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4. Rich Baritone and Bass Singing

The Great Baritone
Lawrence Tibbet
and his wife
Grace Mackay Smith

This post is part of the 12-part series, Opera’s Most Beautiful Moments. If you haven’t read the introductory post to the series, click here!

          Just imagine being out with a friend at a karaoke night, he opens his mouth, and the voice of Leonard Warren comes out (you can listen to this below). What could you say? What words could you come up with to describe such a voice? To give you a chance at describing it, I have listed clips of many of the greatest baritones who have ever lived. Try not to love them.

If you haven’t downloaded spotify yet (it is free, has a ton of music, and pays the artists from advertisements that listeners view), click here!

Open this playlist in spotify, here.

Comments

            The exact clips I prepared for the recordings I list here are Cortigiani – 0:00-1:10, Luisa Miller – 7:43 – 8:43, Carmen – 0:00-0:57, Un Ballo in Maschera (Morro) -3:39-5:31, Un Ballo in Maschera (Eri Tu) – 2:22-3:20, Aida – 4:10-5:18, and Some Enchanted Evening 1:52-3:00.

Cortigiani, Vil Razza Dannata – Leonard Warren

          So, could you imagine your friend doing this? (If you don’t understand this, read the introduction to this post.)

Ah! Il Fu Giusto – Sherrill Milnes

          This aria is from Verdi’s awesome opera Luisa Miller. Here the father proclaiming how he will protect his daughter.

Toreador Song – Lawrence Tibbet

          Listen to the high D that Lawrence Tibbet sings around 0:50. Here he places the tone in the head voice where it should be. Many baritones today don’t place the tone here. The result of this is that the high tones they sing sound strange and are not thrilling.

Alzati and Eri Tu – Ettore Bastianini

          Here I have two Ettore Bastianini recordings, since I wanted to get the whole scene he sings here. He is one of the greatest baritones that ever lived alongside Leonard Warren. I still don’t know which one is my favorite. What do you think?

Aida Ciel, Mio Padre – George London and Astrid Varnay

          In this duet, Amonasro (the bass) denounces his daughter for turning her back on their country. George London studied with Enrico Rosati, the famous teacher who taught both Beniamino Gigli and Mario Lanza. Also, his partner in the duet here, Astrid Varnay, isn’t bad either.

Some Enchanted Evening – Ezio Pinza

          Ezio Pinza is probably the most famous operatic bass name in history. He has a bit of an Italian accent here, but we still love him. At the end of the song, he shows you how even a bass uses the soft voice/head voice skillfully.

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3. Diminuendi

The Great Tenor
Jussi Björling

This post is part of the 12-part series, Opera’s Most Beautiful Moments. If you haven’t read the introductory post to the series, click here!

          In opera, a diminuendo is a vocal tone that -on the same breath- changes from loud to soft without any noticeable break. The diminuendo at its most perfect state illustrates how a master singer always builds the loud voice on top of the head voice/falsetto. It is this harmonious mechanism that makes a beautiful diminuendo possible.

If you haven’t downloaded spotify yet (it is free, has a ton of music, and pays the artists from advertisements that listeners view), click here!

Open this playlist in spotify, here.

Comments

            The exact clips I prepared for the recordings I list here are En Fermant Les Yeux – 2:20-3:20, Aida – 3:42-4:31, Caro Nome – 3:07-3:30, With All My Heart – 1:11-1:40, My Song For You – 1:58-2:20, Cortigiani – 2:00-2:25, E Lucevan Le Stelle – 1:04 – 1:45

En Fermant Les Yeux – Jussi Björling

          This is one of the most beautiful opera arias ever written. My favorite version is with Beniamino Gigli in part 8, “the most poetic moments of opera.” In that section I will explain how beautifully poetic the words are.

Celeste Aida – Franco Corelli

          This is one of the most stunning diminuendi on record that I have heard. Corelli takes a high Bb and diminishes it slowly from very loud to very soft.

Caro Nome – Eva Prytz

          This is a less well known soprano from a live Swedish recording in the 50’s. Even the lesser known singers in that day had great voices!

