In praise of #1 Opera singers
Friday morning at 9:00 on WFCR, the Prelude to Georges Bizet's Carmen will herald a day of music that for years has marked the final day of New England Public Radio's fund drives. For those who haven't heard it, The #1 Opera Album is a 2-CD set containing 40 of the most popular and beautiful operatic selections performed by a stellar cast of legendary stars. Even if you think you don't like opera, please join in the fun. You might find yourself loving it despite yourself.
Many of the singers featured on the album, such as Renée Fleming, Bryn Terfel and the ageless Plácido Domingo, are still going at it. Indeed, each will be heard soon on WFCR during the Metropolitan Opera's broadcast season. But for now, I'd like to celebrate the fabulous warblers in the set who have put away their warble. Some are retired, others now take their bows before the celestial curtain. Click on the highlighted text under each to learn their identities, and to enjoy some YouTubes of their best renditions. We start on top with the sweet-voiced Swedish tenor who sang at the Met from 1939 to 1959, the year before his death at age 49.
Next, we see two of the leading divas of the post World War II era. On the left, there's the Italian soprano whose exceptionally beautiful voice was hard to beat in the 1940s, '50s and 60s in the great roles of Verdi and Puccini. On the right, there's the statuesque Australian dubbed "La Stupenda" at Venice's La Fenice for her stunning coloratura, and who helped usher in a new age of bel canto.
Our next two may have lacked the last pair's ultimate diva power, but were as grateful to the ear as any sopranos who ever stopped a show. The Spanish soprano on the left (sorry for the poor audio-video quality, but wow!) stunned audiences with her long, luscious legatos and awesome pianissimos. The soprano on the right emerged from Modena at about the same time as the legendary tenor below, her pure and full voice yieldeing nothing to his in their frequent performances and recordings together.
Finally, there's a youthful photo one of opera's one-and-onlies, the tenor whose unmatched popularity can be measured by the number of nicknames by which he was known: Big Lucy. The Voice. The Maestro. And by having the most numbers on The #1 Opera Album. So go ahead. Give it a try. And let me know if it doesn't stop you in your tracks sometime today.