Cher Public

Ne plus ultra

Gerry and Cookie Fleck with their Norwich Terrier WinkyWhen LaCieca asked me to choose my favorite live recording, I had to think… and think. After so many years of loving to listen to them, I found it nearly impossible to choose.

Since my “pirate years” my tastes have expanded and deepened so now I’d have to consider the many Kirsten FlagstadLauritz Melchior Met Wagner broadcasts or the 1944 Vienna Karl Böhm Ariadne auf Naxos or the 1949 Met Fritz Reiner Salome with an incandescent Ljuba Welitsch or even the 1956 Met Dmitri Mitropoulos Tosca (even though I can’t stand Richard Tucker)–performances I had not yet heard back then.

But of the things that I bought and listened to back in the day, the Janet Baker-Handel operas remain indelible, but happily most of them were issued (in very good sound) by the now-defunct CD label Ponto. Though out-of-print, some remain relatively easy to obtain and are highly recommended, although copies of the superb Tamerlano are mad expensive.

Coming to love the operas of Rameau was one of the great gifts of that period, and John Eliot Gardiner’s performances from the 70s and 80s remain exemplary. The world stage premiere of Rameau’s final opera Les Boréades at the 1982 Aix-en-Provence Festival was recorded by Erato but the Hippolyte et Aricie there the following year sadly was not. I played my tape of its broadcast many, many times and then copied it to cassette and then to CD and then to mp3s which I still play now.

Years later I found out that the Aix production had been televised and located a fuzzy copy, but recently a very clear version has been uploaded to YouTube. If Pier Luigi Pizzi’s pseudo-baroque production might not be to everyone’s taste, the music remains magnificent with Gardiner in sure command and Jessye Norman’s epic Phèdre and José van Dam’s tortured Thésée are unforgettable.

But if I had to choose just one of my old tapes to share, I would have to choose two!

I had a big “thing” for Gabriela Benacková so much so that in mid-1980s I flew to New York for three years running just to hear her sing Libuše, Rusalka and Jenufa with Queler and each was thrilling. Of my Benacková tapes I retain a deep fondness for Dvorák’s 90-minute dramatic cantata Svatební Kosile (The Spectre’s Bride)–the music is gorgeous (very redolent of Rusalka) and she and Peter Dvorsky are in splendid form, even if the bass sounds like he’s 100 years old.

Dvorák: Svatební Kosile
Munich Opera Festival
18 July 1977 Broadcast
Gabriela Benacková, Peter Dvorsky, Richard Novák
Orchestra of the Bavarian State Opera
Czech Philharmonic Chorus
Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor

My other essential would be the premiere of the famed Giorgio Strehler production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro which served as the opening of the Rolf Liebermann era at the Paris Opera. Some may be familiar with the video shot seven years later with almost the identical cast, but this performance was done at Versailles rather than at the Garnier and features Mirella Freni instead of Lucia Popp as a delightfully earthy Susanna. A bonus is that both Marcellina’s and Basilio’s arias are included (they’re omitted from the 1980 video), and all in all everyone then is just about perfect in this (nearly) perfect performance of the perfect opera.

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
Paris Opera at Versailles
Le Théâtre Louis XV
30 March 1973 Broadcast
Contessa Almaviva: Gundula Janowitz
Susanna: Mirella Freni
Cherubino: Frederica von Stade
Marcellina: Jane Berbié
Barbarina: Danièle Perriers
Figaro: Jose van Dam
Conte: Gabriel Bacquier
Don Bartolo: Kurt Moll
Don Basilio: Michel Sénéchal
Don Curzio: Jacques Loreau
Antonio: Carl Schultz
Conductor: Sir Georg Solti

  • Often admonished

    My absolute favorite is Forza del Destino
    from the Maggio Musicale 1953 conducted by Mitropoulos
    with Tebaldi, Barbieri, Del Monaco, Protti and Siepi.
    …because Mitropolos gets the way more out of that cast than you’d ever imagine from their studio work. Even Del Monaco is nuanced. And that completely justifies piracy, no?

    • damianjb1

      The first time I heard the Callas Macbeth on a CD produced by some bodgy label I’d never heard of I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I just was in the early days of finding my way into Callas and had only discovered things like Lucia and Amina. Her Lady Macbeth was a revelation. So that is my favourite live Opera recording.

