Music and the singers wot sing it

I read an interesting retweet yesterday. John Owen Jones had retweeted someone else’s tweet comparing his singing and acting to that of Ramin Karimloo. He did it only to point out how pointless it is to compare one with another.

Preference is one of the things I find most fascinating about music. People hear things differently, they experience a live concert, or musical theatre performance, differently from the person sitting next to them. Well, I guess it would be a dull old world if we all perceived things the same way.

I love opera. I love the voice of Placido Domingo. I remember twenty years ago being genuinely astonished that anyone could consider Jose Carreras a better singer. Not that I didn’t like him, delightful man, I just couldn’t see it, or hear it. Then someone gave me a recording of Tosca from 1977, before he got cancer, and it was absolutely sublime. I think one of the sad things about Luciano Pavarotti is that, because of the Three Tenors phenomenon, so many people only heard him towards the end of his career. If you really want to hear genius, listen to recordings made in the ’60s/70s/80s. A La Boheme with Mirella Freni that just takes your breath away it’s so glorious, a Wether that still reduces me to tears.

My point is, if you love a particular genre of music, be open to listening to new voices. Loyalty is one thing, ignoring all other talent is something else.   

Classical cross-over. Strange genre. It arouses much conflict and argument. I remember in the early days of the genre,  people who expressed suspicion were branded elitist snobs. I am all for the bringing of classical music to the attention of the masses. People don’t seem to realise that opera WAS once the music of the masses. Verdi kept the music of Rigoletto secret until the night of its premiere because he knew it would be sung in the streets from the next day, there are stories of hundreds of people gathering outside his hotel after the premiere of Otello, chanting his name until he had to make an appearance on the balcony. Neapolitans, wrongly classified as ‘classical’ by some cross- over singers, was the music of the people of Naples for centuries.

Opera singers have made popular recordings over the years, some with more success than others. But the singing of arias and classical religious music (Panis Angelicus is NOT an aria)  by people with no classical training is something relatively new. I have two points to make about this and if it makes me a musical snob, then I apologise. Actually, I don’t, but never mind.

I believe when an aria is sung it should be done so within the context of the story, the singer should understand the words and the place the song has within the story of the opera. As a listener you get far more from the experience when you understand the feeling behind the words, even if you don’t actually understand the language. It’s more than having read a translation, it’s what was the composer and the librettist trying to tell the listener?

Secondly, opera singers sing operas in opera houses. They can sustain a complete performance, they can act a character, they can tell a story, they can project their voices to the back row of the opera house. They know what they’re doing. Alfie Boe is an opera singer, Russell Watson is not. Kiri te Kanawa is an opera singer, Katherine Jenkins is not.

Doesn’t mean the classical cross-over singers don’t have every right to be heard and to record and add considerably to the coffers of the recording companies and to have fan clubs etc. just don’t call them ‘opera singers.’ It’s a job description that is earned, that’s all.

So my music tastes range from Beethoven to The Killers, from Renata Tebaldi to Alison Krauss. The more music you listen to, the more you’ll come to love.

Updates: Going to dig more potatoes from the garden today, can’t wait, LOVE digging potatoes out of the ground. The Big Blanket project is up to around 160 (knitted) squares of all shapes, sizes, colours and textures. I can (modestly) say, it rocks!  I am three-quarters of the way through the first draft of my next novel and am considering making Vinnie the basis of a series. He makes wine and he solves murders. He is cool. It’s a glorious day in Cambridge, a cloudless indigo blue sky and the sun is beaming down, a long, hot summer is on the way. Bliss.


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