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Subject: Re: Greatest Wagnerian Sopranos (was Re: Birgit Nilsson Great Streaming Documentary)
From: "Takis Pavl." <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Takis Pavl.
Date:Wed, 10 Jan 2018 12:04:43 +0000

text/plain (26 lines)

Beautiful documentary about the great Nilsson. Thanks for sharing! Ironically, I find her piercing sound equally, perhaps even more, effective in Strauss roles. Although she excelled in the "mighty" Wagner roles, I recall being impressed by her Elisabeth in Tannhauser more than I expected. For my taste (and hers apparently) her voice lacked everything Italian opera needs. Yes the Cs in Turandot were legendary and I wouldn't want to miss them but I need more to enjoy an interpretation than a couple of spectacular notes.When searching (pointlessly I may add) for the BEST, the GREATEST, the ULTIMATE, it's easy to fall into the trap of considering singers only after WWII when recordings improved a lot and people still have memories of seeing those singers live. I love Frida Leider and can't help enjoy her natural German phrasing more than Flagstad's or Nilsson's (same happens when I listen to Melchior and Lorenz). Leider to my ears is much closer to Lubin and further back, to Lilli Lehmann vocally than she is to Nilsson or Flagstad. There is a lyrical quality to Lubin's and Leider's singing which I sometimes miss in the two great Nordic ladies.  
Traubel's operatic legacy may not be as extended but what we have is in my opinion on the same level. The technique is so solid, the voice warm and gorgeous and the phrasing fascinating! Maybe her versatile career should be considered to her advantage instead of condemning her for it.
Gertrude Grob-Prandl is another favourite hochdramatischer (have a listen to her in the 1951 Walkure with the under-recorded but fascinating Helene Werth as Sieglinde) I enjoy the young Varnay a lot vocally. Later on her vocalism was uneven but the character was always present. 

Modl reminds me more of Olivero than Callas. "The voice is what it is". I also don't get Rysanek, loud top notes and great presence but there seems to be neither technique, nor voice beneath those top notes. And let's not talk about her tuning. I also struggle with Behrens' exhausting vocalism. 
Why can't a Jugendlich-dramatischer soprano be the greatest Wagnerian? I guess size will always matter to some. Lotte Lehmann and Grummer probably stand out but I always also want to listen to the nearly forgotten Margarete Teschemacher and Tiana Lemnitz for their beautiful slender spinto voices and crisp diction. Speaking of spinto voices, having sung three Wagner roles to great acclaim, albeit in Italian, Renata Tebaldi was ideal as Elsa and Elisabeth in those noisy recordings. Pity that her Eva and that early Wagner RAI recital with Del Monaco have not been preserved. I'd love to hear her in youthful voice sing the Liebestod. What about Jessye Norman? She certainly had an opulent enough sound for Wagner roles and worked hard on her German phrasing. I think of her as a Jugendlich-dramatischer soprano rather than hochdramatischer.

And today? I was recently impressed by Gun-Brit Barkmin's Chrysothemis, her deliciously clear diction and beautiful rich voice made me curious to see her in Wagner roles. On youtube however I notice the top notes flapping a bit which I didn't hear live. Anja Harteros is also trying to add some Wagner roles to her rep but I fear her voice is not for Wagner, not even for the lighter roles. 



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