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James McCracken

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Heroic tenor James McCracken achieved international fame in the heaviest tenor repertory; unusually, he did this only after leaving the famed Metropolitan Opera, where he felt his career had stalled in comprimario roles. Taking leave of the Metropolitan in 1957, he was engaged at Bonn and steadily made his way forward singing dramatic roles; this trend eventually culminated in Otello, which served as his reintroduction to America in 1960 at the Washington Opera. Unlike many heroic tenors, who often begin their careers as baritones, McCracken's voice was placed in the tenor range from the very beginning, and he took pride in the fact that he sang the high Cs in Il trovatore, eschewing the transposition that many spinto-weight singers take for granted. A singer of stupendous intensity, his vocal approach sounded highly pressurized, but his voice remained undiminished right to the time of his death at age 61. Clearly, as he himself insisted, he had been singing correctly; otherwise, his voice could not have remained fresh and secure in such a punishing repertory. McCracken studied at Columbia University and sang on Broadway during that period. His principal voice teacher was Wellington Ezekiel. While his debut took place as Rodolfo in a 1952 production of La bohème in Central City, CO, his Metropolitan Opera contract kept him in an unending string of small roles. From his first Met performance as Parpignol (La Bohème) on November 21, 1953, he progressed little and, after four seasons, departed for Europe to pursue the repertory for which his large voice was suited. In Bonn, he sang Canio, Max (Der Freischütz), and Radames. His protagonist in Washington's 1960 production of Otello attracted worldwide attention. Later that year, he sang the role in Vienna and Zurich and returned triumphantly to the Metropolitan in 1963 as the jealous Moor. London heard his Otello in 1964 and thereafter, he continued to enjoy an active European career. Counting those performance amassed as a minor singer in his first four seasons, McCracken sang more than 400 performances at the Metropolitan from 1963 on, always in the dramatic or heroic repertories. Among the Canios, Samsons, Manricos, Calafs, and appearances as Radames and Tannhäuser were two striking productions of exceptional interest. When Leonard Bernstein conducted Carmen with Marilyn Horne in 1972, McCracken was his José and the production was subsequently recorded. When Meyerbeer's sprawling Le prophète was revived in 1977 after decades of neglect, McCracken was assigned the title role, Jean de Leyde, in a cast including Horne, Renata Scotto, and Jerome Hines. While many felt in advance that the tenor's technical approach would be too strenuous, in fact he sang the role with both power and a good measure of elegance, employing falsetto for some soft, high-lying passages. This production, too, was recorded and has remained in the catalog ever since. McCracken spoke freely about his vocal technique. He insisted that, despite the explosive sound he produced, he attacked notes gently. During the decade before his death, he worked with Joyce McLaine in New York, noting that he had grown increasingly aware of keeping all the physical elements in alignment. Wisely, he limited his Wagner roles, realizing that these would pull down the center of his voice and cost him his spectacular top register. Together with his wife, mezzo soprano Sandra Warfield, McCracken sang numerous recitals, particularly during the latter part of his career.
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Stations Featuring
James McCracken