With All My Heart – Jan Kiepura

          Again, my favorite singer! Jan Kiepura does have a Polish accent here, but we love him anyway (or even more). Here he takes a high B natural and diminishes it. You won’t hear this too often from tenors. This is a very difficult thing to do well.

My Song For You – Jan Kiepura

          What I am showing you here is the opposite of a diminuendo. Here, Jan Kiepura starts on a soft note and slowly swells it into a loud note. He does it so gracefully.

Cortigiani – Leonard Warren

          Some singers think that basses and baritones use the chest voice completely. Some maybe, but not the good ones! Here Leonard Warren shows the soft basis his baritone voice has.

E Lucevan Le Stelle – Tito Schipa

          This recording is very old. Don’t run away because of the technology! If you can make it through the old sounding recording, an unbelievable voice shines through! Also, don’t let the recording trick you into thinking the voice is smaller than it is!

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2. Most Beautiful Orchestra

The 1892 Poster
of the Premiere
of Massenet’s Werther

This post is part of the 12-part series, Opera’s Most Beautiful Moments. If you haven’t read the introductory post to the series, click here!

          Many if not all of the great composers of classical music and opera studied composing in counterpoint. The same incredible skills in the harmonies and melodies of one or more voices (as studied in counterpoint) are applied to the incredibly romantic and exciting situations that arise in opera. Once you fall in love with the opera voice, and you realize that the music behind these voices is among the most masterful and beautiful ever written, you will start to experience fine art in the form of song.

If you haven’t downloaded spotify yet (it is free, has a ton of music, and pays the artists from advertisements that listeners view), click here!

Open this playlist in spotify, here.

Comments

            The exact clips I prepared for the recordings I list here are La Forza – 2:32-3:11, Gioconda – 3:00-4:00, Werther – 1:00-2:34, Tosca 0:00-1:55, La Boheme 0:00-1:00, Ombra Mai Fu 0:00-1:35, L’Elisir D’Amore – 0:00-2:12.

La Forza Del Destino Overture – Giuseppe Verdi

          This is part of the 7-and-a-half-minute overture to my favorite opera. It is so powerful and epic sounding that I immediately fell in love with it. Most of this opera is written in minor keys (as the overture foreshadows), which gives it the great mysterious and powerful atmosphere.

La Gioconda Overture – Amilcare Poinchiello

          This overture exhibits how thrilling an opera overture could be. Imagine seeing this live with a powerful roaring orchestra.

Clair de Lune – Massenet: Werther

          Werther and Charlotte walk back from a beautiful night out together. This is the music that plays before they sing and say goodnight to each other. Classical music isn’t just about piano concertos and quartets…some of this music is purely romantic!

Mario, Mario, Mario Duet – Puccini: Tosca

          This music, in between sung phrases, is so gorgeous that I don’t think a description here can do it justice.

Non Sono in Vena – Puccini: La Boheme

          This is the part of La Boheme where Rodolfo first meets Mimi. Listen to the background music that foreshadows to coming events in the opera. It is absolutely magical…and of course the voices of Jussi Björling and Victoria De Los Angeles don’t hurt either.

Ombra Mai Fu – Händel

          This is just divine. it shows how beautiful 18th century music (from the masterful hand of Haendel) and a gorgeous opera voice can create a very enjoyable experience.

L’Elisir D’Amore Overture – Gaetano Donizetti

          This is the overture to a great comedy opera, in which you can hear a part of in part 11 (Funny Moments) of this series. It is romantic and enjoyable while having an exciting punch to it.

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1. Soft Singing

Zinka Milanov
The Great Soprano

This post is part of the 12-part series, Opera’s Most Beautiful Moments. If you haven’t read the introductory post to the series, click here!

          In We Sang Better by James Anderson, Mr. Anderson quotes a Dr. Tomastis who says, “Gigli told me the secret of his high notes…It was falsetto accomodato.” The simply means that the falsetto/head voice is the mechanism he used to achieve his high notes. I would argue that it is the mechanism used to achieve the whole voice, regardless of its category. Not too many people mention that do they?
          On the contrary, many people think opera singers -whether from today or from the past- are only capable of screaming. These upcoming recordings will show you otherwise. The basis of all masterful loud singing is a soft falsetto/head voice tone. A masterful singer must connect the two into complete harmony, so as to go from one to the other on the same breath without difficulty, throughout the range.
          There is a way to do this, and a way to train a voice to do this (which we will explain a little more elsewhere). However, to learn this, we must realize that there is an absolutely true method of training that brings this to the voice (in other words we need to throw out postmodernism). I hope these recordings inspire you with what the human voice is capable of (even though you cannot completely experience this without hearing it live).

