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Subject: Flagstad (was Re: Vocal Training and Two Great Tenors)
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Wed, 7 Mar 2018 12:49:09 -0500

text/plain (50 lines)

OK, time to change the topic heading again or we will have two days of a thread on Flagstad 
with a "Tenors" subject heading.  Please, people.  Make sure your subject heading matches 
the content of your post.

Flagstad herself indicated (in "The Flagstad Manuscript," her "autobiography" written by 
Louis Biancolli), that the growth of her voice and its increasing richness and solidity in the 
year prior to her Met debut, was due to all the work she was putting into learning Isolde and 
the consequent increase in her muscular support:

"I had sung Isolde in June and July [1933] and then did nothing till the middle of August.  
During that period my voice seemed to grow just by resting.  When I sang Isolde again I 
discovered that it had not only grown but that it responded to my wishes with much more 
ease.  Moreover, it had deepened  to a darker color.  This had probably come from all that 
heavy work, studying "Tristan und Isolde" in six weeks, and so forth.  There was another 
result that had me worried for a while.  In studying and singing Isolde my back had 
developed so tremendously that my dresses actually burst apart. ... My lungs had expanded 
so.  I could hear the difference as well as feel it in my back muscles."

A year later, when she was studying Fidelio and Brunnhilde in anticipation of her 
Metropolitan Opera engagement for the '34-'35 season, she said:  "Every moment was 
jammed with work and study.  What terribly hard work it was!  You can imagine how I used 
my voice!  I felt it growing stronger and larger under constant pressure."

I think the Flagstad that burst on the scene at the Met in 1935 was a very different singer 
than she had been two years earlier.  Bodanzky, who had heard Flagstad's audition for the 
Met in St. Moritz in August 1934, was amazed when he heard her first "Gotterdammerung"
rehearsal at the Met the following January.  He told Flagstad, "I knew you had a good voice, 
but I never expected anything like this."  

Flagstad was, indeed, a miraculous singer with a miraculous voice, but it appears that the 
Great Flagstad we revere today emerged over a relatively short period of time as a result of 
intense hard work on the roles that were to become her greatest, Isolde and Brunnhilde.  It 
should also be remembered that Flagstad did not start singing these big roles until she was 
nearly 40, after a long career during which she was singing mostly as a lyrico-spinto, in 
roles like Mimi, Agathe, Aida, Elsa and Elisabeth.  "Festina lente" ("be in a hurry slowly").    


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