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Subject: Re: Greatest Wagnerian Sopranos (was Re: Birgit Nilsson Great Streaming Documentary)
From: Mike Leone <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Mike Leone <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 9 Jan 2018 23:48:03 -0600
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For me at least, Nilsson is at the top of the list, sui generis.  Flagstad is glorious and I especially like her toward the end of her career, the sound in the EMI Tristan and the Decca/Londons, the great earth mother.  I really regret that she didn't get to do Erda in the Solti Siegfried.  I admit to not knowing Leider as well as I should; I have several friends whose opinions I trust and who swear by her.

On the next tier are Traubel for her gorgeous tone and Mödl for her intensity and warmth--I think of her as the Germanic Callas, and not just because they both have a similar "singing through the neck of a bottle" quality, Mödl perhaps more than Callas.  I'd also put Grob-Prandl in that category; she won me over in the Remington Turandot some years ago and I have loved her ever since.

On the next tier is Jones; I've gotten used to her wobble and find her very vulnexciting.  Also Kniplová from the Weatminster Ring; the great primal scream.

On the lowest tier for me is Varnay.  Impossible to ignore but I almost always find her sound to be sour.  She is an ideal Begbick--"keine besser," as Beckmesser says (I don't know if the gender is correct when applied to a woman)--but I'll take a pass on her otherwise.

I'm not ignoring Rysanek.  She is wonderful in the lighter Wagnerian roles, although I think she was having an off-week when she did Sieglinde under Furtwängler with that hollow unsupported tone in the middle.  Her Sieglindes from decades later are vastly superior.  And her screams at the end of the first two acts! (a precursor to Klytämnestra's death screams)

Behrens, Voigt, Stemme and the rest?  Okay but also-rans.  Varnay, for all the faults I find in her, at least always makes a major impression.

Mike Leone

[log in to unmask]
Ecco il Leone!

Sent from my iPhone

> On Jan 9, 2018, at 5:35 PM, donald kane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Weren't Florence Easton, and Marjorie Lawrence notable Wagnerian sopranos
> who just didn't happen to have good recording contracts?  What about
> Gertrude Kappel
> and Marta Fuchs?
> 
> dtmk
> 
>> On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 6:00 PM, Vesna Danilovic <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> 
>> Judging only from their recordings, I agree that all mentioned, and to my
>> ears especially Flagstad and Leider, have not yet been surpassed in the
>> heavier dramatic roles (Isolde, Brunnhilde). I've never heard Germaine
>> Lubin on a complete recording of Wagner's operas (I don't know if she
>> recorded any), but on her various recital discs as well as on the Wagner in
>> French disc, she also strikes me as great as any.
>> 
>> I also very much like the second type of Wagnerian soprano, I believe
>> "jugendlich" dramatic soprano is the term--the roles like Elsa, Elisabeth,
>> Eva, Sieglinde. And here I practically worship Elisabeth Grummer and Leonie
>> Rysanek, not much alike, but each great in her own way. Maria Muller or
>> Elisabeth Rethberg also come to mind from the distant past.
>> 
>> Best, Vesna
>> 
>>> On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 4:40 PM, Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> 
>>> Hi Donald
>>> 
>>> While I agree that Traubel is not to be dismissed, she is emphatically
>>> not in the same league as Flagstad, Nilsson or Leider. One might
>>> argue about Varnay, the 1953 Bayreuth Ring under Clemens Krauss
>>> being a hallmark of the great Brunnhildes, but Modl, whom friends
>>> have described as the visual incarnation of Wagner's greatest
>>> heroine, (i dd not see her except in a comprimario role) was less
>>> than vocal gold, to be kind.
>>> 
>>> I shall continue to believe that the Brinnhilde/Isolde Trinity were
>>> Nilsson, Leider and Flagstad. The others mentioned were better
>>> than just "good" for many different reasons, but they are not
>>> at the top of my list, in any case.
>>> 
>>> Bob
>>> 
>>>> On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 17:10 Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>> I am always surprised the way Helen Traubel is dismissed.  Yes, it was
>> a
>>>> strange career, yes, she herself could be very idiosyncratic.  Vocally,
>>> she
>>>> was the equal of anyone, even with her short top.  For sheer sound, she
>>> was
>>>> the only one who came close to Flagstad.
>>>> 
>>>> Donald
>>>> 
>>>> On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 2:11 PM, robert levine <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>>> Mödl at her best? Not MY favorite - too unappealing a sound  - I'd
>>> choose
>>>>> Nilsson, Flagstad and maybe Grob-Prandl.
>>>>> B
>>>>> 
>>>>> On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 4:08 PM, Max D. Winter <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> 
>>>>>> "For me, [Nilsson] and Flagstad rule as the two Wagnerian sopranos
>> of
>>>> the
>>>>>> Twentieth
>>>>>> Century."
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 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:
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvKrlRnh2kA
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEoeqoORFS4
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 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.
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> MDW
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> 
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