If you haven’t downloaded spotify yet (it is free, has a ton of music, and pays the artists from advertisements that listeners view), click here!

Open this playlist in spotify, here.

Comments

            The exact clips I prepared for the recordings I list here are Otello – 3:07-4:25, La Gioconda – 0:34-1:35, La Sonnambula – 0:00-1:30, Ninon – 2:38-3:30, Danny Boy -0:00-1:40, Ma Bonny Lad 0:00-0:49, Ave Maria -0:00-1:05, and Forbi, Forbi – 5:50-6:36.

Ave Maria – Zinka Milanov

            I know someone who said that Zinka had the greatest soft notes of anyone he ever heard. She said that humming tones helped her get them. Some teachers like this and others don’t. Listen to how expressive her voice was (which can’t be achieved by forcing the voice), and how much the music compliments it!

Enzo, Adorato – Zinka Milanov

            In La Gioconda, Gioconda praises Enzo (the man she loves), after he rescues her mother from harm she sings this phrase, “Enzo adorato, O come t’amo,” which means, “Enzo beloved, how I love you!” It is said when Zinka used to sing the soft high note at the end, she would walk off the stage while holding the note and people would go wild. This gives you a chance to hear what soft notes at the very top of the range are like.

Ah Non Credea – Anna Moffo

            Anna Moffo spoke of the mixed voice, and here she exibits it. Imagine mixing the detached chest and head voice together, so that you can have the beauty of the high voice with the power of the bottom voice. It really creates a whole new voice altogether.

Ninon – Jan Kiepura!

            Ninon! This is a recording from my favorite opera singer Jan Kiepura. He was famous for his soft notes and diminuendi (which we will get into later). He sings a ravishing Polish song here. Notice how similar his loud and soft voices sound!

Danny Boy – Leonard Warren

            This clip will show you how some of the greatest baritones equally structured their voice on the head voice mechanism. This is what allows Leonard Warren to sing very softly here.

My Bonnie Lad – Kathleen Ferrier

            Here is a real treat. You don’t hear many singers today sing like this (or sing in this category). Ms. Ferrier is a contralto, who is the lowest woman’s voice. Here she sings part of an Irish song with a very soft, bright, and mellow voice. You can see how even the lowest woman’s voice is based in structure off of the head voice.

Ave Maria – Mario Lanza

            This clip is from the movie Serenade starring Mario Lanza. It is a great movie to watch! The toast of New Orleans is another very similar movie starring Lanza. These movies have a lot of the great aspects of society that we are missing today! Also, he shows you how one can gauge the breath to swell or grow the same gorgeous tone without breaks.

Förbi, Förbi – Jussi Björling

            In this clip, Björling is singing in Swedish instead of the original Russian the aria was written in. In it, he is predicting that he won’t make it past the duel he is about to engage in. Listen carefully, he sings so softly you can barely hear it!

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Charles Martin Hall
The Great Chemist and Inventor

Introduction

           In 1885, it was evident that whoever could figure out how to separate aluminum from aluminum ore would make a ton of money. After many experiments and disappointments, a young scientist named Charles Martin Hall decided to try using electricity (in a process known as electrolysis) to separate the aluminum from the ore instead of using chemical methods. He had a lot of trouble getting this to work, until he immersed the aluminum in a solution called molten cryolite (which has to be heated to over 1000 degrees Celsius). After adding a compound of aluminum to the molten cryolite and letting electricity run through it for a little while, he found a couple small silver balls. It worked. He had produced pure aluminum, as well as a lot of money for himself. This discovery is what allowed us to have aluminum foil, as well as many other products that use the metal extensively.
            What I have done here with opera is rather similar. I have gone through the beautiful past of opera – rather unknown of even to music students – and created playlists of the very greatest recordings of opera. My years of study into opera and my apprenticeship with a master teacher and singer have taught me how to separate the good from the bad. The recordings I list here are so unheard of and so great that I think they are capable of making great opera fans out of those who previously strongly disliked the art form. Also, be sure to read this whole page before clicking on. The information here will help you understand and appreciate these recordings even more!

