Tag Archives: Bass-baritone

king of the baritones

Titta Ruffo

Titta Ruffo was one of the greatest baritones of the 20th century.  He had a resonant voice, magnificent power in the middle and upper registers, and a palette that nearly defied description, encompassing darkness, brilliance, and strength.    

In this clip, he displays some of his extraordinary vocal agility as Rossini’s Figaro, a role in which he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1922.   

One of the YouTube commenters had this to say about Ruffo singing this recording:    

“The size of his voice moving with such ease is like an elephant doing perfect pirouettes in Swan Lake.”    

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Filed under 20th Century Opera, Performers

Hans Hotter sat on a wall and had a great . . .

Hans Hotter as Wotan

. . . fall.   

But it wasn’t exactly a wall from which Hans Hotter, the German bass-baritone renowned for singing Wotan, fell. It was an artificial mountaintop, and it occurred at the end of an ROH production of Die Walküre in 1961.  

As Wotan struck the rock with his spear, flashbulbs exploded to start the “magic fire.”  So far so good–until everyone in the house was temporarily blinded as a result of the explosion. This caused Hotter, who had turned to leave the stage, to miss his footing and plummet off the mountain, landing with a clatter. Because he wore stage armor, the mishap reportedly sounded something like, “a bomb hitting a corrugated iron factory.”  

Hotter didn’t want anyone unfamiliar with Die Walküre  to think that Wotan committed suicide at the end of the opera, à la Tosca, so he climbed back up the stage mountain, into position, his head suddenly appearing from the chasm into which it had disappeared, only to be followed by the rest of him.  

An Operatoonity microtale adapted from Great Operatic Disasters, 1979, St. Martin’s Griffin

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got bassos?

Profondo, buffo, dramatic buffo, basso cantate. If you enjoy hearing a low, male voice (and presumably the singer that comes with the low voice), then let me recommend two online sites for you. A pair of very different, yet well-purposed compendia you bass-bari lovers many find useful:      

The Basses Site

Luigi Lablache

The first of these is a website called The Basses Site and features photos and bios of famous basses of every stripe, from Theo Adam, a bass-baritone born in the 20th century to Luigi Lablache, a coloratur bass, who sang many Rossini roles and lived during the same time period.      

It is an informative, entertaining whirlwind tour of operatic basses, complete with dozens of colorful photos.      

Barihunks

Also replete with colorful, engaging photos is the second reference of a completely different tenor (pun wholly intended) — the popular blog which I have listed in Links You’ll Love called, “Barihunks.”      

If you are looking for rotund bassos to readily tickle your funnybones, stick to The Basses Site because there just aren’t fat rolls to be found on the hunks of Barihunks.      

Anders Froehlich

Contrast the roly-poly Luigi with the American baritone and  Connecticut native Anders Froehlich, currently featured on Barihunks for his work with Opera San Jose.      

Go ahead, spend a few minutes–five, ten–okay an hour scrolling through Barihunks.      

Now, this might just be the red-blooded American woman in me crying out to preserve the high level of manli-, um, -ness, I mean manly appeal  on stage. (Whew, is it hot in here or is it me?)  Who says we’re not in the Golden Age of Opera right now, in a manner of speaking, in an important sense–the cosmetic, manly appeal sense. Perhaps not all-encompassing sense but certainly a significant one. Ahem.

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a legendary bass calls them as he hears them . . . a microtale

Chaliapin's grave in St. Petersburg, Russia

The mostly self-taught Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin (1873–1938) was a giant of a man with allegedly a giant-sized ego to match. If he didn’t like a conductor’s tempo, he would simply begin commanding the orchestra during a rehearsal or a  performance, stamping out the tempo he wanted and, on occasion, leading the musicians himself. 

Once, while rehearsing Mozart and Salieri, Chaliapin tried to trump the conductor’s rhythm, pounding out his preferred tempo with his very large feet. 

The maestro stopped the music and said, “You must remember that I am the conductor.” 

To which Chaliapin replied, “In a garden where there are no birds, a croaking toad is a nightengale.” 

Song of the Volga Boatmen” by Feodor Chaliapin 

   

*adapted from Opera Anecdotes by Ethan Mordden

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bass-bari Raimondi defines ‘Escamillo’

Ruggero Raimondi as Escamillo

Within the annals of opera performance, certain singers transcend the roles they play, ultimately defining them.  One such transcendent performer illuminating an operatic role is bass-baritone Ruggero Raimondi in the role of Escamillo, the toreador, in Carmen

Don Giovanni, Simon Boccanegra, Boris Godunov, Iago, Don Quichotte — you name it. There’s virtually no great bass-bari role Raimondi hasn’t sung. But just like we favor movie actors in certain roles (will anyone else ever play the Rain Man as convincingly Dustin Hoffman?), Raimondi is the essence of the matador Escamillo, like he was born to sing the part. Like the part was written for him. 

Watch this clip from the 1984 movie version and see if you don’t agree that Raimondi is The Matador. 

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