Puccini's "O soave fanciulla" from La Bohème

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In honor of Giacomo Puccini's 152nd birthday, we asked you to vote for your favorite performance of "O soave fanciulla" from La Bohème. We played the winner, the performance by Victoria de los Angeles and Jussi Bjoerling, at noon.


Listen to a sample of the performance by Bidu Sayao and Richard Tucker.

Comments [46]

Ted Brown from Show Low, AZ

I'll go with Giuseppe Di Stefano and Licia Albanese from an RCA recording of Boheme highlights recorded in 1951. She also recorded the duet with Beniamino Gigli in the complete recording in 1938, which I'm sure was great, but I haven't heard it.

Jan. 05 2011 11:14 AM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

Nope Jussi's Italian was just fine. I lived in Italy for 4 years and am fluent in the language. Yes, Luciano was wonderful. As for Victoria, she was built like a bird with a round chest. And boy could that bird sing.

Dec. 22 2010 02:39 PM
Anthony F. Le Pera from Wyckoff, NJ

Sorry, Jussi just doesn't make it...he lacks the true beauty of the Italian pronunciation, misplaces infinitesimally the precise accent, nevertheless a great singer...had Jussi lived he could have learned from Luciano...my man.

Dec. 22 2010 02:09 PM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

I agree with Peter. Luciano suffered a great deal from cattivo gusto (poor taste). The first singer that my son asked "Who the hell is that?" was Jussi. The Golden Swede at one time had trouble with the Sicilian dialect in the opening aria from Cavelleria and would sing it in Italian. But superb intellect that he had, he was able to get the Sicilian right. Luciano always had trouble with the Neopolitan dialect. What was amazing was the Richard Tucker's neopolitan was perfect. Pretty good for a guy from I think Cleveland. Luciano was a big ham. Could never watch the 3 Tenors concerts because all three were hamming it up. I was lucky to have grown up listening to Jussi, Victoria, Zinka, etc. I have the Boheme with Jussi and Victoria. I was gifted with another recording with different singers and never listen to it. And for me, only Jussi and Beniamino Gigli were perfection in the Nessun Dorma aria.
I had a lp recording of Turandot with Jussi, Tebaldi, and wore it out. Thank God for CDs.

Dec. 22 2010 01:09 PM
Joe Tantillo from Manasquan, NJ

Every time I hear this duet, I fall in love with my wife all over again. All these singers are great, but Pavarotti and Freni will always be my Bohemes.
The real genius, however, is Puccini. What incredibly moving music.

Dec. 22 2010 12:40 PM
Regina from Port Washingtonn,NY

Jussi Bjoerling and Victoria de los Angelis give the quintessential performance of this work.Freni was a great Mimi and Pavarotti always moves me.
However, there is something in the quality of the voices of Bjoerling and de los Angelis that simply tears your heart out.

Dec. 22 2010 12:04 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, N.J.

By the way, QXR, it's not really an aria, it's a duet!

Dec. 22 2010 12:01 PM
Henry Khost from Caldwell NJ

Jussi and Vicki, definitely. Others are merely great.

Dec. 22 2010 11:58 AM

Netrebko and Villazon are superb!

Dec. 22 2010 11:57 AM
Pauline from Queens

I vote for Victoria de los Angeles & Jussi Bjoerling, the greatest Mimi & Rodolfo of all time.

Dec. 22 2010 11:51 AM
Ralph from delaware

It has to go to Bjorling. Too bad Netrebko and Bjorling could never do it. Villazon just looks too much like Mr. Bean, but I can't keep my eyes off of Netrebko. HOT!

Dec. 22 2010 11:51 AM
ira ehrenkranz from morristown new jersey

what joy Freni and Pavarotti - I have listened to WQXR for 60 years - it brings me back to my youth ! The best !!

Dec. 22 2010 11:50 AM
Norman Dee from Manhasset

As many great voices are there are, the depth of emotion and beauty of sound enters another dimension with Bjorling and De Los Angeles. There are so many great moments in the entire Opera's recording, down to the last "Mimi!".

Dec. 22 2010 11:48 AM

Victoria de los Angeles and Jussi Bjoerling are my absolute favorites. I love the melting sound of his voice and she has a voice just like her name - of the angels.

