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Blast from the Past: tenor Miguel Fleta

One of the reasons why some folks carry on about the golden age of singing is that there were (or at least seemed to be) so many exceptional artists all at once -- a whole bunch of amazing sopranos and tenors, an impressive quantity of rich-toned baritones and basses. Even a lot of the singers who are not as well know today as Caruso and that legendary ilk had voices that we would kill for today. Among the less widely famous tenors of days gone by I have a soft spot for Miguel Fleta, the Spanish tenor (1892-1938) who created the role of Calaf in "Turandot."

Although he didn't have a very long career (it seems he didn't treat his vocal instrument as carefully as he should have), Fleta left a distinctive mark via recordings. His specialty was soft dynamics, which I think he does to particularly magical effect in "La donna e mobile" (just once, I'd like to hear a tenor today do something as unhurried and sweetly nuanced as Fleta does at the end of the first verse in this aria).

Whatever flaws one might pick out, this guy sings with a kind of personality that is all too rare now. For this blast from the past, in addition to the "La donna" chestnut, I've picked a couple of other arias that I think capture the engaging Fleta style (including a version of the dream aria from "Manon" that carries individuality to an dangerous extreme, which I find hard to resist nonetheless):

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