March 4, 2011

Edouard de Reszke

Edouard de Reszke was the younger brother of Jean de Reszke, and studied with his illustrious brother's voice teacher, an Italian tenor named Giovanni Sbriglia who was known for building up his student's chests. While Jean's voice ascended, Edouard's went the other way, and he become famous for singing bass roles like Gounod's Mefistofeles. The brothers often appeared together, as well as with their only sister Josephine before her untimely death at the age of 36. It was quite the operatic family.




Three Columbia recordings were made of Edouard's voice, one of which can he heard on Utube, which I've included below. Alas, it is not the the aria from Martha where Eduoard sings a trill worth emulating. Which is a question worth asking: when was the last time you heard a bass execute an honest-to-god trill, where the two notes stayed within their bounds, had equal resonance, and spun around each other like dueling suns?




Trill or no, the aria from Ernani in the Utube video below is revealing. Though it may be projection on my part, I hear the great bass as standing in front of Columbia's horn and being mindful of overblowing the machine: several phrases reveal a rich dark timbre that threaten to swamp the technology. Otherwise, de Reszke sings with a lightness and clarity - head voice actually - which is quite telling. No bellowing here. De Reszke's also has a nonchalance of delivery that is indicative a performer who is used to making grand statements in the theatre, not the small confines of a recording studio. As such, he doesn't seem concerned with the listener hearing how many times he breaths in a phrase, which often goes unnoticed in a large space. In short, De Reszke sounds like a stage animal with a huge presence that has been dragged in from the operatic jungle and tamed- if only momentarily. 

There is another thing about this recording that is worth pointing out only because it may be taken for granted by the student who is seeking to make a big impression. And that is de Reszke's vowels. Every one of them is as clear as a bell. 



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