Singer of the Month
This part of the website is dedicated to great singers from yesterday and today. It includes singers from all different musical genres and celebrates the particular aspects of their voices or singing that made them famous. Included for each singer is a short bio and some links to great performances or recordings. Please note, whilst the vocal technique used by some of the singers featured here is close to perfection, I do not personally recommend the technique of all the singers that are shown in ‘Singer of the Month’; many singers are featured here as a result of excellent musicality or artistry as opposed to perfect voice production. Some of these singers may also appear in the ‘Legendary Moments’ page, which may contain additional audio or video clips.
June 2012 – Beniamino Gigli
Beniamino Gigli is one of the true legends of the opera world. He is considered by many to be the heir to Enrico Caruso even though his voice was more of a middleweight lyric tenor as opposed to Caruso’s ‘tenore di forza’ (dramatic tenor). Born in 1890 in Recanati, Italy, Gigli is famous for his unmistakably beautiful, ringing voice. Often described as ‘sweet’ and ‘honeyed’, Gigli’s voice still possessed enough power and strength to be able to pull off some heavier roles such as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana. Gigli was often criticised for having an over exaggerated and even crass emotionalism in his musical interpretations. Yet some critics argue that this was part of Gigli’s unique ‘stamp’ and without it, it just wouldn’t be Gigli. Despite his tendency towards hammy theatrics, Gigli was still able to portray moments of exquisite beauty and tenderness, and his ‘mezza voce’ (half voice) is probably the best I have ever heard, a result of a rock solid ‘old school’ technique. The clip that is featured here is “Je crois entendre encore” from Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” sung in Italian and transposed down one full tone. It is quite common for this aria to be performed one full tone down from the original key to allow for the voice to float with greater ease.
May 2012 – Jerome Hines
Born in Hollywood, U.S.A in 1921, Jerome Hines possessed a phenomenally rich, beautiful and powerful bass voice. Hines stood close to two metres tall which, combined with his cavernous bass, made him a pretty imposing presence on stage. In 1941 he made his debut as ‘Monterone’ in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ with the San Francisco Opera at a remarkably young age. Thanks to an excellent technique which he constantly amended in the pursuit of perfection, Hines continued to perform nearly until his death in 2003 at the age of 81. His voice was still in pretty good nick even after roughly 60 years of professional operatic singing. Click on the video below to see Jerome Hines singing “Old man river” from the musical “Showboat.” I often point out to my lower voiced students how the great bassos get a really strong buzz in their low notes which allows them to carry extremely well in the theatre. Listen out for this in this clip.
April 2012 – Beyonce
As far as pop/R&B singers go, you do not get much better than Beyonce. Born in Houston, U.S.A in 1981, Beyonce was for many years the lead singer of the popular girl group ‘Destiny’s Child.’ The group was one of the best selling girl groups of all time but eventually disbanded and Beyonce embarked upon her solo career. Beyonce has an absolutely phenomenal range and remarkable stage presence, and she is noted for her captivating live performances. The clip I have included here demonstrates her incredible vocal ability. Beyonce makes this song sound easy, but there are very few professional singers who would be able to pull it off. The song progressively gets higher and higher through a ridiculous number of key changes, and just when you think she can’t sing any higher, there’s another key change.
March 2012 – Adele
Born in 1988 in London, England, Adele is one of the most promising young music artists around today. She exudes a remarkable maturity and worldliness in her singing that is unusual considering her age. As of 2011, she has produced two albums, 19 and 21.
February 2012 – Titta Ruffo
Titta Ruffo was to baritones what Caruso was to tenors. He is widely considered by many critics to be the greatest baritone of all time. Dubbed ‘The Lion’ due to his ferociously roaring tone as well as his thick wavy hair, Titta Ruffo was born in 1877 in Pisa, Italy. He studied with several different singing teachers but claimed it was his brother who taught him most of what he knew. Like Caruso, Ruffo had a voice that epitomised ‘chiaroscuro’ (light and dark) and was beautifully balanced. It was rich, warm, dark and velvety, but at the same time it had the mighty ‘squillo’ that so many baritones today lack. Ruffo was also a fiery artist who sang with great temperament and imagination, and his impressive acting ability capped off the perfect package. He died in 1953 at the age of 76. The clip I have included here displays Ruffo’s magnificent open throated power as well as his clarity and crispness. What is remarkable is his ability to maintain a smooth legato line, while at the same time delivering the necessary dramatic and declamatory incisiveness that this role (Iago) requires. Everything is perfectly balanced.
January 2012 – Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin pursued many talents but she is best remembered as one of the greatest blues/rock singers of the twentieth century. Joplin possessed a powerful and gutsy voice and her singing was noted for its passion and intensity. Her interpretation of the music she sang was particularly unique and innovative and she was truly one of a kind. She died in 1970 aged only 27.
