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Operatic soprano with little vibrato and no "projection"


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Showing 1-25 of 37 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 29, 2009 5:52:29 PM PDT
DC Economist says:
The two reasons primary reasons that I don't like opera are that the sopranos seem to have so much vibrato that I could drive a Mack truck through it, and they seem to try to crack the eyeglasses of the old lady sleeping in the back row (I am told this is called projecting). Given that most operas are soprano-heavy, these two things make listening to opera very painful. I admit that this may be strange, because I find sopranos to be beautiful when they don't do this.

My question is: are there any operatic sopranos that don't do these things? Perhaps some Bell canto specialists? Or, perhaps there are some CDs you could recommend where the sopranos don't do this? I am not looking for a recommendation where the soprano does these things a bit less than usual: I am looking for sopranos that are really out of the norm on these issues.

Thanks!

Posted on Aug 29, 2009 8:05:53 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 29, 2009 3:26:18 PM PST]

Posted on Aug 29, 2009 8:09:46 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
DC Economist
Projecting and vibrato are -2- different things. Who or what have you heard?. That could help us give you some ideas,
A voice which does not project does not do well in an unamplified opera house. The samples below are extremes.

1. Little vibrato but certainly projected
Nellie Melba - Good-Bye
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XWvUHFOHWo

2. Wide vibrato- a voice that projected
Conchita Supervia "Nacqui all'affano" La Cenerentola
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ke1pkzaHuQ

John

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2009 1:39:27 AM PDT
DC Economist~

It sounds to me as though you have been listening to Italianate sopranos singing in the Verdi-Verismo repertory. I suggest that you listen to some lyric sopranos singing in the very different Germanic style. Elisabeth Gruemmer especially comes to mind, but there are many others.

I also suggest that you listen to some Italianate sopranos who pre-dated the Callas revolution in style that took place in the mid-1950s. Many fans refer to them slightingly as "songbirds" or even "tweety-birds." Despite that silly fan attitude, some of those sopranos are impressively good if taken on their own terms. Lina Pagliughi is a fine example. Roberta Peters is another.

LARRY

Posted on Aug 30, 2009 6:07:37 AM PDT
Vibrato not only adds a rich texture to the voice, it aids the voice in projecting. You don't seem to understand that when you are singing in an enormous opera house without a microphone, projection is very important.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2009 11:14:03 AM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
My point is that voices with little vibrato can also project - How about Birgit Nilsson?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 31, 2009 6:22:18 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 5, 2009 7:04:31 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Gundula Janowitz, Lisa della Casa, Pilar Lorengar, Elisabeth Schumann, Maggie Teyte, Irmgard Seefried, Elisabeth Gruemmer, Christa Ludwig, and especially Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (instrumental sound, approach and training; dead on pitch; tells the story and puts the words across). Of the classic golden agers, Claudia Muzio and Magda Olivero (still living), although Olivero's voice and manner take some getting used to. But she is the genuine article, a verismo singing actress with stomach muscles of steel. Or what about Kirstin Flagstad?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 31, 2009 6:36:38 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
D C Economist

It is strange you have not responded to any posts. Are you still interested in the topic?

John

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2009 3:28:28 AM PDT
DC Economist says:
Jules:

Thanks for the recommendation. Christine is indeed wonderful, but most of her work seems to be confined to lieder or to Baroque cantatas. I will be seeking out her Bach cantatas, I assure you! But I was looking for someone who had sung more classical period and early romantic period opera. (I will be investigating her Le Nozze di Figaro, though.)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2009 3:37:49 AM PDT
DC Economist says:
John and Larry:

Thanks for your posts! It seems to me (a former music major but an operatic novice) that your answers are at odds with each other. John says "A voice which does not project does not do well in an unamplified opera house", but Larry says "I also suggest that you listen to some Italianate sopranos who pre-dated the Callas revolution in style that took place in the mid-1950s. Many fans refer to them slightingly as 'songbirds'".

My quick listen of Larry's examples suggests that he is right, in that before the 1950s, at least some sopranos didn't do a lot of projecting. If that is true, then it isn't obvious to me that projection is necessary. (Maybe today's opera houses are larger, and now require sopranos to project?) Another possibility is that the sonics, which were poor in the samples I listened to (they were early recordings, after all) prevented the projection from coming through. I am certainly not trying to provoke an argument, just trying to make sense of the discussion.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2009 3:43:22 AM PDT
DC Economist says:
Projection may be important considerations for a public performance, but surely there are performances made for distribution via CD or whatever where one could do away with it. I can appreciate the importance of projection, but I cannot change the fact that I so strongly dislike it.

