The finest books on historical opera singers

Nick Limansky Author Of Early 20th Century Opera Singers: Their Voices and Recordings from 1900-1949
By Nick Limansky

Who am I?

Having been a professional singer for about five decades and having grown up with, and studied the early recordings of operatic singers for just as long, I feel that I am in an unusual position when it comes to analysing their art. The ability to describe a singer’s voice on paper is a unique challenge but one that I enjoy solving – especially since each voice is a law unto itself. When done correctly, analysis like this should make the reader want to go and find the recording so that they can listen for themselves.


I wrote...

Early 20th Century Opera Singers: Their Voices and Recordings from 1900-1949

By Nick Limansky,

Book cover of Early 20th Century Opera Singers: Their Voices and Recordings from 1900-1949

What is my book about?

In the first book of this kind to appear in decades, Nicholas Limansky explains why critical listening is important and describes the merits of analyzing and comparing the recordings of previous generations of singers with those of the present. He also recounts how markedly record collecting has changed through the decades-especially in large cities like New York-mainly due to technological advances. He not only treats collecting 78 rpm disks, but LPs and CDs as well.

With an emphasis on today's student and collector, Limansky provides information about where, how, and on what labels given recordings can be found. He discusses printed resources that offer the interested even more information. Beginners and veterans alike will find much of interest in this far-ranging book.

The books I picked & why

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The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing on Record

By J.B. Steane,

Book cover of The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing on Record

Why this book?

J.B. Steane’s massive book, over 600 pages, is one of the most comprehensive books on historical singers ever written. My copy is riddled with text underlining and notes in the margins. His evaluations of singers are always honest, but fair. I have read this book at least 3 times and have re-read sections many more times. It invaluable.

The Record of Singing Vol. 1

By Michael Scott,

Book cover of The Record of Singing Vol. 1

Why this book?

A remarkable tracing of the evolution of singing throughout the decades. Occasionally Scott is dismissive, (sometimes of the most famous singers) but his remarks are always intriguing and thought-provoking. Through his text, Scott causes one to re-evaluate some of the most famous singers and the reason for their fame.

Saturday Afternoons at the Old Met: The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, 1931-1950

By Paul Jackson,

Book cover of Saturday Afternoons at the Old Met: The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, 1931-1950

Why this book?

One of the greatest series of books ever written about the early years of live broadcasting from the Metropolitan Opera. Jackson’s detailed analysis of the existing broadcasts is informative and fascinating. Even better they can be read by themselves, or even better, when listening to the actual broadcast. The amount of information in this series (3) is unbelievably vast and fascinating. All three are recommended.

Herman Klein and the Gramophone

By William R. Moran,

Book cover of Herman Klein and the Gramophone

Why this book?

Herman Klein wrote for the magazine, Gramophone during the 1920s and his reviews of the then-current 78 r.p.m. recordings are among the best you can read. This book from Amodeus Press contains all his reviews and articles for that magazine and is a fascinating, essential read. This is another book that I have read and re-read over the years, scribbled in the margins, and quoted from in my own writing.

Opera on Record

By Alan Blyth,

Book cover of Opera on Record

Why this book?

This series of 3 books traces the recordings of various operas from the infancy of recording through modern-day recording and is another fascinting read. Making this even more interesting is the fact that each opera is taken on by a different writer so you always get a fresh view on the works being discussed.

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