Strictly for opera aficionados, a detailed, passionate analysis of what makes tenor singing and its practitioners unique.


Franco Corelli & a Revolution in Singing


A critical look at the evolution of operatic tenor singing, from the 19th century to the present.

In opera, Zucker’s bona fides are impeccable. A singer himself, he earned distinction from the Guinness Book of World Records as the “world’s highest tenor” for reaching an A above high C during a performance at New York’s Town Hall in 1972. He also hosted Opera Fanatic, the long-running program on Columbia University’s radio station, and founded the Bel Canto Society, a nonprofit opera organization. In this book, Zucker (Origins of Modern Tenor Singing, 1997) draws from conversations he had with the late Italian tenor Franco Corelli, a close friend and frequent guest on the Opera Fanatic program. Zucker offers their takes on popular tenors of the past, spotlighting each singer’s vocal stylings, physical techniques, strengths and weaknesses, as well as a consideration of the performance aspect. Even nonfans of opera might recognize the most famous tenors referenced—Enrico Caruso, Richard Tucker, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, etc.—though the book by no means offers in-depth biographies. Less popular figures are given relatively brief chapters, including Jean de Reszke, Aureliano Pertile, and Mario Del Monaco. In some instances, Corelli acknowledges the tenors who influenced him, such as Beniamino Gigli: “His voice was exceptionally beautiful, warm like a lighted lamp, with a facile and inimitable emission….I remember a concert in which he gave twelve encores.” Zucker also offers frank, critical views on several singers, including legendary Caruso: “Compared with his predecessors…Caruso had less musical nuance, variety of dynamics and rubato; in short he had less musical imagination. He also had less control over dynamics. These were the prices he paid for his directness of address.” With formidable passion and knowledge from their own experiences as singers and lovers of the genre, Corelli and Zucker pick up on notes the average opera fan most likely does not. Interestingly, the book’s last portion consists of Zucker’s evaluations of several tenors’ performances as the character Radames from Verdi’s Aida based on archival recordings, such as Corelli’s from 1956, 1962, 1967, and 1972. Sprinkled throughout are wonderful archival photographs of the tenors dressed in their stage costumes. A reader not well-versed in the technical aspects of opera singing and history—let alone music theory and appreciation—might find the book a bit challenging, though die-hard opera fans and scholars will absorb it easily. Zucker and Corelli make appreciating the artistry easy, to the point where readers might seek out the actual recordings. Zucker, expert that he is, is beyond that point; of Francesco Tamagno, one of his favorite tenors, he says: “I can go for years without listening to his records physically yet play them inside of me, for his is singing heard in the soul.

Strictly for opera aficionados, a detailed, passionate analysis of what makes tenor singing and its practitioners unique.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1891456008

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bel Canto Society

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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