cherubino | Houston, Texas United States | 07/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gencer's story is one of the most interesting of opera during the 20th century. How is it possible that, during the "bel canto revival" of the 50's and 60's, one of its very few specialists was never offered a recording contract? As Gencer states in an interview given recently, the reason may be that the American recording companies only wanted a "voce pura." Although technically speaking, Gencer ranks with the very best, she did have some peculiarities in her voice that you have to develop a taste for. In this regard, she reminds me much of Raina Kabaivanska, a celebrated Butterfly with a cult following in Italy who barely made a splash here in the U.S.A little known fact is that, had Gencer been available when Marilyn Horne pulled out of the AOS production of Lucrezia Borgia, Montserrat Caballe would have been denied her overnight rise to international stardom (though it is safe to say it would have come sooner or later).Here, on Disc 1, you have a sampling of some of Gencer's bel canto forays. Unfortunately, most were recorded in the late sixties, when she was moving past her prime. To have an idea of the youthful Gencer, listen to the two selections from Anna Bolena that appear at the end of the CD. However, even a little past her prime, Gencer enthralls you with her varied gifts. Like Callas, she had a fiery temperment, best captured on the finale to Medea, included here, as well as "Deh, non volerli" from Norma, which is truly heart-rending. However, unlike Callas, she knew that fire-and-brimstone should not be turned on all the time, which is why she also developed a wonderful pianissimo, like Caballe. Just listen to the long, long pianissimo she floats at the end of "Sediziosi voci." Although never allowed to rise to the level of fame of Callas, Sutherland, Caballe, and Sills, Gencer was and is an integral part of bel canto singing, and the current interest in live recordings will ensure that her legacy is not forgotten."
Queen of Pirates
Kethryn Alexander | hawaii | 06/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leyla Gencer is a lesser known soprano who was often compared to maria callas and able to not only hold her own during an era of Tebaldi and Caballe but to excell. You will find with Gencer the full diva package. Here we have a voice which is distinctive and expressive. Gencer makes full use of all the shades and power of her instrument to bring her charcters to life. She is a coluratura dramatic in the truest sense. Though she didn't possess the well rounded and full beauty of tone that tebaldi did.. her sound is pleasant and can be quite beautiful. Especially in her piani and pianissimo we are treated to exceptionally beautiful notes. Her style of singing is quite similar to Caballe, though gencer did come first and single handedly caused the return of many Donizetti and other bel canto composers back to the forefront of opera. Before there was Sills great queens- we had Gencer. We are treated to a Norma, Macbeth, and Medea all in the same league as Callas with a less flawed sound. Although Gencer was never able to match callas' expressive nuances or acting genius.. fans will no doubt come to hold gencer in their hearts as well. This inexpensive disc provides a good intro to one of the greatest and least known divas of our times. Gencer remains the queen of the Pirates- no commercial recordings yet able to be one of the best represented singers on disc thanks to her pirated performances."
Sanford P. Press | Canadensis, PA. USA | 04/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't say enough about Leyla Gencer. A star who was exciting as Callas yet easier to listen to. Enjoy what recordings you can find. They are sparse! Though we can delight in some wonderful voices in 2005, this lady can't be beat. Don't know anyone like her today."
Enthusiasm, characterization, but rough edges. . . .
Steven A. Peterson | Hershey, PA (Born in Kewanee, IL) | 04/24/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The liner notes to this CD observe that Leyla Gencer has "a cadre of fans [who have] always rooted for her devotedly." The notes go on to say that "Her voice was not large, nor her production absolutely even; but she compensated for these liabilities with many other talents."
Uneven is a good term to describe her singing. . . . Let's take a look at a couple "cuts" from this CD. From Bellini's "Norma," she sings "Sediziose voce. . .Casta diva." Hers is not a lovely voice, although there is a richness to it. She has a heavier tone than other singing the repertoire. There are harsh edges to her voice. She does transmit a sense of the character.
She also sings ""Egli e spento" from Donizetti's "Belisario." Again, there are genuinely rough edges to her singing, although she does serviceable work. She just does not seem "ready for prime time." Coloratura technique is minimal across the various cuts--including this one. She does hit a nice high note at the end of this aria.
From "Maria Stuarda," by Donizetti, she sings "Figlia impure di Bolena." She shows the emotions of Maria Stuarda nicely. Still, vocal qualities are not very attractive. Her voice is also overwhelmed by the orchestra at times. Once more, little coloratura technique. Nice high note at the end, but her voice does not soar.
From Donizetti's "Anna Bolena," Gencer sings "Come innocente giovane." Her singing here is animated, but vocal qualities a bit uneven. Finally, from the same opera, she sings "Piangete voi?. . .Al dolce guidami." There is some coloratura technique here, although not outstanding.
So, what to make of Leyla Gencer? She sings enthusiastically; she provides a sense of the character. But somehow, from what I hear, her voice and technique are not up to the task of providing excellent renderings of the works selected for this CD. "
Fascinating voice - poor sound
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 05/23/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It is clear from Steven A. Peterson's review below that he does not really have a taste for Gencer's extraordinary voice. He correctly identifies her flaws, to which I would add the discoloured, rather metallic tone and those glottal attacks when wide intervals in pitch have to be spanned, and yet, and yet and yet... here is some of the most exciting singing to be heard anywhere - and the audience's reaction to these live performances confirms how thrilling Gencer was when heard in a theatre. Her floated soft high notes and the climactic high C's and D's she sustains in the Donizetti arias are things of wonder and she injects such feeling and character into her depiction of those tragic heroines that criticism is silenced. I would sooner listen to her risky vocalisation any day over the safer, blander interpretations of more vocally even divas. And I do not by any means always find her voice lacking beauty; there is often a crystalline quality combined with a richness of tone and a fluency of articulation.
My reason for three stars, therefore, lies not with the performance but with the muddy, blurred sound of these live recordings - which nobody else mentions. I am no hi-fi addict but this disc simply emphasises how sad it was that Gencer, who died just this month, was neglected by the major recording companies. She was a reat artist and a true original. (For a souvenir of her artistry in somewhat better sound, try the Opera d'Oro "Simon Boccanegra" with Gobbi, or, even better, the "Gerusalemme" with Aragall in his debut, which is in surprisingly good sound for so old a live recording.)"