FAMOUS OPERA SINGERS OF THE PAST
First, let’s clarify something. Phantom Of The Opera is NOT Opera. It’s American Broadway Music.
Ok, now that we have clarified this, let’s move on…
Some have described Opera Singing as “The Olympics of Singing” (or perhaps The Super Bowl of Singing), I’m one to subscribe to this. Not only because I’ve been an Opera singer for over 20 years, but because, by all benchmarks of singing, it is. It is the ultimate acoustic expression of a human voice.
“Ah! There goes another Opera snob”…yada yada yada…Well, perhaps I was, at one time…when I didn’t know better…but having the experience of performing numerous styles
of music over the years, I’ve found that each genre of music requires skill, training and natural ability. Some genres just require more than others. Jennifer Rivera, a Mezzo Soprano recently wrote a wonderful article on “Five Things You Need To Know About Opera” and what it takes to be an Opera singer. It’s a great read and I strongly urge you to check it out.
OPERA FOR THE MASSES
Did you know that Classical Music and Opera were once considered the “Rock Music” of today? That the ladies swooned over opera singers, and men wanted to be opera singers, just like all men now (even me) want to be Rock Stars?
Have you ever seen the movie Amadeus? This 1984 Drama features the music of Mozart and, in many ways shows what life as a famous composer was like during their time. Although many died in obscurity and famine, some like Mozart were pretty famous during their day. The general public couldn’t get enough of them. They were stalked, jeered, cheered, killed and some even died as dramatically as their operas.
Opera has been around since a Composer named Monteverdi. This Italian changed everything in music to that point. Up until the early 1600’s, there wasn’t such a thing as Opera. I’ll leave it at that. If you want to know more on how this happened, click on Monteverdi link or go here.
As mentioned earlier, Opera singers were the crème de la crème. The most famous pubic figures of their day. Many known for their amazing voices, artistry, beauty (not in all cases, as we all well-know) and off-stage antics which the public completely LOVED.
Here is a list of my 10 favorite Opera singers from any period.
2. Maria Callas
4. Gino Bechi (see him sing “Torna A Surriento” below)
5. Renata Tebaldi
7. Thomas Allen
8. Gösta Winbergh
9. Robert Merrill
Putting this list to paper was much harder than it was in my mind. There are so many others that could have made this list for me and at some point I will list a longer, more comprehensive list for those of you who really want to know, at some time in the future.
I know that this list doesn’t contain any “new crop” Opera Singers and that doesn’t mean I don’t like any that are singing right now. I just have always favored the “old school” performers and this list is just that.
Additional factoids about Opera Singers:
Baritone, Robert Merrill sang the Star Spangled Banner at NY Yankees Games from 1969 to 2004. He was quoted as saying, “When you do the anthem, there’s a legitimacy to it,” Merrill told Newsday in 2000. “I’m bothered by these different interpretations of it.”
Soprano, Renee Fleming will be singing The Star Spangled Banner at the 2014 Super Bowl. The first Opera Singer to do so in its 47 Year history.
Many Opera Singer have been on the cover of Time Magazine. Callas, Melba, Pavarotti…
Want to impress your friends with a few Opera terms: Go HERE.
Want some examples of each Operatic Voice type? Maybe you can identify what you’d be. Go here. There are video examples. Very cool!
The shortest Opera ever written? According to The Guiness Book of Music Facts and Feats, the world’s shortest opera is Milhaud’s The Deliverance of Theseus, first performed in 1928 and lasting a mere 7 min. 27 sec. (that’s without an intermission)
The longest Opera ever written? According to Answers.com Easily, the longest opera would be Wagner’s The Ring Cycle which was written in four parts: Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Götterdamerung. It lasts around 18 hours (with intermissions) and
is normally performed in four shorter performances. By contrast, the longest single performance would be Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg which is around five and a half hours long. But then…”long” is a relative term and much depends on whether or not you’re enjoying the experience.
If I’m not mistaken, The Ring technically is considered to be a tetraolog (or trilogy, with prologue): a grouping of 4 different operas, not a single opera: it therefore would not qualify as a correct response. Also, an uncut version, usually last 15-16 hours, depending on the conductor(s) tempi.
How loud can an Opera Singer be? For context a refrigerator’s dB level is about 50, an opera singer usually is around 100. A jet taking off is around 140db.
The Top 10 Opera Houses (excerpted from National Geographic.com)
- La Scala, Milan, Italy
Teatro di San Carlo, Naples, Italy
Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Royal Opera House, London, England
The Bolshoi, Moscow, Russia
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
Paris Opéra, Paris, France
Opéra Royal, Versailles Court Theater, France
Vienna Staatsoper, Vienna, Austria
Lincoln Center, New York, New York
About the author:
James Anest, Co-Creator and General Director of The Amazing Waiters has been an Opera and Musical Theater Performer for over 20 years. He continues to concertize and write about his vast experience in the Entertainment Industry. Visit his blog for more writings, www.jamesanest.com/blog