PETER LINDROOS AND HIS PLACE AMONG THE GREAT TENORS
by Leonardo Ciampa
There is an important difference between publicity in the Caruso era and publicity in the Pavarotti era. Caruso did not have a manager. Caruso didn't “become” the greatest tenor in the world, because he already was the greatest tenor in the world. There were no dissenting opinions. No one in Caruso's day said, “Caruso wasn't that good; he was just OK.” Everyone agreed that he was the greatest – critics, colleagues, public.
Pavarotti had a manager named Breslin. Thanks to the hard work of Breslin, Pavarotti “became” the greatest tenor in the world. Unfortunately, no singer, no critic, no musician – no one who knew anything about singing – believed that he was the greatest. The public believed what they were told. However, they were not given the option of comparison. Had Breslin lined up Pavarotti, Aragall, Gedda, Kraus, and fifteen other tenors, would the public still have voted Pavarotti the greatest? In such a survey, probably Pavarotti would have come in last.
I needed hear only a few minutes of Lindroos's singing to know that he was one of the greatest tenors in the world. He had everything – great voice, great technique, great musicianship, great expression. He was great in every respect that a tenor ought be great.
So why didn't Lindroos become more famous?
Invariably, when one person becomes famous and another of equal talent does not, the reason has nothing to do with music. Events occur. Choices are made. I am not Lindroos's biographer; I am not equipped to explain why his life's path did not take him to the Metropolitan. If I were the director of the Metropolitan and I heard Lindroos sing for a few minutes, I would have said, “He is a very great singer; he shall sing here.” However, the fact that I have an ear does not, in itself, earn me the title, “Director of the Metropolitan.” In fact, having an ear counts for virtually nothing.
The other problem is that overall musicianship is not marketable. If you are a pianist who plays two piano concertos without wrong notes, you can get a New York manager and play 100 concerto performances a year, playing each concerto 50 times. If, instead, you are a composer and an organist and a pianist and a conductor and also a singer, what can a New York manager do with that? How does the manager market you? The better a musician you are, the worse (not better, worse) chance you have of being world-famous. J. S. Bach would not have been world-famous in the 20th century, because no manager in New York would have gone near him.
Rather than dwell on what the world did not recognize, let me dwell on what I do recognize. I recognize that Lindroos had everything. He was one of the most satisfying tenors in the world – satisfying because it was impossible to say, “Something is lacking.” The voice itself was remarkable in its beauty – a beauty that only a Scandinavian voice can have. His diction was formidable; he sang complete operas in eight languages. His technique was that of the great singers of previous generations. In fact, I don't think the Metropolitan would have appreciated his vocal production, which was more akin to the tenors of the 1920s than to those of the 1970s. However, the 1920s technique allows one to sing 1700 operatic performances (which Lindroos did); the 1970s technique does not. Lindroos's musicianship was very strong and imbued every note he sang. His humanity was very rich – he felt the highs, he felt the lows, and this depth of feeling created a wide palette of emotional colors with which he could paint his characters. All of these traits – voice, technique, diction, musicianship, humanity, and Scandinavian genes – combined to produce a tenor, next to whom the Pavarottis and Domingos seem to be utter charlatans.
It is of crucial importance that all of the recordings of Peter Lindroos be made available – so that musicians can study them, and so that music lovers can be blessed by them.