  • PCally

    I’ve always felt that Susanna and Zerlina were Freni’s best roles, getting much more spunk and charm out of her than her other ones. Her Susanna for Davis, if not my favorite, is the most sensual I’ve ever heard.

    • Bill

      Yes -- the Vienna 1944 Ariadne is one of the most
      historic events recorded as Richard Strauss was in the audience for his 80th birthday celebration -- and it served notice how glorious Maria Reining had been in her prime, Lorenz nearing the end of his glorious
      career, the young Seefried. I also have an affection for the 1954 Salzburg Ariadne again with Boehm and
      a glorious cast, della Casa, Gueden, Seefried and even
      Streich as Nayade -- A couple of additional
      Strauss live recordings under Boehm are essential,
      the 1964 Daphne with Gueden, Wunderlich, King and the
      1959 Schweigsame Frau from Salzburg with Gueden,
      Wunderlich, Prey

      For Mozart there are many legendary recordings
      including the Furtwaengler Salzburg performances
      notably the 1951 Zauberfloete, (Dermota, Kunz, Seefried, Lipp), the 1953 marvelous Nozze (Schwarzkopf, Gueden, Seefried, Kunz, Schoeffler) and
      several Don Giovannis the 1950 with Welitsch and the later ones with Gruemmer. Also the Salzburg 1954
      Freischuetz with Gruemmer.

      I am very partial to the 1957 Salzburg Figaro conducted by Boehm with the exquisite cast of Schwarzkopf, Seefried, Ludwig, Fischer-Dieskau and Kunz -- one of the classic Mozart ensembles.

      That the Vienna Don Giovanni from 1955 is in German is a detriment for some but luxurious casting under
      Boehm is a plus, della Casa (Anna), Jurinac, Seefried,
      Dermota, Kunz, George London, Weber, Berry (Masetto).

      The legendary Jenufa at Carnegie Hall with Benackova and Rysanek (with all the applause intact) -- they
      sang together with more important conductors in Vienna and elswhere but it was one of the most electrifying
      events.

      The opening Fidelio at the Vienna Opera in 1955 had Martha Moedl not in her very best voice (shattered a bit by the gigantic momentous and emotionally
      overwhelming evening -- the re-opening of the house and the newly found freedom from Russian occupation in Vienna -- thousands stood outside and wept when the
      prisoners chorus was sung and Moedl was a shattering
      presence with a very strong cast

      I think the live Boris Godunov from Salzburg in 1965 under Karajan with a magnificent cast including Jurinac the loveliest of Marinas.

      Many of the Bayreuth performances of the 1050s and
      1960s with wonderful casts and conductors.
      As said anything with Flagstad and Melchior.

      The essential Callas live recordings -- and those
      with Rysanek (so many Fraus) as she was often less
      interesting in her studio recordings and aflame when
      on stage (both vocally and dramatically).

      There are also some great Verdi live performances from the 1950s and 1960s from La Scala, from the Met, from Naples etc.

      I cannot think of so much in the French repertoire which strikes me as so essential from live recordings but others such as Camille can certainly be enlightening. More and more full operas do appear --
      for example the Orfeo Elektra in Vienna 1965 with Boehm, Nilsson, Rysanek, Resnik, Waechter, Windgassen is absolutely shattering and vocally thrilling and Orfeo has many other interesting recordings (including lieder recitals from Salzburg) which are live performances of great interest and they keep everything in the catalog without deletions.

      Now most of the important premieres in the major opera houses seem to be taped for DVD so the catalogue is
      every growing and one has the visual as well as the
      aural impact to ponder. Many may not stand the test of time but we are blessed, at least that particularly from WW II onwards we have many essential live recordings at our fingertips either to re-live our own personal experiences or to hear what others heard before us.

      • Hippolyte

        Sorry, Bill, but any live performance with Schwarzkopf is dead to me.

        • Bill

          Hippolyte -- it is a pity for Schwarzkopf was
          a superlative artist in my opinion -- I am not saying she was matchless in all of her roles for
          at the time she had many magnificent rivals
          also wonderful in Mozart and Strauss and one
          could make one’s preferences. And one could
          surmise that many of the greatest conductors of her era chose to work with her and repeatedly
          during her best years. Is it her voice, her
          eventual vocal mannerisms or her wartime politics which turn you off (or a combination of all three)?

