Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Past tenors

Among the more gratifying things in yesterday's Met season announcement was the news that the company will at last give Luciano Pavarotti some of the musical commemoration and celebration that is his due, with Levine leading a free-ticket performance of Verdi's Requiem on September 18, a few weeks after the anniversary of Pavarotti's death.

The last Levine performance of the Requiem I saw -- a spring 2001 afternoon at Carnegie Hall with Fleming, Borodina, Giordani, and Pape -- was the finest Met Orchestra performance I can remember (though their 1999 account of Messiaen's "Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum" -- returning to Carnegie next season -- is up there): thunderous, impassioned, lyrical and ethereal all in full measure, and one of that hall's great moments. This tribute has a less exciting solo lineup -- Frittoli, Borodina, Giordani, and Morris -- but the occasion may count for something.

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I've intentionally kept obituary-blogging to a minimum on this site, but after the above can hardly fail to mention Giuseppe di Stefano, who died on Monday at 86. Of course di Stefano passed as a singer and a public figure long before: though he sang into the 1970s, he had essentially blown out his voice years before Pavarotti even made his 1961 stage debut. His fame rests with the amazing lyric tenor he was right around 1950 and his later association with Callas -- things long, long ago. As short and distant as the peak was, we can hear it now and rhapsodize, if we wish, with those entranced at the time.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.