Leo Slezak - John McCormack

Belcanto: the Tenors of the 78 Era

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Léo Slezak

John McCormack

Program notes

Discover the Bel-Canto" Series: The Tenors of the 78 Era, 13 portraits of the most illustrious lyrical singers of the beginning of the 20th century. We present 2 episodes: Leo Slezak and John McCormack.

In these two documentaries dedicated to Leo Slezak and John McCormak, Jan Schmidt-Garre gathered precious musical excerpts and enlisted the help of the greatest specialists of the lyrical repertoire to make a fascinating depiction of the lives of these two great figures of the Bel-Canto.

Leo Slezak is the first subject chosen by Jan Schmidt-Garre. This tenor was, according to Jürgen Kesting the author of The Great Singers, one of the few singers who did not have the slightest trace of baritone in his voice. He was a pure tenor, as in the castrate tradition. He was also one of the rare singers who weren't influenced by Caruso's technique, and he didn't need to expend any effort to reach the highest notes. He performed the greatest operas, including Othello which was his best role. His great sensibility drove him to embark on a second career in the cinema in mainly comical roles.

John McCormack is the figure the Irish qualify, still today, as the greatest artist the world has ever produced. This documentary retraces his life and analyses his singing technique in an excerpt of Don Giovanni conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler. He left the stage relatively early to dedicate himself to concert performances but his repertoire includes several famous roles such as Ottavio, Elvino, Rodolfo and the Duke of Mantua. His perfect diction and his mastery of breathing made him one of the great figures of Bel-Canto, and this documentary enables us to discover him from an original and technical point of view.

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