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tebaldi vs. callas

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Initial post: Feb 13, 2009 4:14:15 AM PST
franz kafka says:
Renata Tebaldi is my favorite soprano in the Italian repertory, and I think Maria Callas is vastly overrated. In some ways the controversy between the two foreshadowed the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones. Callas may have been the better actress of the two, but that doesn't do much good for an audio recording where you have to imagine the action. Tebaldi had the sweeter tone; Callas's voice was loud, crude, and thick and she didn't have the finnesse for composers like Mozart, whom she avoided.

Posted on Feb 13, 2009 12:09:08 PM PST
Edgar Self says:
Agreed. Others are Magda Olivero, Claudia Muzio, and (sometimes) Anita Cerquetti. There's a great admirer of Tebaldi on the classical music forum.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009 3:23:30 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 14, 2009 3:27:12 AM PST
I'll refrain from entering into the "bashing" fray with regard to either of these great operatic ladies. I shall suggest, however, that the famous rivalry was in great part a very, very handy advertising ploy which played into the hands of their respective publishers, EMI and Decca.

The simple fact is that although they shared a small handfull of roles, they were actually quite different types of singers. Fedora, La Wally and even Giovanna d'Arco are as much out of Callas' orbit as Turandot, Abigaile and Lady MacBeth are out of Tebaldi's.

If not for the "rivalry," just imagine the pairing of Callas as Turandot and Tebaldi as Liu. Now, there was a loss!

(By the way, can anybody suggest an example of Tebaldi "finessing" Mozart?)

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009 4:26:56 PM PST
I'm no Callas fanatic, so I'll leave her defense to someone else. But I think you're understating here what goes into an audio recording. True, you have to imagine the physical action, but it doesn't follow that tone is all that matters. It's still drama, and the singing can create the character. Tito Gobbi is a great example, as Scarpia and Iago. Neidlinger in the Ring is another great example.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009 8:56:40 PM PST
franz kafka says:
I with you about Neidlinger. I have the complete Furtwaengler ring with the RAI Orchestra. Another I liked in this regard was Hermann Uhde in the 1951 Knapperbutsch orchestra, and, among tenors, Gerhard Stolze in the Solti Salome. I always found Gobbi's voice unpleasant. I prefer Robert Merrill as a Verdi baritone. I did like Gobbi in Nabucco, however.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2009 8:57:52 PM PST
franz kafka says:
I once had an aria disc of Tebaldi's where she gave a surprisingly good performance of "Deh vieni, non tardar" from "Le nozze di Figaro." Mozart was not part of her usual repertory but she pulled it off.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2009 4:37:17 PM PST
franz kafka says:
Callas sang Abigaille only three times in her career. The role chews up singers. Look at what happened to Elena Suliotis, a potentially greater singer! Fortunately, we have her complete set of "Nabucco" with Gobbi.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2009 4:38:08 PM PST
franz kafka says:
A better pairing would be Callas as Norma and Tebaldi as Adalgisa. Or (better yet!) Tebaldi as Elisabeth de Valois and Callas as Princess Eboli.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2009 5:18:30 PM PST
Edgar Self says:
I saw Gustav Neidlinger's outstanding Alberich in Keilberth's complete "Ring" cycle at Bayreuth in 1954. He was a friend of Hotter's, who tried to include him in as many of his casts as possible

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 16, 2009 1:47:03 AM PST
franz kafka says:
What did Neidlinger do besides Alberich? I can't remember hearing him in anything else.

Posted on Feb 16, 2009 8:26:41 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 16, 2009 8:34:55 AM PST
snakelavie says:
I had a recording in the sixties (on Westminister, I think) of "Fidelio" with Jan Peerce (Florestan), Sena Jurinac (Fidelio) and Neidlinger as Pizarro, Knappertsbusch conducting. I remember Neidlinger as being disappointing, but so goes the memory as all the reviewers on this Amazon page wax rhapsodic over his performance:

Posted on Feb 16, 2009 8:49:39 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 16, 2009 12:21:05 PM PST
Edgar Self says:
Franz Kafka and Snake -- Neidlinger is in Matacic's Rienzi, Stuttgart 1957; Kempe's Meistersinger, Jochum's Tristan; a Boehm Fidelio, and Orff's Die Kluge. With Hotter, he is Bartolo in Clemens Krauss's 1942 Vienna "Hochzeit des Figaro" in German; and he sings Klingsor to Hotter's Amfortas in a Knappertsbusch Parsifal from Bayreuth 1954, and is Alberich in the Keilberth, Krauss, and Solti Rings.

