Pirates of the High Cs: Opera Bootlegging in the 20th Century—Nicholas Limnasky


Practiced internationally between 1960 and 2000, opera piracy (the illegal practice of recording live operatic performances in the opera house) was rampant. How fortunate! Through this we are provided documentation of famous voices as they sounded in real life, not as they were altered in the sound chambers of recording companies.

This book guides opera lovers as to what to listen for in a given singer’s voice and performances. The author discusses the performer’s individual singing characteristics (and, sometimes, their shortcomings) in specific roles and, sometimes, specific performances of those roles. Bootlegged recordings can even provide a comparison between a star’s performance of a given role on Tuesday to one sung that Thursday while comparing both of those to commercial recordings of that role.

Concentrating on divas, there are lengthy individual technical discussions of the singing abilities and recording histories of Magda Olivera, Leyla Gencer, Leonie Rysanek, Faith Esham, Beverly Hoch, Ashley Putnam, Gianna Rolandi, Diana Soviero, Olivia Stapp, Ruth Welting, Sheryl Woods, and many others.

Limansky’s own experience is woven into a history of pirating. Who were the pirates? How did they get away with it? (They didn’t always.) How and where did they do their recording? The author, a pirate himself, tells us. He examines the moral dilemma of being a pirate while also performing as a professional musician.

What did the stars think of pirating? Many promoted the practice. Why? Publicity was part of it. Limansky clarifies the rest of it.

As a bonus, the book concludes with a rare, previously unpublished interview that the author conducted with the great American soprano, Roberta Peters in 1985. It includes an analysis of her recorded legacy; both commercial and pirated.

The Author:

Nicholas Limansky studied voice at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and has a performance degree from the University of West Virginia. He has sung with professional choral groups in New York City that include The Bach Aria Group, Musica Sacra, New York Choral Artists (New York Philharmonic), Opera Orchestra of New York, The Netherlands Ballet, and Alvin Ailey (Revelations and Rainbow Round My Shoulder).

He has written performance reviews for the Italian publication, Rassegna Melodrammatica and reviewed new vocal releases of historical singers for Opera NewsThe Record CollectorClassical Singer, and Opera Quarterly. He lectures at the New York Vocal Record Collectors Society and has for more than ten years been a member of its board of directors.

Limansky has written a career overview and critical analysis of the 1950s Peruvian singer, Yma Sumac, Yma Sumac: The Art Behind the Legend, published by YBK Publishers. It is now considered to be the definitive work on this elusive artist.

Limansky also wrote Early 20th Century Opera Singers: Their Voices and Recordings from 1900-1949 published by YBK Publishers.

This work, Pirates of the High Cs: Opera Bootlegging in the 20th Century is the third of Limansky’s YBK books.

Pirates of the High Cs: Opera Bootlegging in the 20th Century
230 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936411-62-7
Price: $27.95
Weight .891 lbs
Dimensions 9.25 × 7.5 in


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