Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Hey are you guys taking the Tosca Challenge (it's like the Pepsi Challenge, only without blindfolds. Or soft drinks.) over at Parterre? I figure I may as well blerg about it since at worst I'm telling you my right answers which I already sent in, and at (likely) best, I'm misleading you with my wild guesses, mwar har har!

1: You know, I'm pretty sure this is...no, wait, I do feel like I'm giving away something, despite all my prodigous self-doubt. soooooo instead I'm going to be so cryptic as to obviate any need to read the rest of this posting. Ok. I'm pretty sure this is someone who sang Tosca not only at the Met, but in San Francisco. A very long time ago, dig? Puccini was surprisingly hard for me to find my way into when I was but an opera kitten, and I have the same memory of her recording of Vissi as I do of learning to read, a sudden "I get how this works," because and aria I had always found meandering seemed to have a shape when it was shown to me by an expert guide.

2: If this is who I think it is, she has two studio recordings, and I've never associated her much with Tosca because on the one I heard first (and last), her "Questo e il baccio" had an unmistakeable Minnie Mouse quality to it. By "muori, dannato!" I'd taken the damn thing off. Not fair, but first impressions are hard to shake. Anyway I feel increasingly certain of this one, which will make it all the more poignant when I'm wrong, wrong, wrong.

3: Well, I mean she has to be in here somewhere, though the only reason I listen to her Tosca usually is to hear Corelli sing the "o" in "Vittoria!" until everyone else on stage dies of hunger or old age. No, in truth I'm not at all sure it's her. I just thought the "perche" had that...quality. Went back and listened to a record of the lady in question in early years and was quite unsure. Some have said this selection might be the voice of a Parterre favorite and MFI punching bag, but unless La Cieca has pulled the old "Nilsson on a cylinder" trick from Opera Quiz lore, the sound quality suggests to me that it is not. Who did you think it was? Say so in comments. I won't tell anyone.

4: No idea, so I took a wild, screaming, random guess...and vent home.

5: I had help on this one, though I'd like to think I might have gotten it on my own. After all, who else does the trick of not breathing between the climactic note and the, uh, anticlimatic? note. Who else could, if they wanted to? At least without making horrible gasping noises afterward, I mean I could do that.

6: I have no idea. I punted, thinking maybe it could be her, another inevitable exponent, in late, not so healthy years--isn't there one from Paris or something, or is that a Norma? I don't go in for necrophilia, so I try to stick to prime or shortly past.

Well it's been a pleasure half-misleading you, at best. I'm afraid there's nothing else to do for a while unless you're absolutely salivating at the thought of hearing what I think of the old Hvorostovsky disc I snagged for $3.99 at Academy (so old he has brown hair. Are things allowed to have happened 15 years ago at this point? Oh vecchiaia maledetta ! Son da tutti disprezzata!) but I'm bored enough for both of us imagining that posting, so this is looking like a summer lull at least until Caramoor (or perhaps slightly earlier if the heavens should grant me a seat at the Kirov Ring.) I do enjoy the thought of making a voice ID quiz of my own, though without the delightful incentive of a prize, but I'm dragging my feet on figuring out how to host sound files, not to mention editing them together as La Cieca has done.


winpal said...

While you have been of little help here, other than to increase my own doubts and second guessings, I told La Cieca to give you my tickets should my entry win, simply because you have been so entertaining on the subject, as always. While penis pumps on stage are quite a draw, a cross-country trip is probably a slightly foolish idea.

Anonymous said...

I think there are two Toscanini favorites in that group of Toscas.

Grrg said...

I lovelovelove the tone of this post. Perfetto!

alex said...

What a most mr. d'annato! *applause*

I might as well share thoughts, since I'm curious.

1) I had the most difficulty with this one, since it seems to be a slim voice with a hazy vibrato. Kind of like mohair. There are some funky vowels going on (vissi d'aauuuerte) but the articulation is clean. Then I thought the dead giveaway should be the approach to "quante miserie connobi aiutai" which is taken with a daringly open production. So while I was shampooing my hair, I thought what if it was a singer that Ms. Schwarzkopf herself said sang too open and damaged her voice? What if she was....bulgarian? It'd fit right into these internet waters, right? :)

2) I think this one jumped out at me.

3) Yeah, she's kind of got to be on this list. I had originally thought she was singer 1 until I heard this segment. Mr. Trrill has the perfect description of what she does in the upper middle that, while kind of a technical mishap, I think gives her that characteristic sound. Less on one hand is more on another, I guess?

4) I think that this is another singer (a parterre favorite) who is one of the (very) few who can do the trick that singer 5 does.

5) Surprise!

6) At least it's not as distinctive here than it would have been if she were singing any of the other sections of the song.

I think we agree on most of these. I'm curious as to your 1 and 4 though :S

Maury D'annato said...

Alex, why I believe I'm going to go right on being cryptic!

1) I thought the vowels were weird, too, but I'm nearly certain she's...Italian.

4) No, I'm not kidding. I have no idea. The person I guessed, though not Bulgarian, could probably have a halting conversation with a Bulgarian, but would probably say something downright nasty about her immediately after.

5) Surprise?! Uh oh.

Are we as befogged as before?

I'm alarmed at the suggestion there are two Toscanini favorites among them. Other than Herva Nelli, I don't really know who his favorites were.

