[Dixielandjazz] Opera recordings, Abbey Road etc

Anton Crouch anton.crouch at optusnet.com.au
Wed Jan 5 23:03:34 PST 2005

Hello all

I know that Steve B is a good "stirrer" but I have the awful feeling that
he is serious in his comments on opera recordings. He wrote:

"IMO doing an Operatic performance in a studio, for a CD over several days,
that you cannot do live on stage as it was written to be performed in a
couple of hours is pure bullshit. It is a fake."

What complete and utter nonsense!

Is John Culshaw's production of Wagner's Ring a fake because he achieves
sonic effects on record that Wagner wanted but could not get at Bayreuth?

Is there a single opera enthusiast in the world who would say that Maria
Callas should not have recorded Carmen because she never sang it on stage?

Who would be without Boris Christoff's 1952 recording of Boris Godunov, in
which he sings the roles of both Boris and Pimen? (a performance
impossibilty, since the characters appear together in one scene).

I could go on. I wonder how Steve feels about Sidney Bechet's 1941 "one man
band" sides. Definitely fakes  :-)

On the matter of Tristan in particular, it was the critic Ernest Newman who
wrote that the ideal stage production was one in which the stage was
completely dark. That was a while before the recording of complete operas
and I imagine that Steve would write-off Newman as an "idiot".

The plain reality is that recording in general, and opera recording in
particular, is a different art form to "live" performance. We all have
views on the relative merits of these forms, but to call one "bullshit" or
"fake" is outrageous.

To turn to happier subjects, I enjoyed Mike Logsdon's posting on Abbey Road
studios in London. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of visiting the
studios, with a friend from EMI. 

I did the usual things - stood on the steps at the place Elgar and Menuhin
were photographed; walked on the crossing where the Beatles were
photographed; read the messages on the outside wall. As an aside, it is not
generally known that the present pedestrian crossing is not in the same
location as the one used by the Beatles - the hordes of people being
photographed caused traffic jams and the crossing was moved to a more
traffic-friendly location.

Inside, one's mood changes. It's a bit spooky - here's where Schnabel
recorded all the Beethoven sonatas (Studio 3); that turntable over in the
corner of one of the control rooms is the one used by Keith Hardwick for
his transfers of "The Record of Singing"; this is the cafeteria where some
of the greatest musicians the world has known lined up for their potatoes
and mash.

Studio One is the clincher. For me, hallowed ground. To sit quietly at the
podium where Beecham, Karajan, Klemperer and Barbirolli sat is an
experience that can't be described.

I image that people have the same feeling when they visit the ballroom of
the (former) Webster Hotel in Chicago.

All the best

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