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Thread: Which Opera Singer Had the Biggest Voice You've Ever Heard?

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Default Which Opera Singer Had the Biggest Voice You've Ever Heard?

    There are certainly other things that make a great singer besides the size of their voice, but it can really add to the excitement, especially in Verdi, Wagner and Strauss.
    I missed all the Golden Age singers in their prime. The biggest I've heard were Stephanie Blythe, Ewa Podles, Alessandra Marc and Jane Eaglen. Janice Baird was our Bruinhilde once. On the whole her voice was not outstandingly large, but her high note in the Dawn Duet was jawdroppingly huge... especially from a pipsqueak of a woman.
    Tell me your experiences please. As you can see I am partial to female voices unlike some of you.
    John

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    Senior Member (Ret) moody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    There are certainly other things that make a great singer besides the size of their voice, but it can really add to the excitement, especially in Verdi, Wagner and Strauss.
    I missed all the Golden Age singers in their prime. The biggest I've heard were Stephanie Blythe, Ewa Podles, Alessandra Marc and Jane Eaglen. Janice Baird was our Bruinhilde once. On the whole her voice was not outstandingly large, but her high note in the Dawn Duet was jawdroppingly huge... especially from a pipsqueak of a woman.
    Tell me your experiences please. As you can see I am partial to female voices unlike some of you.
    John
    The contralto Dame Clara Butt could drown out the orchestra and the chorus in the open in Hyde Park. I've certainly heard nothing like it in my life.
    Fools talk because they have to say something, wise men talk because they have something to say.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Honestly I often don't like big voices, particularly sopranos. Some of my least favourite singers, are ones who are widely admired, but have big voices. On the other hand I am devoted to Ewa Podleś and Stephanie Blythe - mezzos and contraltos are a whole different thing, and low notes way more interesting than high notes. Live, I'm not sure, my criteria are usually beauty of tone, phrasing, dynamic control, interpretation and acting ability, I don't really notice size of voice except if the singer is obviously being drowned by the orchestra.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Size aside, I heard Leontyne Price, who had that quality where once her mouth was open, you did not recognize a locus for the sound source, while the sound was omnipresent in the hall, as if emanating from the very walls of the opera house, as if it was coming from your inner ear, whether it was pppp or ffff.

    Beat that!
    Last edited by PetrB; Oct-27-2013 at 22:52.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    Some of my least favourite singers, are ones who are widely admired, but have big voices.
    Share some names, who would those be?

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    Well, I usually don't go the theater carrying a sound meter, so I don't have hard facts, or statistics in decibels.

    However, I would say that maybe the biggest voice I have ever heard is that of Matti Salminen.

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    With my limited live opera experience, the biggest voice I've heard in theatre came from this Italian tenor:



    Perhaps I've heard bigger voice(s) in concert hall, but that's diffrent story.
    Last edited by Aramis; Oct-27-2013 at 23:06.

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    There are many beautiful powerful voices, but I can only think of a man: Franco Corelli. Of course, I haven't heard him live. For sopranos, mezzo I have no idea...My live experience is extremely limited.
    Last edited by sabrina; Oct-28-2013 at 04:42.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sabrina View Post
    There are many beautiful powerful voices, but I can only think of a man: Franco Corelli. Of course, I hadn't heard him live. For sopranos, mezzo I have no idea...My live experience is extremely limited.
    And before him, His Loudness himself, Mario del Monaco.
    "No preluding! Piano pianissimo -- then all will be well." (Posted in the orchestra pit on August 13, 1876)

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    For size of voice and quality of singing - try Alexander Sved, baritone who sang at the Met for a few years. Another would be Igor Gorin, also a baritone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    Honestly I often don't like big voices, particularly sopranos. Some of my least favourite singers, are ones who are widely admired, but have big voices. On the other hand I am devoted to Ewa Podleś and Stephanie Blythe - mezzos and contraltos are a whole different thing, and low notes way more interesting than high notes. Live, I'm not sure, my criteria are usually beauty of tone, phrasing, dynamic control, interpretation and acting ability, I don't really notice size of voice except if the singer is obviously being drowned by the orchestra.
    I agree with much of what you say.