December 2011 – Jeff Buckley
Born on November 17th, 1966 in Anaheim California(U.S.A), Jeff Buckley was a singer-songwriter considered by many to be an exceptional artistic genius. The son of noted singer Tim Buckley, Jeff was renowned for his incredible range and beautiful tone, but most of all his profound emotional connection with the music he sang. Many of his songs are unbelievably heart-wrenching. Sadly Jeff died after drowning in the Wolf River, only 30 years of age. His only complete studio album ‘Grace’ is regarded as one of the all time greatest albums. The track I have included here is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.
November 2011 – Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson had one of the Twentieth Century’s most beautiful operatic contralto voices; she was born on February 27th, 1897, in Philadelphia, The United States. At the age of six Marian joined the junior church choir as a result of her Aunt Mary’s encouragement. Marian’s Aunt Mary (who was also a singer) arranged for Marian to sing at local functions where she was paid quite a considerable amount of money for someone so young at that time.
Despite her incredible voice and singing ability, Marian still encountered a great deal of racism throughout her life and was rejected from an ‘all-white’ music school due to her African American ethnicity. In 1925, Marian won first prize in a singing competition sponsored by the New York Philharmonic. From then on, Marian went onto even greater successes in the United States and abroad. Surprisingly, Marian mainly sang in concerts and recitals, and only once ever sang in a live opera as Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Un Ballo In Maschera” with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She did however perform many operatic arias within her concert and recital programmes. Marian died in 1993 at the age of 96. The track that I have included here is the beautiful aria “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” from Camille Saint-Saens’ opera “Samson et Dalila.”
October 2011 – Michael Buble
One of the best swing singers of recent years Michael Buble was born in Burnaby, Canada on the 9th of September, 1975. His family first noticed his singing talent when he was just 13 years old. The family was singing along to the song “White Christmas” during a car ride when Michael powerfully and beautifully sang the phrase “May your days be merry and bright”, standing out considerably from the rest of his family no doubt! Whilst never learning to read and write music, Buble still worked incredibly hard at his singing and according to his early manager Bev Delich he would do every kind of singing gig imaginable before he hit the big time.
It is not surprising that Buble, who has a beautiful, clean and clear singing voice and very natural technique studied with Joseph Shore, one of the greatest operatic baritones of all times, who himself possesses a rich, cavernous and tremendously exciting voice of great focus and penetration. After many years at it, Buble was ready to give up his dream of being a professional singer when a lucky chain of events eventually wound up with him releasing his debut album “Michael Buble” in 2003. Since then, Buble has gone onto release more albums and is considered by many to be one of the finest singers of his generation. His version of “The way you look tonight” captures his ability to sing with great smoothness, subtlety, sweetness, nuance and warmth.
September 2011 – Enrico Caruso
Born in Naples in 1873, Enrico Caruso is still regarded by many critics today as the greatest operatic tenor in recorded history. Yet Caruso’s rise to fame was not as easy as some might think. His first teacher Maestro Guglielmo Vergine didn’t even want to teach him at first, declaring that the voice was “too small and sounded like the wind whistling through the windows”. Yet upon a second hearing some days later, Vergine agreed to teach Caruso, who was 16 years old at the time.
Caruso made his debut in 1895 at the age of 22 in the opera ‘L’Amico Francesco’ by Domenico Morelli. Yet even at this time Caruso was far from a finished product, he was still often cracking on high notes and it wasn’t until he started a relationship with the Italian soprano Ada Giachetti, that his high range began to become secure. Many historians attribute Caruso’s improvement of his high notes to Giachetti’s help and advice. Caruso and Giachetti had four sons together, but only two survived infancy; Rodolfo and Enrico Jr. After some years together Caruso and Giachetti split.
By the time Caruso was in his thirties, his voice was incredibly large and powerful, warm, rich, beautiful and ringing. His technique was close to perfection and resulted in probably the most well balanced voice the world has ever heard. Yet it is important to note that Caruso was also an amazing artist and often sang with excellent taste and refined musicality, as well as great passion and emotional conviction. Caruso was able to sing heavy dramatic tenor roles such as Radames from ‘Aida’, yet his voice was sweet and flexible enough to sing lighter parts as well, such as Nemorino in ‘L’elisir D’amore’.
In 1918 Caruso married Dorothy Park Benjamin and they had a daughter named Gloria. Just a few years later in 1921, Caruso passed away from ill health. He was just 48 years old. The audio clip I have included here is ‘Donna non vidi mai’ from Puccini’s ‘Manon Lescaut’. It is a remarkably crisp and clean recording which I think shows Caruso’s voice off a lot better than some of his other recordings do.