Episode 104. Nicolae Herlea

Episode 104. Nicolae Herlea

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Yesterday, August 28, would have been the 94th birthday of the great Romanian baritone Nicolae Herlea (1927 – 2014). I continue my great baritone series with a salute to this extraordinary singer, who, unlike many of his fellow Romanian artists during this era, was able to pursue an active career in the rest of Europe and the United States. For many fans of great singing, Herlea is the Verdi baritone of choice. With this tribute, I begin a series examining great singers whose careers originated on the other side of the so-called Iron Curtain. I present examples from one of Herlea’s first recordings, a 1959 recording of arias made in Moscow with the great Gennady Rozhdestvensky conducting. I follow this with three excerpts from his two albums of Neapolitan songs, and conclude with extended excerpts from four of his recordings, made in Romania, of complete operas, which introduce us to a number of Herlea’s Romanian colleagues from the era, including Virginia Zeani, Arta Florescu, Ion Buzea, Ludovic Spiess, Ludovic Konya, and Magda Ianculescu. This episode also includes brief tributes to two of my favorite singers, recently deceased, who represented completely different genres: the folk singer and songwriter Nanci Griffith, who died on August 13 at the age of 68, and the exquisite Polish soprano, Teresa Żylis-Gara, who died yesterday at the age of 91.

RECORDINGS HEARD IN THIS EPISODE

Gioacchino Rossini: Largo al factotum (Il barbiere di Siviglia). Nicolae Herlea, Jean Bobescu, Orchestra Simfonică a Cinematografiei [Symphonic Cinematographic Orchestra, Bucharest] [1963]

Ruggero Leoncavallo: Un nido di memorie (Pagliacci). Nicolae Herlea, Constantin Bobescu, Orchestra de Studio a Radioteleviziunii Romăne [Romanian Radio and Television Orchestra] [1963]; E voi, piuttoste (Pagliacci). Nicolae Herlea, Mircea Popa, Orchestra Operei Române [Orchestra of the Romanian Opera] [1966]

Charles Gounod: Avant de quitter ces lieux (Faust) [sung in Romanian]. Nicolae Herlea, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, USSR Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra [1959]

Gennady Rozhdestvensky (1931 – 2018)

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky: Yeletsky’s Aria (Pique-Dame) [sung in Romanian]. Nicolae Herlea, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, USSR Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra [1959]

Umberto Giordano: Nemico della patria (Andrea Chénier). Nicolae Herlea, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, USSR Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra [1959]

Rodolfo Falvo, Enzo Fusco: Dicitincello vuje. Nicolae Herlea, Iosif Conta, Orchestra Simfonică a Radioteleviziunii Române [Orchestra of the Romanian Radio and Television] [1963]

Ernesto Tagliaferri, Nicola Valente, Libero Bovio: Passione. Nicolae Herlea, Orchestra conducted by Cornel Popescu, Grupul vocal 5T [1980]

One of the worst of Electrecord’s egregiously ugly record covers (1981).

Ernesto de Curtis, Giovanni Capurro: O sole mio. Nicolae Herlea, Iosif Conta, Orchestra Simfonică a Radioteleviziunii Române [Orchestra of the Romanian Radio and Television] [1963]

Nicolae Bretan, Mihai Eminescu: Ş-acele dulci păreri de rău [And that sweet remorse]. Ludovic Konya, Ferdinand Weiss [live Budapest 09.73]

Nicolae Bretan, George Coşbuc: Gazel. Ludovic Konya, Ferdinand Weiss [live Cluj 20.11.75]

Arta Florescu

Ruggero Leoncavallo: So ben che diforme, contorto son io (Pagliacci). Nicolae Herlea, Arta Florescu, Mircea Popa, Orchestra Operei Române [Orchestra of the Romanian Opera] [1966]

Virginia Zeani

Giuseppe Verdi: Pura siccome un angelo… Ah, dite alla giovine (La traviata). Nicolae Herlea, Virginia Zeani, Jean Bobescu, Orchestra Operei Române [Orchestra of the Romanian Opera] [1968]

Ludovic Spiess

Giuseppe Verdi: Solenne in quest’ora (La forza del destino). Nicolae Herlea, Ludovic Spiess, Carol Litvin, Orchestra de Studio a Radioteleviziunii Române [Romanian Radio Orchestra] [1970]

Magda Ianculescu

Giuseppe Verdi: Della vendetta alfin giunge l’istante… V’ho ingannato (Rigoletto). Nicolae Herlea, Magda Ianculescu, Ion Buzea, Nicolae Florei, Stelian Olariu, Orchestra şi Corui Teatrului de Operă şi Balet [Orchestra and Chorus of the Romanian Opera and Ballet] [1965]

Giuseppe Verdi: Oh, de’ verd’anni miei (Ernani). Nicolae Herlea, Iosif Conta, Orchestra Simfonică a Radioteleviziunii Române [Romanian National Radio and Television Orchestra] [1973]

Nino Rota, Unknown Lyricist: Luceferi mari [Bright morning stars] (AKA A Time for Us). Nicolae Herlea [1981]

Teresa Żylis-Gara (23 January 1930 – 28 August 2021)

Gabriel Fauré, Armand Silvestre: Les berceaux, Op. 23/1. Teresa Żylis-Gara, Ewa Osińska [live Valencia] [unknown date]

Nanci Griffith (6 July 1953 – 13 August 2021)

Kate Wolf: Across the Great Divide. Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, etc. (from Other Voices, Other Rooms [1993])

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