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Subject: Re: Domingo and Norman
From: Scott Grunow <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 16 Nov 2017 15:23:36 -0500

text/plain (54 lines)

I always thought Norman was a "falcon" type, and remember the original  falcon roles like Alice in Robert le Diable, Valentine in Les Huguenots, Rachel in La Juive, and Selika in L'Africaine require high Cs and  some facility in the upper register, including florid singing.

Jenny Lind actually sang Alice rather than Isabelle in Robert le Diable, and she was not exactly a singer with a glorious middle voice (some accounts claimed that area of her voice was "husky;).

Of course many voices deepen and darken and the center of gravity shifts. Ponselle tried Carmen because she knew this was happening to her voice, but she was still a soprano. Yet by 1936 she had dropped the Verdian soprano roles and was singing mostly Carmen, Santuzza, and concerts.

Even when Norman sings contralto repertoire, there's a brightness and lift in the upper passagio that does not occur with a contralto singing the same repertoire. I am thinking of her recording of Das Lied von Erde specifically.

I think Traubel was a similar case, but remember she started singing Wagner (in fact, any opera) quite late.

(Ortrud, Venus and Brangaene are classified as sopranos in Wagner's scores.)

What complicates the issue is that for some time now many mezzos seems to sing with a higher placement. I think some of them in the 30s-40s-50s might have been classified as lyric sopranos, as the repertoire many of these mezzos sing was not available then. I am thinking of the Rossini mezzos who sing Colbran roles like Elena and Semiramide. (It seems like now there are always plenty of lyric mezzos around, but dramatic mezzos or mezzos that tend toward contralto are rarer and now hail from Eastern Europe.)

Mezzos now sing Handel's Alcina, technically a soprano part, distinguished in that opera from the alto castrati role of Ruggiero and the contralto role of Bradamante.

When did Donna Elvira and Zerlina become mezzo roles? There's wasn't really a clear category of "mezzo-soprano" in Handel and Mozart's day. But now mezzos sing them; perhaps these new higher mezzos are more comfortable with the tessitura.


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