July 7, 2011

Lanny Ross

Believe it or not, there was a time when the line between classical and popular singing hardly existed, at least technically speaking. One only has to look to a singer like Lanny Ross, a tenor and Yale graduate who studied with Anna E. Schoen-René at the Juilliard School in the 1930's.

Anna E. Schoen-Rene was an exponent of Pauline Viardot-García and Manuel García, and taught the García principles of singing to her students in a formalistic fashion, that is, she insisted that they sing scales and exercises for a whole year before singing any repertoire. Who does that today? In any case, under her tutelage, Lanny Ross did not pursue a career in opera, but got his start in the burgeoning business of radio, where he sang for more than 25 years. He also appeared in a few films in Hollywood and had his own television show in the 1950's. He sang in a style that would now be considered anachronistic on The Voice, which only points out how great the divide between classical and popular music has become. Here he is singing We Mustn't Say Goodbye from the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen.

Mr. Ross sounds like a classical singer to our ears, one that might be singing Tamino in The Magic Flute. Is the listener hearing the technique that was handed down to Manuel Garcia I from Giovanni Anzani, a student of Nicola Porpora? That is one question to ask. One way to mull the matter over would to be find another tenor student of Schoen-René. We are in luck. Charles Kullman, who sang at the Metropolitan Opera, can be heard here singing The World is Mine Tonight. Kullman also studied with Schoen-Rene at the Juilliard School. While Kullman sings with a fuller tone than Ross, both men sing with clear vowels, smoothness of delivery- and dare I say- similarity of placement. 

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