Former Seattle Opera chief Speight Jenkins has written a thoughtful blogpost on what’s wrong with singers today and why audiences don’t get excited as they used to.
Speight blames musico-political correctness:
The most successful singers of the past who filled opera houses involved their audiences emotionally in the way they sang. If a soprano can handle all the runs in Lucia’s Mad Scene brilliantly, if a tenor has the right legato for “Una furtiva lagrima” or a baritone the vocal power and accuracy for “Cortigiani”, they are deemed ready for the roles of Lucia, Nemorino, and Rigoletto. Did an audience censor Maria Callas for leaving out the first high E-flat in the Mad Scene? Or Franco Corelli’s throwing in high notes because he could sing them? Or Leonard Warren’s varying the tempi and holding high notes longer than the score indicated?
Another problem with correctness is who it excludes. My firm belief is that two of the greatest artists of the past century, Maria Callas and Leonie Rysanek, would find it hard today to find a job. Why? Both of them, because they were so emotionally involved in what they were singing and acting, were extraordinarily variable. Both could on some nights hit every note, and on others give downright painful performances.
But people queued all night to hear them… Of whom can that be said today?
Read Speight’s full post here.