          • PCally

            Bill-I have to admit that other than a definitive Elvira (especially in the Furtwangler with Grummer), I cannot stand any of her other performances. I find her overly precious and mannered and I think that her voice is filled with technical glitches (i.e. screamed top nots, flat pianos, and poor coloratura, which makes it surprising that she had a brief period singing roles like Zerbinetta). And there’s a certain coldness that pervades her interpretations which I find hard to get past.

            • Feldmarschallin

              Try the 1953 Furtwängler Figaro from Salzburg which is IMO the best Figaro. That would be one of my favorite pirates plus of course the Flagstad Melchior pairings and then Callas Norma London and La Scala Lucia plus Armida plus Vespri. And of course as Buster has said that Kleiber Rosenkavalier with Reining. Not only my grandmother was there but my mother also. It was of course in the smaller house since this was 1952. And one must not forget Dame Eva as Turandot.

            • PCally

              Feldmarschallin-I have always been curious about that Figaro but have stayed away because it’s in German. Your the first person to mention it here to now I will check it out, especially since I think Seefried is a miracle.

              Speaking of Flagstad and Melchior, you should listen to the excerpts of the covent garden ring from 1937 under Furtwangler. I accidentally came across the recording on iTunes and immediately purchased it and have to say that I can’t think of another live recording where Flagstad’s voice comes across as beautiful and resonant as it does on that recording. And under Furtwangler, she really is committed. I guess he brought out the best in everyone. Go ten years back and there are excerpts of Lieder as Brunnhilde opposite Melchior. I think that her, Flagstad, and Traubel are the pillars of Wagner soprano singing.

              I also want to mention the live Sonnambula under Votto from 57. Callas is STUPENDOUS. I’ve never been as moved by her in that role.

            • ML

              There are two, I believe:

              Votto/Callas/Angioletti/Monti/Zaccaria

              Votto/Callas/Martelli/Monti/Zaccaria

              as well as the studio:

              Votto/Callas/Ratti/Monti/Zaccaria

              … all 1957.

            • Bill

              PCally -- Furtwaengler was supposed to
              conduct the 1952 Salzburg Figaro (same cast
              as 1953) which was done in Italian as well as the reprise of his 1949-51 Zauberfloete but was ill that summer and was unable to
              appear at Salzburg. He wrote apologetic
              letters to both Seefried and Schwarzkopf.
              The 1953 Figaro was, for some reason, changed to German. This was no problem for the cast in that they had been singing Figaro in German in Vienna on a regular basis and it was the native language for all of them.
              Here they could attend to the words and not worry about their Italian accents though
              they had been singing Figaro in Italian
              at Salzburg from at least 1946 and also at
              La Scala etc. Furtwaengler used a full
              orchestra for his 1953 Figaro (I recall reading at the time that he utilized 8
              bass fiddles), so the score was richly played. It does not bother me that this
              Figaro (with these singers !!) is in German
              any more than the many Cosi fan Tuttes we had
              during the 1950s in English at the Met or the wonderful Boehm 1955 Don Giovanni from Vienna in German. In 1952 Rudolf Moralt conducted
              both the Figaro and Zauberfloete taking
              Furtwaengler’s place after Furtwaengler had supervised the rehearsals. The only major
              cast change for the Figaro was that George
              London was the Count in 1952 (one with Poell) and Schoeffler sang the Count in 1953.
              I do not know whose decision it was which
              changed the language to German in 1953 but
              back in those days most of the Salzburg audience was comprised of Austrians and Germans and perhaps Swiss so German was
              not illogical.

            • PCally

              Bill-If the performance is good, then I’m not going to object to the opera being sung in a different language. However, that is rarely the performance I’m going to seek out for a first choice in order to get to know the opera. As I’ve said before, I absolutely adore Seefried (I basically think she’s unsurpassed as a lieder singer) and based on what I’ve heard, she’s much more comfortable in German than in any other language, so I will certainly check it out. And I’m excited to hear what Furtwangler does with the score, considering that I find his Don Giovanni and Zauberflote astonishing. Since I’m not really a fan of any of the singers outside of Seefried, I don’t see that the cast justifies it being sung in a different language. Since both you and Feldmarshcallin recommend the recording, I will definitely give it a listen at some point.