    I haven't heard many famous opera singers live in person, and my opera-going experience only extends back to 1998. Of the ones I have heard, Mark Delavan as Falstaff sounded huge in the small theater where I heard him; Dolora Zajick produced, even in soft passages, a very ample sound as Adalgisa (NORMA) in the Kennedy Center Opera House -- possibly hers is the biggest voice I've heard live.

    Of the singers whose careers I missed, Joan Sutherland would seem to me to have had one of the biggest voices ever. J.B. Steane, who heard her regularly at Covent Garden, said it was a voice that seemed to be "everywhere at once," and even on recordings one can to some extent hear this, I think.

    I do remember the soprano Ruth Ann Swenson on Met broadcasts. Now, it's hard to judge on the radio, but her voice sounded to me to have been so precisely "focused" that it seemed to float all over the auditorium. It obviously wasn't a big voice in the sense of "powerful and heroic," but it does sound as though it carried exceptionally well at all dynamic levels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    I agree with much of what you say.

    I haven't heard many famous opera singers live in person, and my opera-going experience only extends back to 1998. Of the ones I have heard, Mark Delavan as Falstaff sounded huge in the small theater where I heard him; Dolora Zajick produced, even in soft passages, a very ample sound as Adalgisa (NORMA) in the Kennedy Center Opera House -- possibly hers is the biggest voice I've heard live.

    Of the singers whose careers I missed, Joan Sutherland would seem to me to have had one of the biggest voices ever. J.B. Steane, who heard her regularly at Covent Garden, said it was a voice that seemed to be "everywhere at once," and even on recordings one can to some extent hear this, I think.

    I do remember the soprano Ruth Ann Swenson on Met broadcasts. Now, it's hard to judge on the radio, but her voice sounded to me to have been so precisely "focused" that it seemed to float all over the auditorium. It obviously wasn't a big voice in the sense of "powerful and heroic," but it does sound as though it carried exceptionally well at all dynamic levels.
    That doesn't suprise me about Ruth Ann. I think she is often overlooked and undervalued. Every time I hear her on historic broadcasts on Sirius she impresses me. She was also very lovely. She had a warmth to her voice that was not that of your typical lyric coloratura.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Evoken View Post
    Share some names, who would those be?
    Leontyne Price, Birgit Nilsson and Joan Sutherland. Particularly the latter.

    Now I'm going to get lynched.
    Natalie

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    Another contralto who fills your requirements here was Ernestine Schumann-Heink . She was a famous Wagnerian appearing at the Bayreuth Festival until the outbreak of World War I.
    She became an American citizen and made her final appearance at the Met as Erda in "Rheingold" age 71 years.
    Clara Butt and Mme Schumann-Heink made famous recordings of the Brindisi from Donizetti's "Lucretia Borgia". So what you have are coloratura contraltos and the sound is one to be reckoned with and low notes abound, real contraltos don't seem to appear anymore.
    Verdi's original "Otello" was Francesco Tamagno . He made some recordings after retirement in 1903/4 and his voice is monstrous although somewhat faulty by that stage. He was that rare beast a "tenore di forza" with trumpet like clarity.
    The baritone Apollo Granforte 1886/1975 was a highly successful Italian singer whose huge voice reflected his surname.
    There are many recordings available.
    Fools talk because they have to say something, wise men talk because they have something to say.

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moody View Post
    Another contralto who fills your requirements here was Ernestine Schumann-Heink . She was a famous Wagnerian appearing at the Bayreuth Festival until the outbreak of World War I.
    She became an American citizen and made her final appearance at the Met as Erda in "Rheingold" age 71 years.
    Clara Butt and Mme Schumann-Heink made famous recordings of the Brindisi from Donizetti's "Lucretia Borgia". So what you have are coloratura contraltos and the sound is one to be reckoned with and low notes abound, real contraltos don't seem to appear anymore.
    Verdi's original "Otello" was Francesco Tamagno . He made some recordings after retirement in 1903/4 and his voice is monstrous although somewhat faulty by that stage. He was that rare beast a "tenore di forza" with trumpet like clarity.
    The baritone Apollo Granforte 1886/1975 was a highly successful Italian singer whose huge voice reflected his surname.
    There are many recordings available.
    My mother frequently mentioned hearing Schumann-Heink in recital. Ewa Podles is one of the few true contraltos today.Supposedly having the orchestra tuned to a higher tone compared to the past has hurt contraltos a lot.

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