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Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Living Presence Opera sets
Forwarded from Opera-L
----- Original Message -----
From: "Max Paley" <mgpaley@xxxxxxx>
To: "Steve Abrams" <steve.abrams@xxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Sunday, September 07, 2008 7:22 AM
Subject: Re: Bastianini's studio RIGOLETTO with Kraus and Scotto-- what
On Sep 6, 2008, at 8:37 PM, Steve Abrams wrote:
I have been in touch with Tom Fine, who is the son of Wilma Cozart and
C. R. Fine. He has consulted the official sessions book of the Mercury
Living Presence recordings and confirms my assertion that Rigoletto was
recorded in 1960 at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence beginning on
July 2nd. The full dates were July 2-7 and 9,10. He does not believe
Max Paley's claim that his mother contradicted the official sessions
book and claimed the recording was shifted to a nearby warehouse. The
recordings were co-produced with Ricordi and the ownership eventually
reverted to Ricordi.
The article including the interview with Tom's mother was one of a two-
part series on Mercury Living Presence recordings in one of the two
UK publications "Classic Record Collector" or "International Classical
Record Collector." The two magazines are very similar in content and
form factor. I can't cite the specific issues because I ran out of space
for them about a year ago. However, someone else on this group may have
them. I'm fairly certain it was later than the the Summer 1998
"International Opera Collector" issue mentioned by Jon Conrad that
discussed the "Rigoletto" in question.
In the same article, Ms. Cozart had negative commentary on the first of
the series, Cherubini's "Medea" with Maria Callas. She indicated that
team didn't have enough preparation time in that case to set up properly
for a hall new to them (La Scala). She did, however, surprise me by
that she thought EMI had done "a great job" of remastering it, my
surprise being that any EMI CD issue I've heard of this recording sounds
like a pallid
shadow of either the original Mercury discs or the Mercury/Ampex open-
reel tape issue.
The "Notes about the recording" in the original booklet make it clear
that the recording was made at the Pergola. Three microphones were
suspended in the hall and not moved during the recording. As usual with
Living Presence sessions, this was a three channel recording.
The notes in the booklet do make it clear, which is why I particularly
noted Ms. Cozart's comment and was surprised by it. The booklet notes go
amount of detail of the Mercury truck going down small alleys to an area
under the Pergola on "a sunny day in July, 1960."
By the way, I think Wilma Cozart is a truly great lady who really
understands sound like few others. The recording process used for the
Presence" series was outstanding in its integrity and truthfulness of
sound. Those recordings remain unsurpassed. It might sound simple to
three microphones for a stereo recording, but it's one of the hardest
things you can do and you'd be hard pressed to find a recording engineer
with the ear and skill for how to position such a small number of mikes
effectively to capture the full orchestral, choral and vocal forces
involved in an opera
along with a good capture of the hall in which they were recorded.
Once these microphones were placed, tests were recorded and levels set
based on those. There was no "gain riding" or compression applied, at
the master tape. The results are interesting for the sheer realism and
vitality of sound, but also for another reason: they effectively debash
the notion that
singers have to be positioned so that they sound a city block away for
the recording to reflect opera house reality. In these recordings, the
clear, present and very "there."
I think Ms. Cozart also effectively bebunked the thought that there is
anything innately wrong with digital sound reproduction, and not just DSD
or high res,
but standard 16-bit, 44.1 KHz. She did this with the series of reissues
of that Living Presence series on CD that was done in the early 90's.
phenomenal sounding CD's. To produce these reissues, Cozart had
original tube-amplified tape decks fully restored.
Interestingly, Wilma Cozart refused to allow CD reissues of the stereo
recordings Mercury had made of the violinist Josef Szigeti.
I think that Paley has also confused the Teatro della Pergola with
another theatre, probably the Communale?, in speaking of the venue of
the 1953 Serafin Lucia.
I did confuse the two Florence theaters.
And I would be very, very interested to hear if Tom Fine knows what
became of the master tapes. If "ownership" reverted to Ricordi, did they
also get the