Can Belto

On the art of singing and those who practice it…

Sometime I feel like a motherless child….

Sometimes I feel like the red headed one…

I have a bone to pic, and this one is kind of a biggie for me. I have always been kind of particular about my music and how I shop for it.  I remember how I used to work at a Musicland/Sam Goody (remember those?) in the town I went to school in. At that time, they didn’t have squat on Classical; we had the worse classical selection in town (In the biggest opera school in the world, mind you). Obviously, I could not shop there for stuff to add to my collection; for that I had to go to the other CD shops. It was a religious thing to visit the store every Tuesday when Music School students got 10-20% off, plus all the other offers they got. Needless to day, there came a time I got to know their collection quite well.  Every once in a while, the phone at Musicland would ring, it was the Classical clerk at the other store asking for me. Hey man, do you know if we got this recording? No, I am not kidding, the people from the other store would call me at my job (and sometimes at home) to ask me if THEY had a specific recording in their stock, sometimes they would ask me what to recommend to a customer.

All that rambling just to say that after a couple of years buying recordings to build my collection, I think I know a thing or 2 about cataloging recordings in a shop, and I have gotten used to  seeing the same basic recordings and their reissue incarnations. Plus, I read some in the area of recordings and casts and who has done what and when. SO…

I am shopping at and I am looking for stuff to download since I got a gift certificate. I go to the Music section and when I get there, on the left of the screen they have this list of categories, which is kind of helpful since it allows you to narrow down your search.  I click Classical Music and right after that i click on the Opera & Vocal link.  Now, within the Opera & Vocal section, they have sub-categories titled General, Arias, Divas, Composers (and Performers) A-ZHistorical Periods, Operettas, Oratorios, Vocal (non opera), and Voices. Mind you, if you see, we are in Opera and Vocal section and there is every sub-division known to man BUT one that says Complete Operas; this doesn’t bode well…

So I click on the Arias section (what can I do?, there is not a Complete Operas section). Imagine my surprise when among the oratorio section I find the following treasures: Yo Yo Ma: Simply Barroque, The Art of Segovia, Christmas with Mario Lanza and several others, make that MANY more. Yep, there is not  a single opera aria in any of those recordings, but they ara cataloged under the Arias section…

So I decide to investigate the operetta section. You know, every once in a while you do need to let your hair down and sing Meine Lippen or Viljia. So imagine my surprise when I get these recommendations for a night of light entertainment and relaxation: Turandot with Sutherland & Pavarotti, Carmen with Callas and Gedda, Tosca with Callas and Pippo di Stefano and Traviata with Cotrubas and Domingo. Yes, all perfect for one of those nights when you need to pour a glass of port and CUT YOUR VEINS OPEN… LOL. Did i just say that? Now, here’s the cake. Among the many mistakes that you find in this sectyion, you also find Holiday instrumental Music by Mantovani and his orchestra. Oh, but the fun does not stop there. A quick look in the Cantatas section of the Vocal-non Opera section yields this as first choice: Sarah Brightman, A Winter Symphony. I have to confess, I had no idea that Sarah Brightman (or Josh Groban for that matter) was a Bach specialist.  Sometimes I wish I was making this shit up… At least the Chanson section has people actually singing French art songs.

So my question is. Do people at not have the money to hire people who actually know about Music and how to catalogue it correctly? I mean, you have an Opera and Vocal section with a whole bunch of categories but none of them is Complete Operas, then you put the operas with the operettas and then put Christmas and Holiday music all over the map. This is stupid in so many levels it baffles me. Why not use a smarter way of cataloging the music, one that will yield actual and accurate results.

  • How about having a Holiday Music section and within that have sub categories for Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other Holidays?
  • How about a Complete operas section where you actually find complete operas as opposed to having to click on the operetta section to find them?
  • How about an operetta section that then subdivides into German, Zarzuela, French, American operettas and the like?
  • How about a section for crossover artists like Brightman, Paul Potts, Josh Groban, and crossover efforts by Domingo, Pavarotti, Kiri and the many opera singers who do them every year?
  • How about an Arias section where you find people SINGING, and not an infinite list of Opera without words, or Freddy Kruger Plays Puccini in a Broken Violin

I am sure anyone with an expertise in the symphonic repertoire would find just as many mistakes and instances when he is looking for symphonies and (s)he comes up with Pavarotti and the Dixie Chicks Play all the Beatles Songs

Then I move to to shop. If I thought the people at Amazon are clueless, the people at Borders are just plain dumb or worse. I will give them this: Their cataloging is a LOT better. When they say Operas, they mean operas. If you click on the operas tab, you will not come across some recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8. They also have a way to separate your search by budget. That way you can limit your search if you do not want to pay more than $10, $15, $20, $30 ext. That I find quite useful, since it allows me to stay in budget.  So in terms of cataloging, the people at get an A+. What’s my problem then?, funny you asked…

In my search, I find this treasure: Puccini, Manon Lescaut, performer: Giuseppe di Stefano $10.99. I see that and I immediately think: I am fucking lucky, this is the Callas Manon Lescaut, which I don’t have and at a great price. I mean, I had checked my reference guide for recordings and I know that Pippo only recorded Manon Lescaut with Callas; short of a live recording that I didn’t know existed, this should’ve been a shoe-in.

Like every self-respecting site, allows you to listen to samples and I did just that. Imagine my surprise when I start listening to In quelle trine morbide and I just keep thinking: This is not Callas, why is this woman sounding like Licia Albanese? I go to check the tenor, I know Pippo’s voice from a million tenors. I press the Donna non vidi mai and what do I get? Bjorling. Yes, the incompetent bastards not only failed to include a full cast for the recording (something that boils me. If you recorded a role in the opera, you should be mentioned in the cast; it is common decency) the stupid fucks identified the recording as belonging to Giuseppe di Stefano and he is nowhere near that recording.

So here my question is: Does Borders not have enough money to check that the operas they are going to put are correctly identified? Can they not do basic checks to make sure that the recordings are properly labeled so the people can find them, as opposed to run into them or worse, buy them in a different place?  I swear, sometimes the biggest corporations, with the biggest budgets are the ones that make the cheapest mistakes…


December 1, 2009 - Posted by | Rants | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Temporarily, you can cultivate a relationship with a eBay retailer (such as moi) who specializes in merchandise that interests you. Though I actually list much more on Amazon, that service is very inflexible. Through eBay small sellers you can get better information, recommendations, etc from informed sellers, but with a much smaller selection. Of course, eBay is driving small sellers out of business, so you’ll soon be on your own …

    Comment by operaguy56 | December 4, 2009 | Reply

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