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The greatest baritones of all time.

Nicolae Herlea
Nicolae Herlea

In the course of a recent conversation, I realized I had something of a blindspot in my operatic acumen when it came to baritones and basses of the golden era. The golden era of opera is roughly the late 1930s until about the mid-1970s. I set about rectifying this omission. I knew the big names such as Tito Gobbi, George London, and Leonard Warren. Those are all excellent singes but I knew there had to be more.


The first singer I focused on was Joseph Greindl. I had just listened to Wagner’s Ring Cycle conducted by Joseph Keilberth in 1955 and Greindl sang the role of Hagen. His performance is definitive. 


Video:

Gotterdammerung: Hoi-ho!




Greindl was a German operatic bass renowned for his powerful voice and commanding stage presence. Born in Munich, Greindl's career unfolded against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. He made his operatic debut in 1936 at the Munich State Opera.


Greindl's deep, resonant bass voice lent authority to a wide range of roles, from Wagner to Mozart. His interpretations were marked by a profound understanding of character and an ability to convey emotional nuance through his vocal artistry.


The next singer is Nicolae Herlea. I found him because my current favorite baritone, Lucas Meecham, recommended Herlea on his Instagram. Herlea now sits next to tenor Franco Corelli, mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto, and soprano Leontyne Price in my top tier of operatic superheroes. 


Herlea was born in Romania but he thrived in the Italian repertoire. He is the very definition of a Verdi baritone. The voice is rich but never gets muddy on top.He is one of the greatest opera singers I’ve ever heard and I’d never heard of him. I only found him because of, gasp, social media.

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Video:

Pagliacci: Prologue




Martti Talvela’s career started in the golden era and ended with his untimely death in 1989 at the age of 54.  Born in Hiitola, Finland, Talvela's journey to operatic stardom began at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He quickly gained international acclaim for his powerful voice and versatility, becoming a sought-after performer in major opera houses.


We have video evidence of Talvela singing one of his signature roles, The Grand Inquisitor in Verdi’s Don Carlo opposite the King Phillip II of Joseph Greindl. The duet is one of Verdi’s best but this version is sung in German which gives it a different feel.


Video:

Don Carlo: The Inquisitor Scene




Here are a few more bass/baritones to consider. Lawrence Tibbett, Titta Ruffo, Ettore Bastianini, and Cornell Macneil.



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Nicolae Herlea
Nicolae Herlea

In the course of a recent conversation, I realized I had something of a blindspot in my operatic acumen when it came to baritones and basses of the golden era. The golden era of opera is roughly the late 1930s until about the mid-1970s. I set about rectifying this omission. I knew the big names such as Tito Gobbi, George London, and Leonard Warren. Those are all excellent singes but I knew there had to be more.


The first singer I focused on was Joseph Greindl. I had just listened to Wagner’s Ring Cycle conducted by Joseph Keilberth in 1955 and Greindl sang the role of Hagen. His performance is definitive. 


Video:

Gotterdammerung: Hoi-ho!




Greindl was a German operatic bass renowned for his powerful voice and commanding stage presence. Born in Munich, Greindl's career unfolded against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. He made his operatic debut in 1936 at the Munich State Opera.


Greindl's deep, resonant bass voice lent authority to a wide range of roles, from Wagner to Mozart. His interpretations were marked by a profound understanding of character and an ability to convey emotional nuance through his vocal artistry.


The next singer is Nicolae Herlea. I found him because my current favorite baritone, Lucas Meecham, recommended Herlea on his Instagram. Herlea now sits next to tenor Franco Corelli, mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto, and soprano Leontyne Price in my top tier of operatic superheroes. 


Herlea was born in Romania but he thrived in the Italian repertoire. He is the very definition of a Verdi baritone. The voice is rich but never gets muddy on top.He is one of the greatest opera singers I’ve ever heard and I’d never heard of him. I only found him because of, gasp, social media.

Sponsored
Sponsored


Video:

Pagliacci: Prologue




Martti Talvela’s career started in the golden era and ended with his untimely death in 1989 at the age of 54.  Born in Hiitola, Finland, Talvela's journey to operatic stardom began at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He quickly gained international acclaim for his powerful voice and versatility, becoming a sought-after performer in major opera houses.


We have video evidence of Talvela singing one of his signature roles, The Grand Inquisitor in Verdi’s Don Carlo opposite the King Phillip II of Joseph Greindl. The duet is one of Verdi’s best but this version is sung in German which gives it a different feel.


Video:

Don Carlo: The Inquisitor Scene




Here are a few more bass/baritones to consider. Lawrence Tibbett, Titta Ruffo, Ettore Bastianini, and Cornell Macneil.



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