            • armerjacquino

              I’m not saying this applies to anyone in this thread, but I’ve noticed over the years that there seems to be more tolerance for opera translated into French/German/Italian than for opera translated into English.

          • Hippolyte

            I don’t seek her out but I’ve heard quite a bit of ES and the voice strikes me as nothing special (thin and pinched mostly) and the interpretations fussy and/or arch. In the Mozart-Strauss repertoire you mention there are always others I’d much rather hear.

            Strangely enough, one live interpretation of hers that I do enjoy is Sibelius’s marvelous “Luonnotar” that she did in the late 50s, and some of the operetta recordings don’t set my teeth on edge the way most of her other stuff does.

            • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

              Ah, yes -- Little Miss Perfect, the woman who, on the BBC’s famed Desert Island Discs programme, selected seven of her own recordings out of the eight tunes available to play. This led to a “who the hell does she think she is?” correspondence in one of the broadsheets. Darling Betty was stoutly defended by some who saw her interpretations as definitive.

              It took a countrywoman of mine to write in and point out that Elisabeth Schwarzkopf may be renowned in opera and lieder circles, but she palpably did not transcend her métier in the way that, say, a Pavarotti or a Navratilova might do. Hence, she had her tay if she thought we were interested in hearing her pinchy-toned performances.

              That’s the style, Bridie.

              More again soon on my hectic Bayreuth trip, but Herlitzius die-hards be warned: if she is Isolde, I am the wife of Mao Tse-Tung.

            • armerjacquino

              There’s a social/historical thing for me where Schwarzkopf is concerned. My parents were both born in the 30s into working class families, and didn’t really ‘get’ classical music until they graduated (my dad was made a staff director at the BBC aged 24 in 1960, in the days when spare tickets for the ROH were given to BBC employees for free).

              One morning in- let’s say 1962, it was certainly no later- my parents were lying in bed listening to the radio when something came on which was so unbearably beautiful that they both lay there stock-still, not daring to move until it was over. When the announcer revealed that it was something called the trio from Der Rosenkavalier they got out of bed, skipped breakfast, and went straight to the local record shop to buy it. The man in the shop told them they had been listening to the Karajan recording, and sold them a highlights record. That’s how my parents, in their mid twenties, became solid-gold Schwarzkopf fans.

              I can see where they were coming from- there’s something extraordinarily good about that particular trio, with Stich-Randall perfectly floating the ‘Mir ist wie in kirch’n’ stuff and with, let’s face it, ES launching the trio with an achingly beautiful, poised, delicate legato.

              Cut to 20 years later, and as I got into opera I was told by my folks that there was only one Mozart/Strauss soprano. They had the Giulini NOZZE and DON GIOVANNI, the Bohm COSI, the Szell VLL. If you were going to listen to a soprano in that rep, there was Schwarzkopf and then there were the others.

              As I grew up, I found other singers I liked in that rep. I also told my parents- fervent socialists, both- that there were problems about Schwarzkopf’s politics, and that was putting it mildly. I’m still interested in the fact that she should have been such a popular performer in post-war London, given her sympathies; surely if people had known, she would have had a rougher ride?

              But she’ll always be, for me, the person who I first heard singing ‘Hab mir’s gelobt’ and ‘Come Scoglio’ and ‘Mi Tradi’ and ‘Beim Schlafengehen’. I am very happy to debate her behaviour, but I think some of her singing, on records at least, speaks very loudly for itself.

              Problem is, as with Lemnitz and Berger and Ridderbusch, I just can’t really enjoy the singing any more. But I can accept how good it is.

            • DellaCasaFan

              Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:
              “Ah, yes — Little Miss Perfect, the woman who, on the BBC’s famed Desert Island Discs programme, selected seven of her own recordings out of the eight tunes available to play.”

              I do not find Szhwarkopf definitive in any role, mostly because of her mannerism, but that often circulated BBC Desert Island story might not be entirely fair to ES. She was not the only guest to do it, Birgit Nilsson also chose 7 out of 8 recordings to be her own, and I remember hearing at least a couple of other examples. It could be that there was a misunderstanding between her or Nilsson and the host, probably assuming that those should be their own recordings.

