Tag Archives: soprano

needed: inspiration

I took a break from work yesterday afternoon and spent an hour listening to Dame Eva Turner, British soprano absoluta.

Why? Because her “In questa regia” (from the opera Turandot by Puccini) never fails to move me.

Listening to the glory of her  deep, rich sound, the resonant freedom of those high notes evident despite 1920‘s & 30‘s recording technology. . . always uplifts & refreshes me.

That’s what grand opera used to be all about. Here’s a link to a YouTube. Have a little listen for yourself. If you’ve not time for the whole thing, listen to the last 30-to-60 seconds.

Petite Dame Turner didn’t need deafening amplification, strobe lighting, or smoke. She did it with her voice, her knowledge of how to sing properly (a.k.a., vocal technique), and her inspiration.

The secret in singing lies between the vibration in the singer’s voice and the throb in the hearer’s heart

Kahil Gibran

That’s communication beyond words.

Happy New Year!

Hopefully gala performances are over, and you’re enjoying a couple days of R&R before performances begin again.

Here’s another soprano to add to the radar list: Hilde Zadek, teaching & coaching at 95 in Vienna.

Very interesting life, starting a career in Germany during WW II.

The singing competition
De tote Stadt

2011 interview in German

When MP3 isn’t good enough

Try Astell & Kern’s AK100

Sutherland: La Stupenda, the non-diva

Researching something else, these turned up. For those wanting to hear top sopranos from other generations, make note of all the names and haste thee to YouTube.

‘I didn’t want to be a diva’
This author agrees with Madame Sutherland’s comments, and has been fortunate to work with like-minded coaches and teachers. They do exist, even in America, but they’re rare and not well-known.

Are these the 20 best sopranos of the recorded era?

Currently listening to Sutherland’s Greatest Hits

Ah! What joy! What clarity! What glorious high E’s!

Here’s the last half of her famous “Mad Scene” on YouTube ~ don’t forget to turn your volume up!



Applying Horowitz’ Mozart to Granados’ Tonadillas

”It is deceptive, Horowitz believed, to think of Mozart’s piano writing as simple… Horowitz liked to quote what Rachmaninov said of the opening of his own Third Piano Concerto, a simple melody played in octaves: easy as it may seem, Rachmaninov felt that it was more difficult than the rest of the Concerto.

“ ‘Mozart was a virtuoso-composer just like Chopin or Liszt,’ Horowitz explained, ‘but his virtuosity is expressed in fewer notes…  Because of the spare textures, Mozart’s piano music needs more color, not less, than so-called Romantic music in which color is already an integral part of the composition.’
                                Insert: from notes by Edward Greenfield

Horowitz — Mozart

Same thing with Granados’ Tonadillas.


Some Sunday afternoon listening

Well, Possums, it’s been a busy week here, with too much work-related reading & writing to encourage much of the same extracurricularly (i.e., blogging).  Now it’s cleaning day, and perhaps time to catch up a bit – only while taking a break from chores, of course!

Anne Midgette, across the web at The Washington Post, had an interesting thing or two to say about something at the Met this past week.  Yours truly does enjoy Ms. M., as she’ll write what she thinks, even if the Emperor/ess has no clothes. (Note: Punch line of reference is last sentence.)

Must admit yours truly thinks back yearningly for a return of critics who knew a thing or two about voices and music and composers, and were able to write instructive reviews for both budding and experienced performers.

Of course, y.t. also yearns for the days when classical performers actually made time to learn their craft, too.

The singing voice doesn’t mature until the body around it is at least 30 years old, and men’s voices take longer.

By that time most of today’s crop of singers (and yesterday’s and tomorrow’s) have allowed their immature voices to be over-exposed and under-trained, and they suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, their listeners suffer the consequences, too.

Why is the operatic voice generally thought to be high, shrill, and with a very wobbly vibrato?

Those are the singers y.t.’s writing about, Dear Ones.

Your ears and your heart and your mind aren’t nuts when they decree the sound is unpleasant.  They’re right!

If you’ve got 5 minutes, see what those ears, mind & heart think about one or both of these singers.

Go ahead – turn your sound up LOUD!
Guaranteed to have no wobbles on the high notes.

Female (highest notes are toward the end)


Sunset Boulevard

Flo Lacey, from Signature Theatre web site

Signature Theatre is always doing something first, and doing it better than anyone else.  They didn’t win a regional Tony in 2009 for nothing.  People fly in from around the world regularly to see their productions.

