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Prima Voce - Leonard Warren

Release Date: 06/12/2007 
Label:  Nimbus   Catalog #: 7939   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Giuseppe VerdiSamuel Augustus WardTraditionalJerome Kern,   ... 
Performer:  Leonard Warren
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LEONARD WARREN Leonard Warren (bar); Various supporting artists NIMBUS 7939 (2 CDs: 152: 00)

VERDI Un ballo in maschera: Eri tu. Il trovatore: Il balen . . . Per me ora fatale (with Nicola Moscona). Simon Boccanegra: Dinne,perche in ques’eremo (with Astrid Varnay). Read more Rigoletto: Pari siamo, Cortigiani vil razza. La Forza del Destino: Solenne in quest’ora (with Jan Peerce); Morir! tremenda cosa . . . urna fatale (with Raymond Keast); Invano, Alvaro (with Jan Peerce). Aida: Ciel! mio padre (with Zinka Milanov). Otello: Credo in un Dio crudele; Era la notte. Falstaff: È sogno? O realtà? trad Blow the man down. The Drummer and the Cook. Haul-A-Way Joe. The Drunken Sailor. A-Rovin’. Low Lands. Shenandoah. Rio Grande. SPEAKS On the Road to Mandalay. GERMAN Rolling down to Rio. SPROSS Gunga Din. DEKOVEN Recessional. DAMROSCH Danny Dever. MCCALL Boots. TOURS Mother O’Mine. KERNOCHAN Smuggler’s Song. Songs for Everyone WARD America the Beautiful. MOLLOY Love’s Old Sweet Song. OLCOTT Mother Machree. BALL A Little Bit of Heaven. GUION Home on the Range. KERN Ol’ Man River. STEFFE Battle Hymn of the Republic

I have purposely listed the contents of this release since devout Fanfare readers and Warren fans have probably read the article written by James Miller, “Remembering a Singer Who Shouldn’t Be Forgotten” in Fanfare 23:6, including a review of the two-disc set issued by the Leonard Warren foundation. There is also a two-disc Romophone CD of the complete Victor recordings, so almost all of the material on this release has been previously available.

In his article Miller states that he only heard Warren live once. I heard him 10 times in different operas between 1943 and 1956. His reputation as the Verdi baritone of his era seemed well earned to me, since eight of the operas in which I heard him live were by Verdi. I can attest to the fact that his voice was powerful and he possessed brilliant high notes. He was, of course, a product of a time when the world of opera was dominated by conductors, whom Verdi called tyrants, and when bel canto had been replaced by both verismo and Wagnerian concepts of music drama. Even Verdi’s works were subjected to musical butchery and although all of his operas are in the bel canto tradition, they were subjected to what was actually a verismo style. Fortunately, Warren refined his approach as a result of his studying with Giuseppe de Luca, one of the last bel canto baritones. Warren’s ability to modulate and sing softly was wonderful in contrast to the tenors who sang with him and usually shouted and bellowed. That contrast is evident in the two Forza duets with Jan Peerce.

Happily for us, he sang the duets on this disc with two excellent sopranos: Astrid Varnay, in the duet from Simon Boccanegra , in which Warren’s pianissimo final “Figlia” is simply marvelous; and Milanov, who is also fine in the Aida duet. Warrren’s excellent interpolated high note at “Leonora mia.” in the recitative to “Il balen” is a trademark of his, but unfortunately he doesn’t sing the high note in the aria softly as Verdi intended it to be sung. Warren had such a large voice that he often found it difficult to focus the tone. I agree with Mark Mandel who, in a review of a Warren recital in Fanfare 16:3, wrote: “Throughout his career the tone tended to spread and could take on a peculiar hollow quality.” Thus arias like “Pari siamo” from Rigoletto and the “Credo” from Otello , which demand a dark firm tone, are not the best representations of his interpretations.