            • DellaCasaFan

              Sorry, typo… Schwarzkopf

            • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

              Thanks for that, DellaCasaFan. Never heard about Nilsson (she does not discuss it in her autobiography) and I marvel that a great artist simply wouldn’t let the general listening public in on another side of them, e.g Betty Digs Elvis or Birgit Loves (ahem) Bing! Angelika Kirchschlager let it be known in a recent interview that when she gets away from her work commitments she loves nothing more than listening to rock, pop and maybe some jazz. Good on her.

              aj, I am obliged for your story. This is exactly the kind of thing I like to read, indeed I have thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Christopher Corwin’s contributions this week. Trust me, some of her recordings are in my collection and they even get an airing every now and then!

            • Feldmarschallin

              I have that Flagstad Furtwängler Ring highlights from the Garden and then there is also some Leider Furtwängler items as well. Being a big fan of all three and a completist I have to have everything that artist has recorded or was recorded live. And you should give the Schwarzkopf/Fischer Schubert a listen. No one sings those Lieder better IMO. And one of the most beautiful things she ever recorded was the first Brahms Requiem which is even more amazing since she had a high fever that day but that was the only day they could do it. The soprano chorus had trouble with the intonation so Karajan asked Schwarzkopf if she could lead them on. You think you died and went to heaven.

            • Camille

              Armerjacq: know exactly what you mean about that Rosenkavalier.
              trio and for that matter, the entire second half of the first act. It went into the hard drive at such an early age that it’s in there, forever, like it or not and politics or not.

              As a young girl, listening to her Schubert lieder was also a defining experience for me, but what did I really know at that age, other than it was beautiful, and her singing of that particular genre of music seemed to come from a better place than this world. Little did I know.

              I have always been very deeply sorry to read of her political affiliations, and not to defend her, but, she was certainly not the first—nor will she be the last— of young, beautiful and ambitious sopranos who make the wrong moral or ethical choices when blinded by that Scylla and Charybdis of youth and ambition, all the while undone by the lack of an essential: the obligatory crystal ball.

            • lorenzo.venezia

              @camille: schwarzkopf’s marschallin, Shrine Auditorium, 1960, 1962; this little fanboy almost expired ;-)

            • Camille

              Ohé lorenzo! You beat me by three years. I could eat my liver that those performances were there but I didn’t go to any opera performance until ’61. What a shame for me and what luck for you. Such a great hing was a rarity in those days in L.A.

              Are you finished with Bayreuth yet?

            • lorenzo.venezia

              @camille: not entirely rare. Sutherland’s first Lucias (’61), Cosi and Falstaff (outside at the Greek theater Berkeley) with Schwarzkopf, Price in Forza, etc. Enough to light the unquenchable fires ;-) Bayreuth 19-27 Aug. Flying out Sunday 16 to iron out some jetlag before Lohengrin on 19, then Ring. Was hoping to snag a T&I ticket but that’s not looking good. A long day at the therme instead.

            • Camille

              Do keep us posted as it will be interesting to hear your experience as yours is not an habitual ritual, if I understand correctly.

              Last night I heard your Lohengrin in Mahler 8 and believe in that venue (Bayreuth) you will be in ror a special treat. The acoustics at Tanglewood are pretty hopeless because of the structure of the open Shed and because of where I was sitting. See Jungfer Marianne’s rave about Vogt. Absolutely pure sound with no problem whatsoever with the passaggio nor high soft tones. The perils of Doktor Marianus didn’t exist for him although he looked a little tired.

              I am certain that a day at Therme will be needed! Buon divertimento!!

            • lorenzo.venezia

              @camille I hope he (Vogt) rests up, and yes, this is my 70th bday gift to myself, by myself, for myself, but I have to go next year for Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s Parsifal (I loved his FrOSch at Wiesbaden) with Vogt and as yet unannounced Kundry.

            • Camille

              Lorenzino—maybe you will be lucky next year with the Kundry--Dame Gwynnie may decide to come back. No, not really…well, who knows?

              I know nothing of that Parsifal but always love it and am curious about new productions, and I do wish you a very joyous and wildly fulfilling birthday celebration. We’re not kids anymore and it is important to mark occasions as none of us know how much we are allotted and there are just SO many operas left to hear, even for those of us who have been feasting on them since 1960. My first voyage to the Shrine was not until the ’63 Sutherland/Sonnambula so am sorry I missed out on the previous few years now!

