Why Golden Voices Fade

Restraint is the key to a long reign at the top

Soprano Mirella Freni, 56, will not sing Madama Butterfly onstage. The part is so heavily emotional that she feels it could upset the vocal balance she has spent a lifetime achieving. Luciano Pavarotti has just won acclaim for his first Otello, and most musical experts think he was right to wait until age 55 to try the heroic role. The list of parts that tenor Alfredo Kraus, 63, will not touch reads almost like a chart of opera's greatest hits, including Cavaradossi in Tosca and Rodolfo in La Boheme. Kraus sticks strictly to lighter parts that do not strain his pure,...

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