Recordings
I have divided these recordings into twelve sections:

Guide for Opera’s Most Beautiful Moments

            In addition to the above twelve sections, I have also included six of the greatest of these moments below on this page. In each section (including this one), I have written down the exact seconds of each recording that I think embody what I think you should hear. To maximize your ability to do this, I use the program Spotify which you can download, here. Spotify is an internet business that allows you to listen to almost any music recordings for free, and yes, it is totally legal. It compensates the artists from advertisements that listeners (like you) view while the music is playing. I have included players on each page that can give you clips of the songs if you click the play button on the top left, however, to hear the exact parts of the songs I would like you to hear, I have created links above these players that will open the playlist in Spotify. The instructions and comments to accompany these clips are on the corresponding pages of this website, and the exact seconds of each clip I would like you to hear are listed both on the pages of this website and in the playlist description in Spotify.
            So enjoy! I hope that you will love these recordings as much as I do, and that this website will produce (by electrolysis, of course) the greatest and most pure opera recordings, that will revolutionize your view of opera as much as aluminum and aluminum foil revolutionized the way we live!

The Six Greatest Moments

Open this playlist in spotify, here.

Comments

            These six moments are really incredible. Please take the time to read the comments for each clip below and listen intently to each one in Spotify. You will love them and be shocked by how awesome they are!
            The exact clips I prepared for the recordings I list here are Ave Maria (soft singing)-3:07-4:25, Manon Lescaut (high notes)- 1:10-1:40, Manon (glorious tone)-1:39-2:39, Tosca (a very poetic moment)-1:48-3:00, Cortigiani (great baritone singing)-0:00-1:10, and Una Voce Poco Fa (fast singing)-4:56-5:30.

Ave Maria – Zinka Milanov

            Zinka Milanov was one of the greatest sopranos in the history of opera. She was born in Romania, and her voice has a “Russian” type color to it. She was one of the greatest masters of singing softly. Here she sings two soft notes combined with gorgeous orchestra music that is too beautiful to be believed.

Ah Manon, Mi Tradisce Il Tuo Folle Pensier – Richard Tucker

            Richard Tucker was one of the main tenors of the Metropolitan opera in the 60’s. His high notes were very bright and gorgeous. Make sure your speakers are turned up loud enough (and are good enough) to hear the shining brilliance of this high note. Don’t let the speaker make it dull, it wasn’t sung that way!

Pardonne Moi! – Victoria De Los Angeles

            Listen carefully to the quick high notes that De Los Angeles sings here. They are so bright and perfect placed that they sound like a miracle. She had almost a perfect voice.

Recondita Armonia – Luciano Pavarotti

            This is almost the exact recording that first made me consider loving opera. It is so beautiful and poetic. Originally I was inspired by the melody that Puccini wrote at the end of the aria when Pavarotti sings, “Ah! Il mio solo pensiero sei tu! Tosca sei tu!” The aria is about a painter. When he paints different women, he always ends up adding the features of the woman he loves to the painting. The title, “Recondita Armonia” means roughly “Hidden Harmony” and the music that gracefully moves from high to low and settles in the middle, poetically conveys the thoughts of these two women. The last phrase he sings is translated, “Tosca, my only thought is you.” How is that for poetry?

Cortigiani, Vil Razza Danata – Leonard Warren

            This is the part of Verdi’s Rigoletto where Rigoletto demands a certain group of men to give him his daughter back. Listen to Leonard Warren’s tone!

Una Voce Poco Fa – Anna Moffo

            I really recommend listening to the recording of this entire song, not just the clip I suggested (which displays awesome fast singing). This aria is so enjoyable and Anna makes it so fun to listen to. My teacher said that everyone in the audience went nuts when Anna Moffo came on stage for her debut in La Traviata. She was so gorgeous!

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