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In Defense of Chaliapin

April 25, 1999

I beg to differ with Jan Breslauer's statement that opera singer Dwayne Croft has "got the right stuff . . . for a world where 'stand and sing' declamation has gone the way of Feodor Chaliapin and Rosa Ponselle" ("The American Precedent," April 18).

Unfortunately, I never saw Chaliapin perform in person, but from all I've heard, if he was not the first, he was one of the first singing actors in opera in this century. He could mesmerize an audience with just a look.

I happen to have studied voice with two singers who actually sang with him, Henriette Wakefield and Zinaida Lisichkina. What they and others have said disclaims Breslauer's remark.

EDWARD ANSARA

Alhambra

*

Breslauer could not have dredged up two more inept examples than the venerated Chaliapin and Poselle. Chaliapin, in particular, was renowned for his riveting stage presence.

The "new breed" of singer for which Croft is represented here, American trained and dramatically compelling, actually began at the Metropolitan Opera in the mid-1920s with California native Lawrence Tibbett.

J.S. KLEINSASSER

Bakersfield

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