A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 27, 2015
“1. Bel canto, 2. Can belto, 3. Can’t belto, 4. Can’t canto” (four stages of a soprano’s life)

New York-born Ira Siff created La Gran Scena Opera Co. in 1981, often featuring Siff’s diva character, Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh. In the recording “Forgeef Me My Enklish”: the Wit and Wisdom of Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh (1998), the Madame stated that the vocal life of a soprano has four stages:
“1. Bel canto, 2. Can belto, 3. Can’t belto, 4. Can’t canto.”
“Bel canto” is Italian for “beautiful singing.” The comedy routine originally appeared on WNYC-FM’s Weekend Music.
Wikipedia: Bel canto
Bel canto (Italian for “beautiful singing” or “beautiful song”), along with a number of similar constructions (“bellezze del canto”/“bell’arte del canto”), is a term relating to Italian singing. It has several different meanings and is subject to a wide variety of interpretations.
The words were not associated with a “school” of singing until the middle of the 19th century, when writers in the early 1860s used it nostalgically to describe a manner of singing that had begun to wane around 1830. Nonetheless, “neither musical nor general dictionaries saw fit to attempt [a] definition [of bel canto] until after 1900”. The term remains vague and ambiguous in the 21st century and is often used to evoke a lost singing tradition.
Ira Siff is a native New Yorker, who grew up on the standing room line of the old Metropolitan Opera, worshiping the famous singers of the 60’s.
In 1981, he founded La Gran Scena Opera Co. di New York, the internationally acclaimed travesty troupe, whose gifted falsetto “divas” have spoofed opera with great affection for over two decades, in New York annually, and on tours to some of the great festivals, theatres and opera houses of the world, ...
Opera News, December 1998 (The Metropolitan Opera Guild, Inc.)
Vera Galupe-Borszkh
“FORGEEF ME MY ENKLISH”: the Wit and Wisdom of Madame Vera Galupe-Borszkh; Siff, Juntwait; LGS012-1/2 (2)

While she may crave adoration as much as the next prima donna, Vera Galupe-Borszkh is a diva of a different stripe: charming, apologetic, solicitous, eager to please. For those unfortunate enough not to know, Galupe-Borszkh is the stage name of Ira Siff, founder of La Gran Scena Opera Co., the all-male opera team who has given New York and the rest of the world many wonderful staged performances of opera excerpts over the past fifteen years. Extracted from twenty-three of Galupe-Borszkh’s weekly appearances on WNYC-FM’s Weekend Music with Margaret Juntwait, the two-CD set offers all the adroit wordplay of the troupe’s live stage shows through the backstage philosophy of an aging diva.
Madame’s monologues, replete with highly original malapropisms (“I rest my cakes!”), can occasionally display a temper about a subject close to her heart, but her purpose is inevitably to instruct. On conductors, for example: “The vocal life of a soprano has four stages: 1, bel canto; 2, can belto; 3, can’t belto; 4, can’t canto. Conductors will get you to stage four as quickly as possible!”
Parterre Box   
December 28, 2006 at 4:22 pm
Bel canto lushinghier
Oh, and for Druid fanciers, the outlook is not quite so rosy: a single revival of Norma next season with Dolora Zajick, Maria Guleghina and Franco Farina — or, as Mme. Vera Galupe-Borzkh might sum it up: “Can Belto, Can’t Belto and Can’t Canto.”
A CurtainUp Review
La Gran Scena Opera Company’s Vera . . . Life of a Diva

By Joan Eshkenazi
Reviewed 11/25/97 by Joan Eshkenazi
According to the Great Vera, there are four stages to a Diva’s life: Bel Canto, Can Belto, Can’t Belto and Non Canto. And, what does a diva do when she has reached the final stage? She teaches.
Google Books
Losing the Plot in Opera:
Myths and Secrets of the World’s Great Operas

By Brian Castles-Onion
Auckland, New Zealand: Exisle Publishing Limited
Pg. iv (Glossary):
Bel canto: This translates from the Italian as ‘beautiful singing’ but is a commonly misused term. Correctly, it refers to a musical and vocal style when drama and perfect singing technique were considered at its peak. These days bel canto means anything from singing fast and high to low and slow. The modern eloquent usage from from the divine Madame Vera Galupe- Borszkh, internationally renowned traumatic soprano, who declares that the vocal life of a soprano has four stages: ‘1. Bel canto, 2. Can belto, 3. Can’t belto, 4. Can’t canto.’
J. L. Águedo-Silva
“The vocal life of a soprano has four stages: 1. Bel canto, 2. Can belto, 3. Can’t belto, 4. Can’t canto…” (Vera Galupe-Borszkh)
6:18 PM - 14 Sep 2009
Allegra Giagu
Vocal life of a soprano ‘1. Bel Canto, 2. Can belto, 3. Can’t belto, 4. Can’t canto’. Haha. Xx
6:55 AM - 13 May 2011
Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune
New classical CDs: One lasting voice and four sparkling hands
Sunday, June 28, 2015 at 12:00 am
Diana Damrau: “Fiamma del Belcanto.” Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino, Gianandrea Noseda, conductor. (Erato)
The stages of a soprano’s life, the old joke goes, are “bel canto,” “can belto,” “can’t belto” and “can’t canto.”
The joke is predicated on the idea that a woman’s voice will deepen and broaden as she ages. But not all do. Some lyric coloraturas — they of the shimmery floating voices — simply get thinner and slightly more brittle.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film/Circus • Saturday, June 27, 2015 • Permalink

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