Posted on Sep 4, 2009 8:57:18 PM PDT
Musette says:
I like sopranos with a mezzo-ish edge. No names. I always sweat through live performances of sopranos and tenors when I know a high note is coming. And remember that the types of voices were assigned based on age and character: soprano usually young woman or heroine, mezzo/contralto older woman or villainess, tenor usually the young hero, baritone or bass the old man or villain. Vibrato is relative, projection is manipulated in recordings. Stage position helps or hurts in projection, as does your seat in the theatre.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2009 4:13:12 AM PDT
Steven Guy says:
Seconded.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2009 2:12:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 22, 2009 2:16:08 AM PDT
DC Economist wrote, "Projection may be important considerations for a public performance, but surely there are performances made for distribution via CD or whatever where one could do away with it."

Aarggh! DCE has hit on a painful subject. The next generation of opera fans is coming via DVDs and theater telecasts. That means endless closeups and artificial sound. When they finally arrive at real opera houses, many of them are going to find that the real thing sounds and looks "wrong." It is already the dirty little secret of some major opera houses that the sound from the stage is being "sweetened." And who can doubt that the looks of singers are becoming as important as the way in which they sing?

Opera may be going down the path of corruption already followed by the Broadway musical. Think about it, could Ethel Merman get a job on Broadway today? I think not. She would be too plain, to loud and to brassy. Alfred Drake would be rejected as too short. Ray Bolger as too funny-looking. Twenty years from now, the same questions might be asked about Joan Sutherland (too tall) or Jon Vickers (too intense), with the same result.

LARRY

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2009 2:12:10 PM PDT
tom h. says:
L.E. Cantrell wrote--"That means endless closeups and artificial sound. When they finally arrive at real opera houses, many of them are going to find that the real thing sounds and looks "wrong." It is already the dirty little secret of some major opera houses that the sound from the stage is being "sweetened"."

I find two of the singers you mentioned, Sutherland and Vickers can sound as good on DVD as they do on CD. Same for Pavarotti who I heard once live. Do you mean that if I go to an opera now to see say, Bryn Terfel or Angelina Gheorghiu, who I've only seen on DVD and heard on CD that I might get a completely different sound?

Tom

Posted on Sep 22, 2009 2:45:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 22, 2009 2:49:10 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
DC Economist
For me the bottom line - a soprano with no projection is not singing on an opera stage; therefore, she is NOT an operatic soprano. She might be making records or in a performances with hidden miking.
John

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2009 4:06:17 PM PDT
tom h wrote, "Do you mean that if I go to an opera now to see say, Bryn Terfel or Angelina Gheorghiu, who I've only seen on DVD and heard on CD that I might get a completely different sound?"

Very likely you would. You'd certainly not get a sound that exactly matches what is being produced by your speakers. The effect might be gross or subtle, but it would be there.

That, however, is a minor problem. My complaint is that next-generation audiences are being trained to expect electronically enhanced voices in opera--just as today's audiences have been trained for Broadway musicals. An unamplified Julie Andrews will never again knock 'em dead on the Great White Way. That may become equally true for the Met or La Scala.

LARRY

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2009 6:15:06 PM PDT
tom h. says:
You may well be right, though today's recording techniques can also capture every wanted sound of a live performance and filter out such things as random bumps, static, coughing, page turning from the pit etc.

The thing they don't capture is the ambient sound of the house itself. Few live recordings at all manage to capture this because their mikes, I assume, are so close to the pit and stage and not up in the balconies and boxes. This sense of space which can hold lesser voices at bay is only apparent when in the theater probably what accounts for most of the difference in sound. I'm sure there's an actual word for it but basically a singer has a much easier time going to the ear from a mike to a speaker in a stereo recording than from the mouth to the back of the top balcony of a big opera house with no mike and that can be very apparent when in the theater, I agree.

Tom

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2009 7:38:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 22, 2009 7:44:08 PM PDT
Musette says:
Have I read this correctly? How can a fan of a singer proclaim the merits of that singer having heard live that soprano or tenor only once or twice? Have all these rabid Pavarotti enthusiasts only heard him live once or twice? I think the RCA recordings of the 70s and 80s are artifically "treble" and the London recordings artificially "bass", to use the old pre-digital recording terms. I heard Sutherland many times in the 60s and 70s and at the beginning of the 80s and she sounded quite different from her London recordings. I have a different standard, perhaps: I've always listened on earphones and not the ones that just sit on the ear or even the sound cancelling ones. I like the sideways in the ear ones and not the Ipod types prevalent today. The Aiwa sideways in the ear were the best and they are no longer being made. For pop music it doesn't make a difference but for opera good earphones are the only way I think it should be heard. Maybe this is another reason I don't like Pavarotti, because I listened to him on those earphones, not on those blasting speakers designed for rock, i.e., speakers that gave him the fuller expressive tones he didn't have. His London recordings added (false) bass "covers" to his tones, as did his televised "operas" and concerts. It seems possible that not only "high notes" can be manipulated on recordings, but also tone color. Yes, I was brought back in the discussion by this subject and I still find Pavarotti's voice thin and screechy. OK, go ahead (again), I've got my armor on.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2009 2:42:37 PM PDT
tom h. says:
Good to see your name again Harriet. Let me begin by saying you are 100% correct about listening on earphones.