I had thought he was with Hotter in the huge German casts of Jochum's 1957 Boris Godunov and 1949 Meistersinger from Munich, Karajan's Vienna "Assasinio nella Catredale" of Pizzetti, and at least one of Hotter's Pfitzner Palestrinas, but I must have dreamt it, he's not there. Certainly a fine Alberich, if not the best ever.

Franz Kafka, did you find the information about the BBC Matthew-Passion DVD I left you on this board three days ago?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 16, 2009 9:20:31 PM PST
franz kafka says:
No, I haven't found it yet. Haven't really looked. Sorry.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2009 5:51:42 AM PST
Edgar Self says:
franz kafka -- The information on BBC's Matthew-Passion DVD, with ace Evangelist Rufus Mueller, is right below here on this "Opera" board a few days back on one of the interesting new threads you started. Cheers and saludos!

Posted on Mar 6, 2009 1:16:14 AM PST
Abert says:
Callas is the better singing actress. Tebaldi the better vocalist. Sutherland - the better ornamentalist.
Callas once remarked that comparisons of herself and Tebaldi was like champagne vs. cognac. Whereupon some journalist in Time quickly altered the phrase toe champagne vs. Coke. Fuelling up atagonisms, as they always do for celebrities.

Posted on Mar 6, 2009 3:44:28 AM PST
franz kafka says:
The purported Callas/Tebaldi rivalry has interesting parallels with the equally manufactured Beatles/Rolling Stones rivalry in pop music.
Remember when Pavarotti and Domingo were rivals? (Before The Three Tenors became a cash cow)

Posted on Mar 7, 2009 7:26:00 PM PST
tom h. says:
Tebaldi had better casts and more solid conducting than Maria did in her early career but Callas proves quite capable of holding the listener by herself. See her first studio recordings of Norma or Traviata and many live pirates. They aren't really worth listening to except for the sheer presence of Maria Callas. Even Tullio Serafin, a master conductor, seems to trouble a bit over the score of that first Norma. I don't know of anyone capable of carrying a whole opera by his or her self. Sutherland maybe, in her early years. I don't know of a recording (yet) where Tebaldi was faced with this prospect, though she sings an incomparable Mimi, and Cio-Cio San.
I disagree with many listeners who call Callas things like loud, ugly, crude, etc. The characters she is singing are emotional and usually angry women(Norma, Lucia, Tosca, Medea,etc.) She brings a reality to them that has so far been unmatched in most cases.

Posted on Mar 9, 2009 5:12:53 PM PDT
Dichterliebe says:
Callas had a wider emotional range, Tebaldi had the better overall timbre. I suspect Tebaldi sang more "correctly" and I suspect Callas ruined her voice by allowing her personality to overpower it. I can't imagine Tebaldi singing Medea, but then few can manage it -- just listen to Callas.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2009 2:07:36 AM PDT
tom h. wrote, "I don't know of anyone capable of carrying a whole opera by his or her self."

I suggest Kirsten Flagstad in "Dido and Aeneas" and "Fidelio." Schwarzkopf in the first and Schwarzkopf, Dermota and Patzak in the latter are pleasant but utterly irrelevant.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2009 1:56:51 PM PDT
tom h. says:
L.E. Cantrell wrote, "I suggest Kirsten Flagstad in "Dido and Aeneas" and "Fidelio." Schwarzkopf in the first and Schwarzkopf, Dermota and Patzak in the latter are pleasant but utterly irrelevant. "

