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Subject: Re: Flagstad (was Re: Vocal Training and Two Great Tenors)
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 7 Mar 2018 10:57:08 -0800
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Max, you say it as if this were the simple answer. Anything but. No other voice suddenly turns into that size and power just because it’s subjected to hard work. Otherwise, there’d be more Flagstads. Most voices, in fact, suffer from fatigue from intense work like this. Very few “grow under the pressure."

Something laid the basis for this and it seems to be something very essential to what she learned from Bratt. It seems like it cut to the very basics of phonation. You actually can hear the transformation from her early recordings. There are the first ones with the light, thin voice that probably debuted as Nuri in “Tiefland” and then after several years, corresponding to the time spent with Brett, there’s a significant change to the core of the sound and it then becomes recognizable as the embryo of the voice we later came to know.

It may be a riff on what other singers refer to as being “on the breath” or “putting air under the sound” but something changed radically.

But what I’d give to hear some of those early roles (which included Minnie (!)).

Max Paley

> On Mar 7, 2018, at 9:49 AM, Max D. Winter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> 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").    
> 
> MDW
> 
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