An excerpt from "Ritorna vincitor" from a live staged performance of Aida with that young dramatic Verdi soprano, Beverly Sills. What? Yes, it took place in Central City, Colorado in 1955.
A role Licia Albanese never sang onstage, but she did sing a concert version in 1966 outside of Washington, DC. The selection is the final pages of "O patria mia" from Act III.
This has to be the ultimate example of Cristina Deutekom's unexplainable vocal technique in negotiating roulades and runs. Her singing of the Armida aria, "D'amore al dolce impero" reminds me sometimes of a calliope.
You can't say Plaido didn't try in this matinee performance. Gilda Cruz-Romo was a beautiful Amelia.
The virtuosic Swingle Singers sing the overture to Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia.
Erna Sack demonstrates her lack of accuracy but shows off her whistle-like top in the second section of the standard aria, "Una voce poco fa" from Il barbiere di Siviglia - a long sustained high E with a touched high G sharp and ending with a sustained high F sharp.
Montserrat Caballe sang one single performance of Rosina in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia in Nize. Unfortunately, there was a mishap in the middle of the aria. Was it a memory lapse? Was it an emergency cut made in mid-performance because something went wrong (the misfire of a high B - listen to the audience gasp in horror)? You be the judge. Luckily the conductor was able to corral his forces to continue into the cabaletta.
08 BLUE DANUBE
A cute jazz treatment of the well-known Strauss Waltz as sung and embellished in her inimitable fashion by Lily Pons from the 1936 movie "That Girl from Paris".
09 COBBLER DUET
A 1907 recording that probably has never ever been heard is Ruggi's "I Due Ciabattini" as sung by Giuseppe de Luca and Ferruccio Corradetti. I have no idea what the song is about nor its connection, of all things, to "Addio del passato" from La traviata.
10 DON CARLO
In 1952, Zara Doulhkanova recorded Eboli's aria "O don fatale" from Don Carlo in very broad tempi. She also threw in an interpolation at the end that I myself have never heard before - instead of the final B flat, she goes to a high C.
11 DON CARLO
This was from a Don Carlo broadcast of April 22, 1972. Mme. Caballe decides to hold the final high B almost until the final curtain comes down. Other cast members include Corelli, Macurdy and Siepi.
12 DON GIOVANNI
It happened in Brooklyn. Who knew that the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra could sing anything from Mozart's Don Giovanni? Probably no one (he certainly shared character flaws with the Don). It is a strange version of "La ci darem la mano" with orchestra AND piano (probably for support). His Zerlina is Kathryn Grayson in the 1947 movie.
13 DON GIOVANNI
The singing career of Margaret Truman reached its height when Washington Post critic Paul Hume gave her a negative review. Margaret's father, Harry, shot back at Hume, threatening to "punch out your face" (the letter later sold for over $50.000.00). Appropriately, we hear her sing "Batti, batti" from Don Giovanni.
I know nothing about this little excerpt except what it appears to be. During a rehearsal of Konstanze's aria, "Ach ich liebte", the soprano gériatrique comes upon a problematic approach to a high D. She stops, clears her throat once, then, with explosive brutality, clears it again, apparently dislodging the phlegm from her battered cords. It's almost painful.
I couldn't resist sharing Erna Sack's high G sharp in this excerpt from the lovely Ponce song, Estrellita.
16 FADO PORTUGUESE
The mistress of "les notes piqués", Maria Galvany, shows her agility at staccato singing.
On Friday, January 14, 1966, the house found itself without a Minnie for the following Monday night's performance of La fanciulla del West. The only Minnie in town to replace Dorothy Kirsten was the indomitable Eleanor Steber, who had not looked at the score for almost a decade . She demanded one thing: Mr. Bing must thank her publicly over the radio the next day. She had piano/vocal scores placed all over the set and props to help her get through it.
Eleanor Steber had been absent from the house for about four years. This excerpt is her entrance in Act I, some of the greatest entrance music for a soprano. I get cold chills every time I hear it: it demonstrates the great love her public had for her.
This was her final complete performance with the company. She participated in the Farewell to the Old House three months later.
