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Subject: Greatest Wagnerian Sopranos (was Re: Birgit Nilsson Great Streaming Documentary)
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Tue, 9 Jan 2018 16:08:46 -0500

text/plain (46 lines)

"For me, [Nilsson] and Flagstad rule as the two Wagnerian sopranos of the Twentieth 

Well, I would make it a quartet:  Flagstad, Nilsson, Leider, and Varnay, with Flagstad and 
Nilsson taking the vocal honors, and Leider and Varnay the dramatic.  Although Varnay and 
Leider were tremendous vocally, as well, and neither Flagstad nor Nilsson was a slouch on 
stage.  When Flagstad first appeared on the international scene, many Wagner lovers, while 
recognizing Flagstad's vocal splendor, regarded Leider as her superior over all.  For those 
who don't know Leider's voice, check her out on youtube:  

There is a fantastic live recording from Covent Garden of Leider and Melchior in 
Gotterdammerung Act II, conducted by Furtwangler, although at that point in her career 
Leider was starting to sing a bit flat at times in the upper register.    

Traubel was great, too, but IMO not in the absolute top echelon with the other ladies.  Modl 
was a dramatic force of nature on stage, which one can hear even on recordings, but vocally 
compromised as a pushed-up mezzo with a problematic top and rather thick tone.

There really hasn't been a great Wagnerian soprano (the hochdramatische variety) since 
Nilsson hung up her breastplate and horned helmet.  Behrens, Voigt and Stemme, 
notwithstanding their various merits, have all been make-dos in one way or another.  Rita 
Hunter was excellent - I heard her as Brunnhilde in the 70s - but her grotesque obesity, 
outsized even by operatic standards, was a real problem on stage.  Jones made a huge 
sound and was compelling dramatically, but I was always bothered by her wide vibrato, 
which at times veered into a genuine wobble. 



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