Dec. 22 2010 11:47 AM
Jim Legnani from Manhattan, NY

My vote is definitely for Freni, either with Pavarotti or Gedda. The latter (not among the choices) would have the advantage of ending in harmony, as written. Why no Tabaldi? Because she always had trouble (to say the least) with the written high C, which always came out strained and, yes, flat.

Dec. 22 2010 11:41 AM
Michael Dundon from Jersey City, NJ

How to choose! But I have to go with Netrebko and Villazon. I know it was a concert recording, but that was flawless!

Dec. 22 2010 11:37 AM
Elizabeth Gallo from Douglaston, Queens

Jussi Bjorling & Victoria Delos Angelas
O Soave Fancuella
I'm 82 and started listening to WQXR since I was 22. Bjorling was a favorite of mine-died too young. Delos Angela, I envied-desperately wanted to sing-I do sing in the church choir/alto, but how I love all of the great opera singers.
Please, please, please, let it be Bjorling/Delos Angelas...
Thank you

Dec. 22 2010 11:27 AM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

My problem witht he otherwise exquisite version of the "due modenese" is that Luciano ruins the moment with his peasant's bellow in unision at the end, instead of maintaining the mood and taking the lower option in harmony. Alagna makes the same lapse of taste error, so I go with Jussi and Victoria.

Dec. 22 2010 11:13 AM
concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

Jussi and Victoria. The other singers are fine but J & V were wonderful. I am 74 years old and I have heard all the others.
The Spanish Lady and the Swede.

Dec. 22 2010 11:09 AM
Robert from Manhattan

I'm amazed that you omitted the 1959 rendition of Renata Tebaldi and Carlo Bergonzi under Tullio Serafin's direction...a serious mistake on your part. There is also a superb performance by Mirella Freni and Nicolai Gedda under Tommy Schippers that is worthy of making your selection list.

Dec. 22 2010 11:09 AM
James Lamb from Staten Island, NY

While it IS my favorite cast, de los Angeles and Bjoerling, why no Tebaldi on the list of choices?

Dec. 22 2010 11:06 AM
hollywoodave from New York

The choice of these selections is the heavenly duo of Bjorling and De los Angeles - clearly. Pav and Freni second. But where is DiStefano Callas? That would be my number one pick.

Dec. 22 2010 10:48 AM
tom mattus from Port Jefferson, NY

I wish I could sing like that, what a gift from the heavens, they are all great.

Pav is the man but on this one my vote is for O Soave Fanciulla. Italy has magic with these great opera's and singers.

Dec. 22 2010 10:47 AM
Rick from Chelsea (Manhattan)

Exalted singing!

Dec. 22 2010 10:42 AM
Gregg from Astoria Queens

Isn't it strange? I happen to be a typical science fiction fan. And what does that have to do with today's count down? Plenty. Doctor Who insists he was with Giacomo Puccini when the end came, and actually suggested who he should request to finish the opera Turandot. Which suggests to me that he was that individual who was with the maestro when that part of life happens, (it turns out that history is largely blank on that episode.), and course that's why I am mentioning him. His favorites amongst the library of these operas by Giacomo Puccini, include La Boheme, and Madama Butterfly. (Both mine also.)

Here is where it gets to be peculiar, I'm also a Star Trek fan, and the Doctor on Voyager had his peculiarities, and that chosen scene from the opera was his favorite, from a favorite opera.

Now I imagine those of you on the WQXR staff who read these will be reading mine and wondering what am I getting at. Feel free to contact me off board, please.

Dec. 22 2010 10:41 AM
Jeannette from Middletown, N.Y.

My vote is for Freni and Pavarotti. This duet still gives me goosebumps after all these years. Thanks Maestro Puccini.

Dec. 22 2010 10:41 AM
Ellen from Manhattan from New York, NY

Where is Tebaldi? If I sprinkle magic dust on the Met Opera maybe we will hear Pavarotti/de los Angeles.

Dec. 22 2010 10:25 AM
suzanne from New York

Out of this group, I'll vote for Bjoerling and de los Angeles. I adore Pavarotti and Freni also, but I'll go with Beecham over Karajan. Also, Bjoerling sings the ending as written and does not take the high note with the soprano.