The voice of Leontyne Price began to show a bit of age in the late 1970s. She developed a strange approach to the release of a note: she zinged up, she zinged down as in this 1977 broadcast.
19 FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN
On November 24, 1985, Gwyneth Jones was engaged to sing the Färberin with the Zurich Opera. For one performance, the Kaiserin cancelled and no replacement was near. Jones offered to save the day, especially since her daughter's school class was to attend this performance and she didn't want to let them down.
Jones sang and acted the entire role of the Dyer's Wife. She sang the entire role of the Empress behind a scrim and music stand while someone walked the role onstage. When both characters were onstage at the same time, she sang the Empress' lines upstage. Except for one exposed mishap at the outset of the performance, she sailed through triumphantly, sounding fresh as a daisy at the end.
20 GUGLIELMO TELL
On November 10, 1984, the young Aprile Milo sang a tryout runthrough of William Tell in Queens, NY with OONY. She takes a wonderful high E at the end of the Act III duet.
The late critic John Ardoin says this high B from Leonie Rysanek's Senta, broadcast on March 5, 1960, was the loudest note he ever heard in a live performance.
Rita Shane in her prime, shows off her dramatic top by interpolating a high F sharp at the end of the duet with Nicolai Gedda. This Vienna performance of Les Huguenots preceded a Munich Königin der Nacht the very next day. She could do anything in those days. Gedda was astounded at her endurance.
23 Milton Cross
24 Peter Allen
25 Edward Downes
26 Rise Stevens
27 Bidu Sayao/Zinka Milanov
28 William Weaver
29 Alberta Maisiello/Richard Mohr
30 Birgit Nilsson
31 James Levine
32 Leonard Bernstein
33 Rudolf Bing/Justino Diaz
34 Lily Pons/Mary Ellis Peltz
35 Luciano Pavarotti/Placido Domingo
36 John Covenny
37 Richard Tucker
38 John Ardoin
39 Robert Merrill
40 Maria Callas
41 Tony Randall
42 Francis Robinson/Marian Anderson
43 Father Owen Lee
44 Boris Goldovsky
45 Steven Blier
46 Leontyne Price
47 Will Crutchfield
48 Joan Sutherland/Marilyn Horne/Martina Arroyo
49 Deborah Voigt
50 LUCREZIA BORGIA
Leyla Gencer lets out a pitched scream in a live Lucrezia Borgia.
51 MADAMA BUTTERFLY
Originally a classicly-trained singer, Mary Martin makes a 1950s television appearance singing "One fine day" from Madama Butterfly. Though there is comedy going on from time to time, her delivery is sometimes refreshing. Her prompter is Noel Coward.
This unnamed singer has never heard of chest voice and doesn't think vocal consistency is important. Some Prize Song...
Three great vocalists from the 1960s: Joan Sutherland, Dinah Shore and Ella Fitzgerald sing "Three Little Maids From School" on Dinah's television variety show.
I'm sure Nana Mouskouri fans just LOVED it, but Bellini sure wouldn't. Her attention to the printed score is non-existent in this bizarre performance of "Casta diva".
A rather thrilling performance of "Vesti la giubba" from Denis Gonet, considering the fact that he's all of twelve years old.
Renee Fleming gets away with as much bad taste as possible in this excerpt from a Paris Il Pirata.
The great Mari Lyn, star of her own cable access show in the late '70s, shows she can "get down" like the rest of 'em. The best moment of this performance of "Summertime" comes at the end. The very end.
From a 1977 San Francisco performance of I Puritani, Signor Cesare-Antonio Suarez makes the same mistake Enrico di Giuseppe did.
Apparently, movie star Joan Crawford heard that the greatest living exponent of operatic singing, Rosa Ponselle, was in town (making her Hollywood screen test of Carmen) so she decided to take lessons. The finished product is the "Recordare" duet fromt the Verdi Requiem. Professor Ponselle sings the mezzo line and it sounds like she's the accompanist as well.
An early 1970s Munich concert finds the beautiful Patricia Wise singing a flawless Caro nome. Except for one note.