              Tantissimi auguri e tantissime bellissime cose per tutto quest’anno!!
              Un abbraccio affettuoso !

            • lorenzo.venezia

              @camille. Grazie tanto. I also caught that Sonnambula, but by then I was at UCBerkeley and saw it at War Memorial. Quest’anno é l’anno di Lorenzino (prima Tannhauser e Parsifal a Berlin, poi Bayreuth, dopo Bayreuth, Sicilia con gli amici. Mille baci, cara.

          • damianjb1

            Can you by any chance recommend a book or website which goes into more detail about singers and other musicians who sympathized or supported Nazism? I’ve only ever been able to find vague rumours. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

            • DellaCasaFan

              Kater’s “The Twisted Muse” is a well-documented and reliable source, more interesting for some conductors and composers than singers. Covers not only those who supported Nazism, but also their victims, including many Jewish musicians. I recall that the book fully exposed Schwarzkopf’s Nazi affiliation, though not out of her ideological sympathies but rather for her career opportunism. Karajan’s motivations were similar.

            • damianjb1

              Thanks DellaCasaFan -- I’ll check it out.

            • Camille

              Yes, there is this, also by Dr Kater, a nice enough and unpretentiously earnest fellow, whose lecture on this book some years back convinced me:

              https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-1707588691/never-sang-for-hitler-the-life-and-times-of-lotte

              Interesting to separate this Lottchen from the plaster saint version which was heavily promulgated in Southern California when I was a wee slip of a girl. I did see her in 1968 at the Music Academy of the West and must say she still was a formidable and electric personage, even as an old lady. One could well understand her dominion over the slaves of her Publikum.

            • Camille
            • damianjb1

              Thank you Camille.
              Can I also say I love reading your comments on this site.

      • PCally

        Bill, that 1954 Ariadne is the one I listen to the most. Gueden is very underrated in the role and Della Casa gives my favorite performance of hers alongside the 56 Salzburg Elvira (even if her legato and low notes aren’t the best, she really brings the role to life).

        The Bayreuth recordings are my favorite things. They’ve seemingly recorded every performance of the initial ring cycle and even when the casting overlaps, each performance contains a new surprise.

      • gustave of montreal

        In the French répertoire, do not forget the 1976 glorious performance of the BBC London of Verdi’s original Don Carlos with mostly French speaking singers from Canada: Turp. Tremblay, Savoie, Rouleau. Conducted by Matheson.

        • Krunoslav

          Edith Tremblay is excellent in that and so is Turp before he tires, but i often cite Savoie’s guttural, horrendous-sounding performance as among the worst gaffes on records. A real blot on the proceedings, given Rodrigue’s glorious music.

  • phoenix
  • Buster

    If you are an operetta fan, you are even more dependent on tapes, mostly of radio performances. Great singers and conductors who made few commercial recording like Franz Marszalek. Anny Schlemm, Lore Hoffmann, Elfride Trötschel, Sari Barabas and Herta Talmar would be completely forgotten today without them. Fortunately, most of the essential stuff is available in one big box with over 100 cd’s:

    http://tinyurl.com/p4bdggs

  • skoc211

    The 1995 Callas “Norma” from La Scala is a recording I always go back to. That “Son io” in the finale always gets me.

    Dessay’s “Hamlet” at the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet in 2000 -- particularly the mad scene -- is another that has stuck with me for years.

    • That 1955 La Scala Norma is one of the great live opera documents. Period.

      • ML

        A document perhaps, but not of Bellini (!) when you have a heavy- and dark-voiced Adalgisa in Simionato, unstylish tempos, bogus phrasing.

        --> Biondi and Minasi

  • Christopher Corwin

    Thanks to La Cieca who graciously indulged my whim to chronicle my sliver of a tale of opera fandom and for scanning documents and posting music clips. I’d been thinking about telling the saga of “my” pirates for a while but only just buckled down a few weeks ago. I hadn’t read anything like it, so I thought “why not?”

    Sunday the man sitting opposite me on the subway was wearing a style of black high-top sneakers I had never seen before. At the top of each tongue was a white skull-and-crossbones—the pirate symbol: it was a sign.

    I’m grateful to those who read some or all of the five chapters this week and especially to those who took the time to comment and/or to listen to my digitized musical memories.

