John Steane introduces here a further collection of vignettes on the life, art and times of famous singers. This third and final volume ranges from some, such as the formidable Lilli Lehman, who were survivors from the so-called golden age of the 1890s, to others - Cecilia Bertoli and Ian Bostridge among them - whom the twentieth century has bequeathed to the twenty-first. Most of the national schools are represented, with Kozlovsky and Nesterenko among the Russians, Plancon and Souzay for the French, and Irmgard Seefried and Frida Leider as examples of the Austro-German. The English-speaking countries have singers from the past such as Maggie Teyte and Heddle Nash, and some, like Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson, from the States are very much of the present. Many of the great names are here, including Melchior, Heldentenor of the century, Gigli, the most popular Italian singer of his generation and Caruso, still widely regarded as the greatest of all.
As readers of the two previous volumes will know, these are not bland endorsements of well-established reputations but critical essays which seek out the singers' special qualities and relate them to wider concerns in music and in life.