I urge you to go back and read, but more importantly, absorb, my last post in which I argue that the theater itself plays a part in the difference in sound. Try not to let the mention of someone's name get you all out of sorts. I'm not going to get into it over Pavarotti again because you will always come out with some kind of ridiculous accusation. You don't like him and I don't care. There are many other singers who did the same stuff that we could go for.

As far as being able to judge a singers merits, I'll steal your words "tone color". A singers tone color is the same in the house for the most part as it is in the studio. It can change over time if a singer has a long career but you can bet if you hear a singer in a beautiful studio recording today and then go to a concert where they are in bad voice tomorrow, their tone color will remain pretty much the same. This is how I know what a singer sounds like in general and I can "proclaim the merits of that singer" from there. This is also why I don't think a singer sounds too much different in a theater than on a live recording. Other than that I don't have the time or money to go to repetitive concerts of the same singers over and over again.

Going to the one, which is on DVD with no changes btw, and hearing repeated concerts and operas gives me a pretty good idea of someone's voice without going and spending my life's savings every night at the opera, to which I go when I can in order to see a show and NOT to play judge and jury to the singers' voices.

Posted on Sep 23, 2009 5:53:05 PM PDT
tom h. says:
I'd like to add to my last post to say that it is difficult to judge a singer's projection when not actually there but usually a singer doesn't get to a high level if they can't project themselves.
John Ruggeri says it best--"For me the bottom line - a soprano with no projection is not singing on an opera stage; therefore, she is NOT an operatic soprano. She might be making records or in a performances with hidden miking." I apologize for stealing your whole post John ;) Sometimes when listening to the reaction of an audience you get the idea of what you missed.

The last two operas I've been two were major dissapointments in different ways: First, there was a near-perfect "Carmen". It would have ranked with one of the greatest performances of any type of music I've ever heard except for the fact that the soprano in the lead role was inaudible at times from the fifth row. I had to look around to make sure mine wasn't the only gaping jaw. I felt terrible for her and all involved.

The last opera I went to was a shortened English production of the Magic Flute. It had a cast of relative unknowns who performed wonderfully. It was vocally splendid, but visually disappointing as well as being shoddily conducted.

I feel like I would have been disappointed anyway even if I hadn't seen and heard better productions at home, but the preparation, commute, and spending hundreds on tickets probably adds to my chagrin :(

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2009 7:05:25 PM PDT
Musette says:
Thanks for welcoming me back ... but I've been trying to keep my (unpopular) mouth shut, it's my greatest fault! Anyway, I still have heard some differences between live and recorded performances of several singers. Again, it could have been the acoustics of the theatres or the different areas within, but I can tell the differences between familiar old recordings and "digital" reissues. Corelli sounded so weird on the first CD digital remastering of the Rome Opera "Norma" with Callas I couldn't believe it was the same recording, even though some notable pauses gave it away. An even later version was different but the warmth of the sound (especially orchestral), as many have noted with other digital remasterings, was gone from the CD. I heard a certain "Turandot" on the radio in my car several few years ago and I couldn't tell who the singers were even though they sounded familiar. A lot goes into the recording or remastering of CDs and often very little comes out. You can see I'm not crazy about CDs. Tone color can remain the same but "covers" seem to be missing from modern CDs. BTW, I also can usually tell who is talking in commercial voiceovers that others don't hear. I'm not bragging, however :) -- I may be prejudiced but everyone else is too. They just don't admit it. You should hear what I have to say about rock "music" ...

Posted on Sep 27, 2009 7:19:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 27, 2009 7:21:04 PM PDT
tom h. says:
It's tough to comment as I never had the oppurtunity to hear a great singer in the theater as well as on the original LP or 78. I assume the unremastered CD's are virtually the same as the original recordings as they are for other genres of music. When listening to clean vinyl as opposed to an unremastered CD I prefer the vinyl 10 out of 10 times, but changing my collection over to vinyl is an expensive proposition.

When it comes to remastered CD's or DVD's I guess it depends on who does the remastering. I find most remasters are just repackages, and yes sometimes the orchestra does sound somewhat cold and colorless. On the other hand, I find that the 96khz 24bit remasters of old Decca/London operas sound as if they were recorded in my living room.
I suppose that one must go to the theater if they want "true" sound, but even there a singer can sound different to a person way up in the balcony as opposed to somenone in the pit. Or as a recent expierience taught me, a singer will sometimes sound much more powerful in a smaller venue then in a grand theater. Even if the singer is holding back.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 23, 2009 12:52:21 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 25, 2009 8:47:26 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 27, 2009 8:06:39 AM PDT
listen to Anna Netrebko, Angela Georgiu, Natalie Dessay, Kate Royal- we are lucky to be alive now-glass half full please!!!!!
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Initial post:  Aug 29, 2009
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