DVD0303. FAUST, Live Performance, 12 Sept., 1973, Tokyo, w.Ethuin Cond. NHK Ensemble; Renata Scotto, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Lorenzo Saccomani, Alfredo Kraus, etc.; Ernest Gilbert interviews Renata Scotto, 2007. VAI 4417. - 89948441793
“The matter with Kraus is that he inaudibly makes tension grow before the emotional climaxes of the operas so that when they finally arrive, the audiences are unconsciously frenzied, awaiting for what is to come.
A leading lyric tenor of his generation, Alfredo Kraus parlayed his vocal and artistic gifts into one of the longest and best managed careers in recent memory. Always careful -- both in choice of roles and in the regulation of his performing schedule - not to overextend himself, he achieved a degree of consistency and longevity that kept him active professionally well into his sixties, always applauded for his youthful tone and delivery. Among his vocal assets were an admirable top extension - which included an enviable D above high C - a warm tone, and an instinctive feel for the shape of phrases, especially in French repertory. He, Carlo Bergonzi, and Nicolai Gedda were noted for their style, refinement, and musicianship in an era when, especially in Italian opera, tenors often neglected such qualities. He starred in the title role of Viladamot's 1959 film GAYARRE, a biography of the famous Spanish tenor.
While he studied music as a youngster, Kraus had no intention of becoming a professional singer, until friends and family began encouraging him to do so. In taking up vocal studies, Kraus avoided heavier repertory and focused on the bel canto ‘tenore di grazia’ parts that he knew were right for his voice. At the age of 28, he won first prize at the Geneva Competition, and a representative of the Cairo Opera, who was present at the auditions, offered him the role of the Duke in RIGOLETTO; he made his professional opera début at the Cairo Opera in that role in 1956. His great success there was followed by equally gratifying appearances in Venice, Turin, and Barcelona, and in 1958, he appeared in LA TRAVIATA with Maria Callas in Lisbon - the ‘Lisbon TRAVIATA’. In 1959, he sang Arturo in I PURITANI for the first time, made his La Scala and Covent Garden débuts, followed by his Metropolitan Opera début in 1965 and Salzburg début in 1968. In Rome, he sang his first WERTHER, a role that, like Arturo, was to become one of his signatures.
Aside from his fine sense of the musical nuance and phrasing, his portrayal of the mentally unstable, morbid, masochistic, and manipulative character of Werther has been acclaimed as one of the most effective and insightful readings ever. During the 1980s, he began to limit the number of his performances even further (at the peak of his career, he never sang more than 50 in a year), and started to turn his attention to teaching, although even in the 1990s he still had an active performing schedule. Kraus died on 10 September, 1999, after an extended illness.”
“Known for her dramatic singing style, Renata Scotto excels in the Italian repertoire, including Bellini's NORMA and Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY. She has performed in more than 45 operas all over the world.
Born in Italy in 1934, Renata Scotto made her operatic début in her hometown of Savona on Christmas Eve, 1952 in LA TRAVIATA. She made her professional opera début at the Teatro Nuovo as Violetta, a rôle she earned by winning the Milan Lyric Association competition. With a blooming musical career, she auditioned for the part of Walter in Catalani's LA WALLY, performed at La Scala in Milan. She instantly received the part and was called back for fifteen curtain calls on opening night, 7 Dec., 1953.
In 1957, the La Scala Company had been in Edinburgh performing Bellini's LA SONNAMBULA, with Maria Callas as Amina. Due to the enormous interest, La Scala decided to add more performances. When Callas refused to do another performance, Scotto was called to replace her. With the success of her performance in this rôle, she became an international star.
With her operatic success came personal success as well. In 1960, Scotto performed at the Royal Opera House as Mimi in LA BOHÈME. She made her United States début with the Metropolitan Opera in 1965 as Cio-Cio-San in MADAMA BUTTERFLY. A quote from the New York Herald Tribune called the performance ‘an occasion for rejoicing, and there was plenty of it in the form of applause and welcoming shouts to the new artist who, above all, is distinctly an individual’."
- Kim Summers, allmusic.com
“Nicolai Ghiaurov, the Bulgarian bass was one of the leading opera singers of his day whose warm, rich bass voice made him ideal for roles like King Philip in Verdi's DON CARLO or the title role in Moussorgsky's BORIS GODOUNOV, both of which were among his signature roles. His vocal power and striking stage presence helped gain him the kind of accolades opera usually reserves for its tenors and sopranos.
His Metropolitan Opera debut, in November 1965, as Mephistopheles in Gounod's FAUST, received rapturous reviews. ‘The man indeed is sensational’, Harold C. Schonberg wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES. ‘He not only has a remarkable voice, but he is also big in every way’. He added, ‘He has presence, the kind that Pinza and Chaliapin had, the kind that jumps over the footlights and seizes the listener in a palpable embrace’.
By then, Mr. Ghiaurov was already a star in Europe; his American debut, at the Chicago Lyric Opera, had taken place two years earlier. His Met debut would have come earlier, too, he told an interviewer in 1965, but a tenor accidentally got in the way. At a party in Milan, Rudolf Bing, the Met's general manager, made Mr. Ghiaurov an offer, which was overheard by Franco Corelli. According to Mr. Ghiaurov, Corelli ‘became very excited’ and said to Bing, ‘How dare you offer him so little? From then on, everything was ruined in that discussion’, Mr. Ghiaurov said.
As beloved as he was in New York, Mr. Ghiaurov never created a home base there of the kind he had in Europe; he sang 81 performances of 10 roles at the Met, including a gala in 1991 celebrating the 25th anniversaries his debut, Ms. Freni's and the tenor Alfredo Kraus's; he also appeared in the Met's centennial gala in 1983. His last performance there was in 1996, in RIGOLETTO.
He remained active in Europe, however. In 2001, he tried out a new role, Dosifey, the old believer, in Moussorgsky's KHOVANSHCHINA, in a new production in Zürich, having often sung Khovansky in the same opera. In December in Venice, he sang Basilio in Rossini's BARBER OF SEVILLE, the role in which he made his operatic debut in Sofia in 1955.
His remarkable vocal longevity was often attributed to his choice of roles suited to his voice and to his care in later years not to overextend himself with too many performances.
After his operatic debut, Mr. Ghiaurov's progress was rapid: Bologna in 1958, La Scala in 1959, Covent Garden in 1962. ‘It is not entirely good to move up with such speed’, he told an interviewer. ‘I do not have the long experience with the smaller roles first. Almost from the beginning it is the big roles’.”
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 3 June, 2004