09 ROI DE LAHORE
Picture it: Naples, September 2, 1917 - Angela de Angelis and Fernando de Lucia, stand in front of the horn to record this duet from Le Roi de Lahore. All goes well until the very end. Signorina de Angelis loses all ability of pitch definition and slides around until she finally lands on the right note. Too little too late.
10 SAMSON ET DALILAH
From the 1935 movie "Goin' To Town", Mae West pipes the end of Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix" in delectable French with the tenor Vladimir Bykoff.
From a 1970 benefit concert for the International Piano Library, Beverly Sills sings a pot-pourri of her dazzling showstopping coloratura roles. This track includes her hysterical introductory speech.
12 STAR-SPANGLED BANNER
The daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, Margaret, made four recordings on the Columbia Gramophone label. It reads: This record of my voice if sold by the Columbia Gramophone Company shall yield to the American Red Cross the sum of 25 cents covering my entire royalty."
This comes under the category of "Because she could". Elisabeth Vidal has the range to SING the Meditation from Thais (in key) in this live performance from December 12, 2004.
Yes, Olive Middleton has the reputation of singing when she shouldn't but this performance almost brings sincere tears to the listener's eyes. One thing is certain: you can't say Dame Middleton didn't live for her art.
Georgina Lukacs gets really disgusting as she kills Scarpia (Egils Silins) in this studio recording.
The Franco Corelli fans of Parma show the tenor their adoration for him as they stop the show after his thrilling over-the-top performance of E lucevan le stelle. The date is January 21, 1967. About this performance, Corelli himself said "This one's my best!"
Leonie Rysanek had great high B flats, B naturals and occasional great high Cs. This is not one of those occasional great high Cs in Act III from a Hamburg Tosca.
Phyllis Curtin sang a performance of Tosca in Pasadena on March 2, 1968. The Cavaradossi was Franco Corelli. She's very involved at the end, and; is this the 2nd scream on record?
If I were a baritone and thought I had a high B flat to show off, I would make pretty damn sure I could do it any time any place if I was to attempt it on a global broadcast. This is not the case with Anthony Michaels-More. It landed in a sort of head voice and lasted a pitiful measure and he ended up with an embarassing finale to Act II in this La traviata broadcast from February 11, 2006. Jonas Kaufman is the Alfredo.
This is scenery chewing at its best. Or you could call it upstaging at its worst. As the Alfredo of Frederick Jagel denounces the Violetta of Rosa Ponselle in front of all her friends, Ponselle's heroine loses all emotional control and starts screaming and begging Alfredo not to embarass her. It was a live broadcast from January 13, 1934.
Renee Fleming sang her first Violetta in Houston but it sounds like she's read the letter over too many times. And she makes sure all of France know that it's "tardi".
Jeanette Macdonald sings a short version of the Liebestod proving that she ain't an Isolde.
An excerpt from a June 30, 1908 Berlin recording (sung auf Deutsch) featuring soprano Aline Sanden, tenor Juan Spivak and a lost baritone Juan Luria.
Compare and contrast father Jussi Björling and son Rolf Björling singing the same phrase from Turandot.
Leonie Rysanek throws in a Wagnerian interpolation by letting out an orgasmic scream when her Siegmund, James King, pulls the sword out in this 1968 Bayreuth performance.
Infamous Stefan Zucker sings Brünnhilde's battlecry from Die Walküre.
27 WINCHESTER CATHEDRAL
Jan Peerce and Robert Merrill slum on a late 1960s television appearance in this parody of the 1966 hit by The New Vaudeville Band.
28 WIZARD OF OZ
Two stars of an NYCO gala who shared a dressing room were Ethel Merman and Renata Scotto. Before the concert, Merman was seen bursting out of the dressing room screaming "that woman is driving me crazy!" Apparently, Scotto was practising phrase by phrase, word by word, her offering for the evening, "Over the Rainbow."
A flawless performance that rivals any adult coloratura ever. Period. 12-year-old Tolz choirboy Robin Schlotz nails every high F in the Queen of the Night rage aria from Die Zauberflöte.