If it had been "open voting," I would have put in a word for Caballe and Domingo on the Solti recording. The two do the most exquisite pianissimi on the last few notes, and Domingo also does not go for the high note along with the soprano. Of course, if you have a high C like Pavarotti's, it's hard not to go with it!!

Dec. 22 2010 10:22 AM
Amy Martin from Clifton NJ

Jussi, Jussi, Jussi! and the great De los Angeles

Dec. 22 2010 10:22 AM
Barry Snyder from Philadelphia

Jussi Bjoerling and Victoria De los Angeles' rank at the top of the list and get my vote, without question the best. What a shame he died at 49.

Dec. 22 2010 10:21 AM
John J. Christiano from Frankiln NJ

Not Fair!!! It's like asking which part of Heaven you would like to spend eternity in!

My vote's for Luciano e Mirella. Bravissimi!

Dec. 22 2010 10:17 AM
Joe Marchia

For me ,there is the most beautiful movement within “O soave fanciulla” that I have ever heard.

Dec. 22 2010 10:15 AM
Tim Brown from Washington, DC

Am loving the Showdown at High Noon games. Bjorling and De Los Angeles get my vote today - effortless, spontaneous and passionate in ways the other great duos on your list cannot match.

Dec. 22 2010 10:05 AM
Linda Ferm from New York, NY

Jussi Bjoerling and Victoria De los Angeles' recording I rank at the top of the list without question.

Dec. 22 2010 10:01 AM

I just love Luciano Pavoitti. His voice is great! He died to soon, 71 is not old. He is now in heaven singing for the Big Guy, as I call God. Thanks to his recordings we will continue to hear his beautiful voice!

Dec. 22 2010 09:59 AM
richard rosenbluth

The Beecham Boheme is one of the two best operatic recordings ever (the other, of course, is the deSabata-Callas Tosca)
And, Bjoerling and de los Angeles are still the greatest!

Dec. 22 2010 09:55 AM
Leslie Cohen from New York, NY

As Mr. Jellinek might agree, Jussi Bjoerling and Victoria De los Angeles' recording, from the complete set cond. by Sir Thomas Beecham takes top honors.

Dec. 22 2010 09:35 AM
Eileen from New York, NY

As much as I love Pavarotti/Freni, I agree with one of the comments - we do not hear Boerling and De Los Angeles nearly enough - GO JUSSI!

Merry Christmas to all my fellow QXR listeners!

Dec. 22 2010 09:31 AM
Karen M. Tylutki from Bayonne, NJ

Each operatic version with it's own particular flavor of romantic expression....still
one brought me to tears and made me forget all the technique and study and made it sound and feel effortless. Every note came forth with a seamless symmetry with the soul of the composer for me and it was Victoria and Jussi.

I just crumbled and forgot where I was in time and place.

Many Thanks, Puccini and Happy Birthday.

Dec. 22 2010 09:29 AM
Thomas from Sparta, NJ

My choice would have been Freni and Nick Gedda from (I think) 1961, with Schippers conducting. I suspect that was strictly a studio recording with no staging, so there would be no good video. Maybe that's why it wasn't "on the ballot"? However, Freni and Pavarotti are a good second choice, especially since they were singing together since their childhood in Modena.

Dec. 22 2010 09:17 AM
Vivian from Manhasset

All stellar voices, but there's really no contest: the superlative rises to the top: Freni and Pavarotti.

Dec. 22 2010 09:14 AM
Scott Rose from Manhattan

I just communed with the spirit of George Jellinek. He asked me to tell you there is no contest; Bjorling and De Los Angeles are hors concours.

Dec. 22 2010 09:06 AM
Antonia Szilagi from Great Neck

I love you guys but.....Where's Renata Tebaldi and Prandelli or Bergonzi recordings...She is the quintessential Mimi!

Dec. 22 2010 08:45 AM
Jack Mendelson from Rey Brook, NY

What a difficult choice. try to choose between the deLos angelos and the Netrbko was almost impossible. However, we donot hear De los Agelos often enough.

Dec. 22 2010 08:40 AM

what an embarrassment of riches! so many great choices it is hard to pick just one. Thanks!

Dec. 22 2010 08:30 AM
barbara from sayville,ny

Luciano's voice came from the heavens.

Dec. 22 2010 07:30 AM

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