Maury D'annato said...

Winpal, aw, what's a wee 3,000 miles? It was darling of you, nonetheless, to will me your winnings, should you win.

winpal said...

You know it is more fun commenting here than over on the Mother Blog.

A little more of my flawed reasoning:

1. Yes, the giveaway for me is the flawed "e" vowel that is more "a", and the controlled piano. I don't think Italian. I think it is from across the Adriatic. But I wouldn't bet my first born, not that I have one.

2. Easiest of the bunch. It just has that, how do you say, ambiance.

3. One of the two Toscanini's? Maury, you nailed it with the "perche" comment. And I rolled on the floor with the Corelli comment. Isn't it something like 22 seconds? Where is Stefan Zucker when you need him?

4. The hardest one. But isn't she still around and going to all the Met Opera Guild galas? But I am totally grasping at straws. I only saw her once singing "L'altra notte" at an SFO Opera in the Park in the Jurassic Age, heard her on my father's Carmen 78 set as Micaela, and can't say I like her. So it probably isn't her.

5. One and only. But you know, I saw her back in the 70s and spoke badly of her at the time, to my eternal regret. Something about glottal attacks. Why is youth wasted on the young? Now, it is one of those "I would give my eye teeth" things, if I knew what that really meant.

6. Another hard one. The last note is so sharp, and the sobs are just a bit over the top. I assume that is over-compensating for age. And the audience response suggests a career for which all can be forgiven. What becomes a legend most?

What fun!!!

Lisa Hirsch said...

1. Don't be fooled by the weird vowels. She is Italian, and one of the greats. I mean, great as in LEGENDARY. Maury, it's who you think it is.

2. Tosca is not her most famous role by a long shot and not her best Puccini. She sang more Puccini roles than you might think, too. I think there is only one Tosca recording.

3. Yes, a favorite of many.

4. Yes, she IS still alive, and she had an absurdly long career because she started very young and went on too long. Let's just say Tosca would have been a stretch for her but she was a great, great Puccini singer. (And she is a very gracious lady as well.)

5. I had to get help with this one, a singer I hardly knew, but I was pretty damned impressed with the pinpoint accuracy of that high note and the diminuendo that followed.

6. My opera-geek co-worker had a plausible guess (I did too, actually) but that clue about only 7 Met Toscas put an end to that. I will say that the size of her top and something about how she gets to the high notes puts me in mind of Eva Turner, who never sang at the Met and of whom there is no record of what she sounded like live in Tosca.

Maury D'annato said...

Winpal, regarding #4, did she famously boo a Met Butterfly? That would make me feel better about missing it since I've never gotten what she's about, so I wouldn't know her voice it it came up and gummed me.

Anonymous said...

I think Toscas #3 and #4 were Toscanini favorites, and they're not Licia Albanese and Herva Nelli.

Maury D'annato said...

Hirsch, you're filling me with (even more!) self doubt here. 4 is really the big mystery. Your answer hints to me either at an intense cross-eyed lady who was called back to the stage by the composer of a role he said no-one else could sing as well as she did (and I'm nearly certain it's not her, as she has an instantly recognizable vibrato) or an American who made a couple of nice jazz albums, but not the one from St. Louis. Oh I do like this game. It's like some oddly baroque parlour game.

Anonymous said...

To my ears, Tosca #4 has a Slavic edge to her sound.

Maury D'annato said...

Ok I'm going to say something not in code: I'm intrigued that we seem to have several different ideas about which one is/might be Milanov.

winpal said...

Maury: if #4 is who I think she is (and Lisa seems to agree), let's just say Giancarlo del Monaco is not likely to be one of her MySpace friends.

Maybe Milanov is more than one of them? Wouldn't that be a delicious little trick by La Cieca?

If I read the Met Archive page correctly, Maury's Punching Bag Lady seems to have had 7 performances on the Met stage. But if #6 turns out to be her, I may have to rethink my total admiration since it is my least favorite of the bunch.

Are we all drinking as we play this game?

Anonymous said...

I'll wager that Tosca #6 was recently heard on a broadcast from this season.

Maury D'annato said...

My new theory: they're ALL Milanov!

And now we have a theory about #6 that's so crazy it just could be true.

alex said...

rats :(

and here I was so excited about my 1 and 4, but it seems like the consensus agrees they are different from my guesses.

mmmm :(

although, lisa, (and maury, et al) I am still super stumped by your hints on #1. I suppose I am legendary tosca/singer impaired :(

Maury D'annato said...

Alex: C'mon, Man. Cogitate More! (Initially you may not see it, but that's a hint of a hint.)

alex said...

OHMAN, I think a light just went on.

Thanks, Maury. Ok, yeah, I just listened to an amazon clip which has that exact giveaway phrase "quante miserie connobi aiutai."

nice hint of a hint :)

I'll have to listen more closely to singer 4 though. I had convinced myself that it was an indefatigable diva, but you may have a point about her vibrato, although listening to clips of her in her later years, it's much less distinctive. hmmm.

Anonymous said...

Well, I thought Tosca #6 was Aprile Millo and she's sung Tosca seven times at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Maury D'annato said...

greg: oh see I thought you meant Gruber. My actual guess, as sumbitted was late, tragic Callas. I'm going to listen again but I have a hunch you're right.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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