I must admit I haven't had the pleasure of hearing these, but I have heard some of Flagstad's Wagner and SHE could possibly make me sit through a whole ring cycle. I wouldn't call Schwarzkopf irrelevant though, not after hearing her Ave Maria from "Otello" or selections from "Don Giovanni".
Perhaps that is the way the character is written? I wouldn't suggest "Cavaleria Rusticana" or 'Pagliacci" as an example of the Callas voice, but I think they are good records of those operas, especially "Pagliacci". Would you the same of "Dido and Aeneas" and "Fidelio"?
I would not suggest Callas' 1st studio Norma or Traviata as good examples of those operas but as wonderul examples of her voice.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2009 3:57:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 1, 2009 12:10:17 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
I swallowed twice to read that Patzak (and Florestan?) are "utterly irrelevant" to "Fidelio" (although Patzak is not a favorite of mine either), but can understand that anyone eccentric enough not to care for Lauritz Melchior might also be able to resist Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, even as Belinda. I cannot. She took the role over from Maggie Teyte after her Mermaid Theatre run when her husband Walter Legge was determined to have his wife in the recording. Flagstad is, of course, monumental. But the gods defend any who called Dame Maggie or Dame Elisabeth irrelevant to her face.

Do you like anyone in the role of Florestan, Larry? I think I've heard Fritz Uhl (awful! he wouldn't even have been a good First Prisoner), Max Lorenz, Vickers, Windgassen, and Anders. I wish I'd heard Karl Liebl if he sang it.

Flagstad is so splendid as Dido that I've always wondered why her Gluck "Alceste" isn't more highly thought of. Evidently she had a cold during its recording, but still ... Even her staunch fans sometimes shy from it.

Posted on Mar 12, 2009 5:00:05 AM PDT
tom h and Piso~

Obviously, I did not make my point clearly.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Schwarzkopf, Dermota and Patzak were truly great performers--but the presence of Flagstad in the studio "Dido" and the live "Fidelio" is so overwhelming that compared to her, they are irrelevant. If, for ridiculous example, Sam the Sham and the Pharaos had filled out the casts of those two operas, they would still be amazing by reason of Flagstad's presence.

Between you and me, Piso, I'd LOVE to do Florestan, although, alas, compared to the vocal requirements of that larger-than-human role, I'd sound more like Mickey Mouse. "Gott! Was Dunkel hier. O grauenvolle Stille!"

I saw Vickers do it with Nilssen. I was and remain still blown away by him--even despite the fact that he was made up as a caricature of George Washington as conceived by an artist of profoundly anti-American sympathies.

Patzak, as I said, was tremendous--but not in all things. Florestan was too much for him, in my opinion. I always think of his Florestan as the Woody Allen version.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 6:40:31 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Larry Cantrell -- The role of Florestan is a problem, as is the entire "Fidelio/Leonore", even for Beethoven. The first tenor I heard sing it was Rene Maison ... not recommended. Vickers was probably as good as any. I've never cared for Patzak as Florestan or even ... (anybody else around here?) ... in Mahler's "Song of the Earth" ... he sounds strained and dry to me. But around 1930 he recorded a clutch of Viennese songs that are the cat's miaow ... and this was before Erich Kunz.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 5:13:03 PM PDT
Eutychus says:
Hey, Larry, remember Rootie Kazootie and Ken Maynard? Heh heh.

I pretty much agree with Larry's comments, though I'd softpedal the "irrelevant" evaluation. But I think non-archive listeners are most likely to have heard Flagstad, if at all, as Erda in the Solti "Ring". He brought her out of retirement for that, and it was a brilliant move. But for an example of her power and presence, one should listen to her earlier "Fidelio", Isolde, and several other roles.

To the thread comments on Florestan, I'd also second Vickers and add, sometimes forgotten, James McCracken.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2009 5:23:26 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Well said, Eutychus, but you mean Fricka as Flagstad's role in Solti's "Ring" although she could certainly have done Erda and all the Valkyries to boot. The Erdas were Jean Madeira in "Rheingold" and Marga Hoeffgen in "Siegfried".
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Discussion in:  Opera forum
Participants:  23
Total posts:  87
Initial post:  Feb 13, 2009
Latest post:  Dec 23, 2009

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