Albums by
James McCracken

Top Songs by
James McCracken

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Beethoven - Fidelio - In des Lebens Fruhlingstagen
  3.   Beethoven - Fidelio - Gott Welch' Dunkel hier
  4.   Birthday of a King
  5.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Vorspiel
  6.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Nun dämpft die Dämm'rung
  7.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. O, wenn des Mondes Strahlen
  8.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Roß! Mein Roß!
  9.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Sterne jubeln
  10.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. So tanzen die Engel vor Gottes Thron nicht
  11.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Nun sag ich dir zum ersten Mal
  12.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Es ist Mitternachtszeit
  13.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Du sendest mir einen Liebesblick
  14.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Du wunderliche Tove! / Zwischenspiel
  15.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 1. Tauben von Gurre!
  16.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 2. Herrgott, weißt du, was du tatest
  17.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Die wilde Jagd. Erwacht, König Waldemars Mannen wert!
  18.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Die wilde Jagd. Deckel des Sarges klappert und klappt
  19.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Die wilde Jagd. Gegrüßt, o König
  20.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Die wilde Jagd. Mit Toves Stimme flüstert der Wald
  21.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Die wilde Jagd. "Ein seltsamer Vogel ist so'n Aal"
  22.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Die wilde Jagd. Du strenger Richter droben
  23.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Die wilde Jagd. Der Hahn erhebt den Kopf zur Kraht
  24.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Des Sommerwindes wilde Jagd (Melodram). Vorspiel
  25.   Gurrelieder, oratorio for 5 soloists, reciter, chorus & orchestra~Part 3. Des Sommerwindes wilde Jagd (Melodram). Herr Gänsefuß, Frau Gänsekraut
  26.   Gurre-Lieder~1. Orchestral Prelude
  27.   Gurre-Lieder~4. Waldemar: Ross! Mein Ross!
  28.   Gurre-Lieder~6. Waldemar: So tanzen die Engel
  29.   Gurre-Lieder~10. Waldemar: Du wunderliche Tove!
  30.   Gurre-Lieder~12. Waldemar: Herrgott, weisst du, was du tatest
  31.   Gurre-Lieder~13. Waldemar: Erwacht, König Waldemars Mannen wert!
  32.   Gurre-Lieder~15. Waldemar's Men: Gegrüsst, o König
  33.   Gurre-Lieder~17. Klaus the Jester: Ein seltsamer Vogel
  34.   Gurre-Lieder~19. Waldemar's Men: Der Hahn erhebt den Kopf
  35.   Gurre-Lieder~22. Mixed Chorus: Seht die Sonne
  36.   Samson et Dalila~Un dieu plus puissant
  37.   Otello~Act 1. Già nella notte densa
  38.   Carmen~Act 2. Je vais danser en votre honneur
  39.   Aida~Act 4. Guardie! Radames qui venga
  40.   Il Trovatore~Act 3. Ah sì, ben mio ... L'onda de'suoni mistici ... Di quella Pira
  41.   La forza del destino~Act 3. La vita è inferno ... Oh, tu che in seno agli angeli
  42.   Otello~Act 4. Niun mi tema
  43.   La Fanciulla del West~Act 2. Una parola sola ... Or son sei mesi
  44.   Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg~Act 3. Morgenlich leuchtend
  45.   Tannhäuser~Act 3. Hör' an, Wolfram! ... Inbrunst im Herzen
  46.   Otello~Già nella notte densa
  47.   Carmen~Je vais danser et votre honneur
  48.   Aida~Guardie! Radames qui venga
  49.   Il trovatore~Ah sì, ben mio... Di quella pira
  50.   La forza del destino~La vita è inferno all'infelice... Oh, tu che in seno agl'angeli
  51.   Otello~Niun mi tema
  52.   La fanciulla del west~Una parola sola... Or son sei mesi
  53.   Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg~Morgenlich leuchtend
  54.   Tannhäuser~Hör' an, Wolfram!... Inburnst im Herzen
  55.   Otello~Fuoco di gioia!
  56.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 1. Orchestral Prelude
  57.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 2. Waldemar: Nun dämpft die Dämmerung
  58.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 3. Tove: O, wenn des Mondes Strahlen
  59.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 4. Waldemar: Ross! Mein Ross!
  60.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 5. Tove: Sterne jubeln
  61.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 6. Waldemar: So tanzen die Engel
  62.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 7. Tove: Nun sag ich dir zum ersten Mal
  63.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 8. Waldemar: Es ist Mitternachtszeit
  64.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 9. Tove: Du sendest mir einen Liebesblick
  65.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 10. Waldemar: Du wunderliche Tove!
  66.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 1. 11. Voice of the Wood-dove: Doves of Gurre
  67.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 2. 12. Waldemar: Herrgott, weisst du, was du tatest
  68.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 13. Waldemar: Erwacht, König Waldemars Mannen wert!
  69.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 14. Peasant: Deckel des Sarges Klappert
  70.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 15. Waldemar's Men: Gegrüsst, o König
  71.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 16. Waldemar: Mit Toves Stimme flüstert der Wald
  72.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 17. Klaus the Jester: Ein seltsamer Vogel
  73.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 18. Waldemar: Du strenger Richter
  74.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 19. Waldemar's Men: Der Hahn erhebt den Kopf
  75.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 20. Orchestral Prelude
  76.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 21. Speaker: Herr Gänsefuss, Frau Gänsekraut
  77.   Gurre-Lieder~Part 3. 22. Mixed Chorus: Seht die Sonne

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