, five F-naturals, nine E-naturals, six E-flats, four D-sharps, 31 D-naturals, one D-flat and six C-sharps above high C as well as 51 high Cs. In some performances of “A tanto duol… Ascolta, o padre i gemiti” from Bellini’s Bianca e Fernando he interpolated not only an A but also a sustained B-flat above high C.

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.)

With Magda Olivero during a break in the filming of Opera Fanatic, October 1996
With Magda Olivero during a break in the filming of Opera Fanatic, October 1996

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.

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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.

Interviewing Leyla Gencer during the filming of Opera Fanatic, La Scala, October 1996. SZ: The other divas were against using chest voice. LG: This from them who used chest voice all their lives! They have short memories.
Interviewing Leyla Gencer during the filming of Opera Fanatic, La Scala, October 1996.
SZ: The other divas were against using chest voice. LG: This from them who used chest voice all their lives! They have short memories.

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.