Conversation with Araiza (5 Jan 1991)

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Interview on “Opera Fanatic,” January 5, 1991

Francisco Araiza, guest
Stefan Zucker, host

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Listen to Araiza on Corelli, Björling, Di Stefano.





Sara Freeman, writing in Gramophone:

“‘Opera Fanatic’ is a combination of all kinds of wonderful things. It’s always in-depth but always fun.”

“The interviewees are often critics or singers, but they are always knowledgeable. Zucker has interviewed Franco Corelli eleven times, Alfredo Kraus, Carlo Bergonzi, Franz Mazura, Louis Quilico and Francisco Araiza (twice), among many others. The interviews range from serious discussions of technique to hilarious anecdotes. They are like un-put-downable books; you can’t stop listening. Zucker, a singer himself, is a supreme musicologist–though not a stuffy one–who really knows the field and the right questions to ask.

“Very little music is played on some of the nights he has interviews. During one of the Araiza interviews, there was no music at all. Can you imagine conducting a four-hour interview and sustaining total interest? Zucker can do just that.

“Another two interviews that I cherish were with Schuyler Chapin, a year apart. Chapin is former General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera and at various points in his career an executive with Columbia Artists, Columbia Records and Columbia University (strange coincidence there). He’s a Guy-Who-Knows-Everybody-Who’s-Anybody in the music world….

“Franco Corelli’s interview and reception at Florence Gould Hall were wonderful. I was there as well as at a similar Corelli-Zucker affair the previous summer. Zucker is so important to opera lovers in the New York region and I would strongly suggest that anybody visiting the area tune in to the show. Years from now, I believe, it will be one of the primary sources for the opera history of our time.”

Topics Discussed by Francisco and Stefan:

  • Problems in switching from heavy to light repertory
  • Problems of tessitura
  • How Araiza’s voice evolved
  • The roles he gave up
  • Singing lieder
  • The risks of changing Fach
  • The booing of Chris Merritt in I vespri Siciliani
  • The attraction to sing Romantic repertory
  • The demands of singing Mozart
  • What is Mozart style?
  • Portamento
  • His perceptions of early 20th-century tenors
  • Historically informed performance practices vs. how one feels about the music
  • His abandonment of the French repertoire
  • Richard Leech
  • The benefits of having a good musical background
  • Singing 16th notes
  • Singing in chorus: the pros and cons
  • Fritz Wunderlich
  • Are Mozart roles emasculating?
  • The lost school of voix-mixte
  • The C from the chest
  • The tonal character of the voix-mixte
  • Singing Mozart vs. singing Italian bel canto
  • The vocal character of bel canto music
  • Finding the right spirit for “Prendi: l’anel ti dono” (La sonnambula)
  • Alfredo Kraus’s difficulty with Elvino (Sonnambula)
  • Sonnambula transpositions
  • Giovanni Battista Rubini
  • Rubato in 1831
  • Is Sonnambula Romantic?
  • Mozart, Rossini and Bellini compared from a singer’s point of view
  • Don Ramiro (La Cenerentola): Araiza, Monti and Valletti compared
  • The tuning pitch in Rossini’s day
  • The challenges for Araiza of singing Rossini
  • Blake, Merritt, Gonzalez and Matteuzzi as Rossini singers
  • Aspiration
  • Why Araiza aspirates
  • Coloratura supported by the throat vs. coloratura supported by the diaphragm
  • His breathing method
  • Germany accepted him, a Mexican, as an exponent of German-language Mozart roles
  • Booing
  • Self-critical singers
  • When is booing justified?
  • Premeditated booing
  • Have you yourself ever been booed?
  • Being booed after “La donna è mobile,” in Florence
  • How to interpret “La donna è mobile”
  • His relationships with conductors
  • Carreras vs. Bernstein in West Side Story. Araiza wouldn’t have accepted such treatment
  • Carreras was the third or fourth choice for the role. It first was offered to Shicoff, then to Araiza
  • Tenor contests
  • Domingo’s strengths and weaknesses–his high Ds
  • Franco Corelli: his strengths and weaknesses
  • If you had Corelli’s voice, what would you do differently?
  • Björling
  • Di Stefano
  • What is covering?
  • His placement
  • I once wrote that in the early 19th century no one produces his voice as you do, with the locus of resonance in the front of the face.
  • Would you compare Luis Lima, Peter Dvorsky, Richard Leech, Neil Shicoff and yourself?
  • Who’s best in what?
  • Richard Leech shouldn’t be singing Samson.
  • Neil Shicoff is crazy.
  • If you had to take a God’s eye view of Francisco Araiza?
  • Why he dislikes nearly all his records
  • Leicester in Maria Stuarda
  • Changing repertory
  • His Lohengrin
  • Domingo’s Lohengrin was inadequately prepared
  • Regrets: recording Pong with Karajan and La Wally
  • How the media benefit Pavarotti and Domingo
  • People who hindered me
  • A production I wouldn’t appear in

Apologies for being hoarse on this tape. Mr. Araiza had kept me waiting outside for 45 mins. It was eight degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 celsius), with a wind. I was shivering and lost my voice.–SZ