Opera stars should be both seen and heard
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 12/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Classical music lovers with ages congruent to mine are sure to recall the old Voice of Firestone broadcasts on radio and television that ran from 1950 to around 1963. On the premise that great singers should be seen as well as heard, Kultur has restored on three DVDs segments of many of those shows that featured great names in opera; and each is a must for those who have fond memories of these events.
"The Great Sopranos" (D2442) includes appearances by Eleanor Steber, Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, Birgit Nilsson, Anna Moffo, Bidu Sayao, Renata Tebaldi, Licia Albanese, Helen Traubel, Roberta Peters, Patrice Munsel, and Jeanette Macdonald. Each sings an aria from opera, operetta, or (in Nilsson's segment) a popular song. "The Great Tenors" (D2443) features Jussi Bjoeling, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Jan Peerce, Lauritz Melchior, Jess Thomas, Nicolai Gedda, Richard Tucker, James McCracken, and Franco Corelli-each singing one or two arias or traditional songs. Both have running times of 58 minutes.
A third set, "Jussi Bjoerling in Opera and Song" (D2424) features the tenor as he appeared on four Firestone shows in 1950 and 1951, and one or two of the selections are duplicated but with different settings and treatments. (Two of them already appeared on "The Great Tenors" set.) People who love this artist will want this set as a memory of this much beloved singer. For variety, Firestone conductor Howard Barlow gives us three orchestral selections by Brahms, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky. The running time here is 65 minutes.
Naturally the picture and sound quality ranges from poor to adequate, given the source (early television) and the age of the material, and one must not expect to hear what these singers really sounded like. (In fact, an article in a recent Opera News says that even the best digital recordings cannot do this.) But watching them in action is quite a treat and makes the project well worth it.
Some of the selections are sung with the artist in formal dress standing in front of a curtain or with the orchestra as background, some are costumed against an abstract set, some are given a fully mounted scene. Now and again, a chorus is added for variety; and the whole thing is a lot of fun. Thank you, Kultur.
Daryl Foster | Joplin, MO | 01/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This entire DVD is pleasing to both the eye and the ear. The video quality is not the greatest at a few points, but is certainly of acceptable quality. The audio is exceptional considering the original source.
There are some moving performances on this DVD, but for my taste, Jussi Bjoerling steals the show. Wow could that guy sing. His expression, both physically and vocally, are captivating. He uses the "mezzo voce" effortlessly and can put you back in your seat with his full voice. This is a must have for any lover of great tenor singing."
Lots of fun!
Steven A. Peterson | Hershey, PA (Born in Kewanee, IL) | 09/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a nice CD! One gets a chance to see tenors of the era (1950-1963) singing on the "Voice of Firestone" show on TV. Some of the names in the lineup: Jussi Bjoerling, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Jan Peerce, Lauritz Melchior, Jess Thomas, Nicolai Gedda, Richard Tucker, James McCracken, and Franco Corelli. These represent some of the finest tenors of that period.
Let's take a few samples from this CD.
Jussi Bjoerling's rich tenor voice does nice justice to "The Flower Song" from Bizet's "Carmen." This tenor has a rich and mannered approach to singing that is well illustrated here.
Ferruccio Tagliavini was a fine tenor, although perhaps not up to the level of some of the top tenors of the era. His "La Donna e' Mobile" is nicely done. It may not be one of the most memorable versions of this aria, and he does not necessarily capture the spirit of the wretched Duke of Mantua, but this is a musical version that works well in its own right.
Lauritz Melchior was a great "heldentenor." His version of "In Fernem Land," from Wagner's "Lohengrin," exemplifies why people still speak highly of his art.
Nicolai Gedda was a classy tenor, who could create nice characterizations. His finely honed talent is well exemplified by "Che gelida manina." He was a wonderful Rodolfo, and the piece here tells us why he was so well regarded in this role.
I think that it is a shame that Richard Tucker is so little remembered these days. He had idiosyncrasies in his singing (and some mannerisms that drive one nutty)--but his voice was steel, one of the great voices of the 20th century. His "E lucevan le stelle" suggests why he was so well regarded in his time.
And so on. . . .
All in all, this is an enjoyable record of some of the finest tenors of the 1950-1963 era. Opera fans will genuinely enjoy this.
Voices of Firestone: The Great Tenors / Bjorling, Corelli, T
Fred London | Connecticut, USA | 07/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD has some of the greatest tenors of the time and in their best voice. I would reccomend it to any one who lives great singing!"