Moi was there closing night and talked afterwards with one of the stars, Florence Lacey, above, about her vocal technique.  Norma comes out and has to nail a blockbuster number, the first of 3 in the show.  Signature’s run was 8 performances a week; twice on Saturday & Sunday, dark Monday. That’s a lotta singing, even with a mike.

Ms. Lacey said, “Lots of warm-ups and scales…”  Another member told me Lacey was also working with a voice teacher.  Imagine!  With her great career, into something like her 4th decade performing, still taking lessons.  There’s a real pro, dearies…

The role reminded me of the lead, Turandot, in Puccini’s last opera, Turandot.   The ice princess comes out a few times and has to sing killer arias, just like Norma in Sunset Blvd.  It’s a role that has probably ruined more voices than helped careers.

Take a listen to this soprano, Dame Eva Turner, the only one yours truly’s ever heard whose voice blooms on all those high notes.  You can hear that freedom.  Go ahead, clamp on those headphones and turn the volume up high.  No knives in the back from this real soprano.

Staying in good vocal condition takes technique, dear readers,  all the time.  As long as you’re performing.  Whether opera or theatre, you gotta do it right.  That is, if you wanna be around, and in demand, as Ms. Lacey is, at 60+… and Eva was, until 90-something!


Pilar Lorengar… and a little more Granados

Photo credit: wikipedia

Doing one’s homework for another Granados discussion, and remembering that Frank Marshall had been a pupil of Granados and accompanied singers, thus hopefully carrying on Granados’ traditions, and knowing that Alicia de Larrocha had been a pupil of Marshall, it seemed reasonable to look for and listen to YouTube examples of de Larrocha and Marshall accompanying.

Sorry about that long sentence.

The CD, The Catalan Piano Tradition, has Marshall accompanying Supervia (a guitar student of Granados whom he discovered during solfeg class) so that got a listen.  De Larrocha is also on the recording, with Badia singing.

On YouTube, the following were also useful:

Pilar Lorengar –

Teresa Berganza  –

However, there weren’t enough with de Larrocha, and as Pilar Lorengar is a (shamefully admitted) new-to-moi lyric soprano, she needed to be added to The Library.

An excellently reviewed Decca double CD set was located via Amazon, and it’s just arrived, containing tonadillas from Granados’ set, all with de Larrocha …

Later, after listening …

Splendid voice has Lorengar; how she loves all the high A’s and occasional B-flats!  And sings them radiantly, too.  Yet I cannot agree with much of her Granados interpretation.  De Larrocha is marvelous.  More on that when we do just Granados.


Dolora Zajick on Dramatic Voice Training

Recent articles decry the lack of dramatic voices. Nonsense!  Teachers don’t know how to teach them, and most directors don’t want to hear them.  Mezzo soprano Dolora Zajick wants to, and she’s started her own school.

Knowing there aren’t many effective teachers for this voice type, and there aren’t many dramatic voices being heard in public these days, many people have never heard a true  dramatic voice.  YouTube to the rescue!  During commercials of The Blob, yours truly put together a listening list.

In addition, here’s a 1990 article for further illustration.  Even the title is appropriate: That Rare Vocal Bird.  It’s in the Features section of an old web site.  Sorry I can’t get a more direct link.  Click the page, go to Features (left column), then click below where you see Arts and Leisure.

The Listening List

For the desired effect, turn your volume all the way up and don’t use earphones.

Voices need room to resonate, especially big ones.

The bigger the room you’re in, the better, and the louder you can turn up the volume!

The 3 mezzos below are all singing the same aria, “Stride la vampa” from Verd’si Il Trovatore.  The Marx Brothers used this opera in their “A Night at the Opera” so it might be familiar.  The character singing is the gypsy Azucena.  The grisly song is about her memory of the night her mother was burned to death.  An English translation is included in the first selection.  The last two are Ms. Zajick’s favorite mezzos, giants in their field.  Happy listening.

Ms. Zajick

Ms. Cossotto

Ms. Simionato


Interview: Director John Copley

Please take a listen to this 30-minute podcast with mezzo Joyce DiDonato and stage director John Copley.

It’s chock full of amusing anecdotes, historical facts, and their opinions of what makes good music matches yours truly’s.

Also mentioned, amongst others, are Victoria de los Angeles, Maria Jeretza, Beverly Sills, Dame Janet Baker, Monserrat Caballé, Maria Callas, and others.

If you’re a singer and don’t know these names, you need to learn!

All of them have clips on YouTube.

Happy listening!