The second disc represents the other side of Warren’s vocalism. He was able to scale down his huge voice on the songs that he sings. His recording of the sea shanties is very fine; however, in most of these songs he is somewhat over-dramatic, and his version of A’Rovin in particular lacks the rhythm and spirit that, for example, Oscar Natzke provides. He sings a truncated version of On the Road to Mandalay —the verse about the Burma girl is omitted. Tibbett’s recording is far superior. And I am not fond of his slow, careful version of Danny Dever . Again, I prefer Tibbett. But I am aware that there are those who, because of the beauty of his voice, are admirers of his style.

Warren began his prominence at the Metropolitan in 1943 when, because of World War II, there were no Italian baritones on the Met Roster. Tibbett was in his declining years, and only Alexander Sved and Robert Weede were competing for Verdi roles. Not until 1947 did Giuseppe Valdengo debut there; then Enzo Mascherini in 1949; and Paolo Silveri in 1950. Later, in 1953, Ettore Bastianini sang at the Met, and Tito Gobbi debuted in 1955. In retrospect, Warren was fortunate in his timing in becoming the premier baritone in America. He died when he was still at the height of his powers. Any lover of great singing should collect all the Warren recordings that are available. The sound on this release is excellent, and biographical notes are provided. Buy it!

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Works on This Recording

Un ballo in maschera: Aria(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Italy 
Language: Italian 
Il trovatore: Aria(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Italy 
Language: Italian 
Simon Boccanegra: Aria(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; Italy 
Language: Italian 
Rigoletto: Aria(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Italy 
Language: Italian 
La forza del destino: Aria(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862/1869; Italy 
Language: Italian 
Aida: Aria(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Italy 
Language: Italian 
Otello: Aria(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Italy 
Language: Italian 
Falstaff: Aria(s) by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Italy 
Language: Italian 
America the Beautiful by Samuel Augustus Ward
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882 
Language: English 
Sea shanty by Traditional
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Language: English 
Show Boat: Ol' Man River by Jerome Kern
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; USA 
Language: English 
Battle Hymn of the Republic by William Steffe
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: USA 
Language: English 
Rolling Down to Rio by Edward German
Performer:  Leonard Warren (Baritone)
Period: Romantic 
Written: England 
Language: English 

Sound Samples

Un Ballo In Maschera: Alzati! là tuo figlio...Eri tu
Il Trovatore: Il balen...Qual suono!...Per me ora fatale
Simon Boccanegra: Dinne, perche in ques'eremo...Figlia! a tal nome palpito
Rigoletto: Pari siamo
Rigoletto: Povero Rigoletto....Cortigiani, vil razza dannata
La Forza Del Destino: Solenne in quest'ora
La Forza del Destino: Morir! tremenda cosa...urna fatale
La Forza del Destino: Invano, Alvaro...Ah! una suora mi lasciasti
Aida: Ciel! mio padre...Riverdrai le forester imbalsamate
Otello: Credo in un Dio crudel
Otello: Era la notte
Falstaff: È sogno? O realtà?
Sea Shanties: Blow the Man Down
Sea Shanties: The Drummer and the Cook
Sea Shanties: Haul-A-Way, Joe
Sea Shanties: The Drunken Sailor
Sea Shanties: A-Rovin'
Sea Shanties: Low Lands
Sea Shanties: Shenandoah
Sea Shanties: Rio Grande
Rolling Down to Rio: Speaks - On the Road to Mandalay
Rolling Down to Rio: German - Rolling Down to Rio
Rolling Down to Rio: Spross - Gunga Din
Rolling Down to Rio: DeKoven - Recessional
Rolling Down to Rio: Damrosch - Danny Deever
Rolling Down to Rio: McCall - Boots
Rolling Down to Rio: Tours - Mother O'Mine
Rolling Down to Rio: Kernochan - Smuggler's Song
Songs for Everyone: Ward - America the Beautiful
Songs for Everyone: Molloy - Love's Old Sweet Song
Songs for Everyone: Olcott - Mother Machree
Songs for Everyone: Ball - A Little Bit of Heaven
Songs for Everyone: Guion - Home on the Range
Songs for Everyone: Kern - Ol' Man River
Songs for Everyone: Steffe - Battle Humn of the Republic

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