    I understand the bidding war for the film rights has been fierce and reportedly Liam Hemsworth is already hard at work on his Midwestern accent though perhaps Miles Teller might be a wiser choice.

    • Feldmarschallin

      Those sneakers sound like the ones Alexander McQueen has. The skull and bones thing is in other things too in the collection.

    • aulus agerius

      I enjoyed reading your posts, Christopher. I didn’t notice you mentioning any other opera fans you enjoyed your experiences with. Was that so? In San Francisco I had lots of OQs around, in and out of the opera house, plus I had a wonderful lover for 6 yrs who, though a little younger, was more advanced operatically speaking and taught me a lot through our many shared opera activities. But I learned the most from older friends who got me started with their large collections and experience and encouraged me along the way. One thing I did with several friends was make mystery tapes (7″ reels). We tried to stump each other with new unfamiliar stuff; we had to guess the singer, the opera and what exactly it was. It was often very challenging in pre-internet days!

    • Thank you for this great series, Christopher, which was a joy to read. And thank you for the heads-up that the Aix Hippolyte et Aricie is available in better video. From the grainy version that I’ve seen, Norman and Van Dam are both magnificent in that one.

  • Feldmarschallin

    http://www.alexandermcqueen.com/de/alexandermcqueen/online/f%C3%BCr-ihn/accessoires

    I cannot find the sneakers now since they might have been in the collection previous to this one but it is one of his trademarks and can be seen here in towels and a key chain. They had a scarf in the shop in Wien.

  • Feldmarschallin

    Maybe they make different versions. I think the cufflinks might have the crossbones.

  • Krunoslav

    Has Callas’ Dallas rehearsal been mentioned? or Magda’s starry Naples ADRIANA? Or the Bayreuth DUTCHMAN with Leonie, Moedl TRISTAN led by Karajan? or the Leningrad Phil Verdi REQUIEM w/Vishnevskaya and Arkhipova?

    • Hey Louie

      There’s only one thing that I can remember about the liner notes on a Soviet recording of Verdi’s Requiem on an LP I got during the early 60’s: The chorus master, at a loss for how to convey the emotions necessary to capture in the Dies Irae, told his Communist Atheists to imagine having to watch the People’s Tractor Factory as it burned to the ground.

  • Krunoslav

    that was the moscow studio version under markevich also very fine

    http://www.amazon.com/Giuseppe-Verdi-Requiem-Igor-Markevitch/dp/B0016LM8XY

    i mean the melik-pashaev from leningrad

    http://www.emusic.com/album/galina-vishnevskaya-irina-arkhipova-vladimir-ivanovsky/verdi-requiem-live/15021536/

    but it seems that there was a liveMoscow version taoed as well

    http://www.icartists.co.uk/classics/catalog/cds/igor-markevitch

  • Hippolyte

    Most of these choices are very predictable--like a 10 best list. While it’s entirely possible--I really wonder if these are everyone’s FAVORITE live recording as opposed to what they think are greatest? There can be a difference, no?

    • Bill

      I should think that most writers would pick their
      own personal favorite live recordings -- as it happens
      some of ones favorites might also happen to
      be the greatest as well.

  • ML

    @ Christopher Corwin: Is the Solti 1973 Versailles Le nozze di Figaro you list (with Bacquier as Almaviva) a different recording from the CDs issued on the Phoenix label? Or is Phoenix wrong in listing Krause as Almaviva (and “Paris” as venue)?

    • armerjacquino

      Krause is a wonderful Almaviva for Karajan in a live NOZZE I found recently with pretty much everyone involved at the top of their game- Freni, Harwood, Von Stade, Van Dam.

    • Christopher Corwin

      ML: the Krause performance is from about a week later and took place in Paris at the Garnier.

      • ML

        Many thanks.

  • Camille

    I’m so sorry this has to come to an end, like all good things.

    Just delighted to see the well-recommended Hippolyte et Aricie above, as just the ofher day was exhorted in a kindly manner to give this particular work a second chance, and so I shall. Mucho spasibo for that. Also, was a big Benackova admirer as well as Peter Dvorsky, (whom you never hear about anymore) and will gratefully listen to the Dvorak. If anywhere near as wonderful as his Rusalka it will be a grateful listen.

    Mr Christopher—I’m sure your grandmother would be very proud of you.