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Thread: Hildegard Behrens Question

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Default Hildegard Behrens Question

    I have grown to appreciate Hildegard Behrens more since she stopped singing and has since past away. Her voice often has an almost fragile, lyric quality to it not often found in dramatic sopranos. My question is for those of you who heard her live: was her voice big enough to handle the Wagner roles she specialized in?
    I was very impressed to hear her on Sirius singing Mozart very well.
    This question might have been addressed in the past on this forum but I find out search features to be practically non existant.

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Since no one has answered I explored other sites and the consensus is that early Behrens, when she did the Met Ring, is by far the best Behrens. Her heavy use of a strong chest voice produced holes in the voice mid career and onwards. It was supposedly a cutting instrument but perhaps better suited to light Wagner than Bruinhilde and Isolde. She famous for Bruinhilde only because no one of Nilsson's stature was still around and Jone's best days were behind her. My favorite role I heard her in was an early Idomeneo at the Met on Sirius.

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    I never heard Behrens live -- she was basically before my time -- but on Youtube I did watch her Elektra, from the Met in 1994, and I thought it was great. Vocally, she was past her prime (I believe she was well in her 50's or maybe even 60 by then), but the combination of her singing and acting just seemed, to me, perfect, and I find it more than listenable. I would guess that even in her prime her voice was probably on the small side for Elektra; still, I'd rather hear that 1994 performance than Birgit Nilsson's 1982(?) Met one, which I find hard to listen to because by that point I think Nilsson's voice sounded too stiff and inflexible.

    Oh, now that I think of it I do remember reading on Youtube where someone said Behren's high notes projected extremely well. I don't know if they were talking specifically about the Met Elektra or just generally.

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    Senior Member Couac Addict's Avatar
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    I saw her Elektra in the 90s. She was still wowing everyone then but it was late in her career. Her Salome and Elektra from the late 70s are worth tracking down. It was those performances that got her the Isolde role. She looked young enough to be a convincing Isolde (which helped her career a lot) but still had the big, mature voice that's required. The success of her Isolde had her playing Wagner ever since.
    This space for rent.

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    I've watched Ms. Behrens singing in the theater several times. In my view, she was a good Brünhilde, one of the more exciting performers of the role in the last decades of the 20th century. Also, a great Marie.

    Her voice was not the biggest one in the universe, but was well projected and she managed it well. She was also a nice actress, and this somehow compensated for a rather undistinguished timbre. She was always piercing and soft, at the same time, which is no small feat.
    Last edited by schigolch; May-12-2014 at 14:27. Reason: Typo

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    I first saw her in London in 1976 singing Leonora at Covent Garden with Vickers, conducted by Goodall and then at the Düsseldorf Opera in 1977 singing the Kaiserin in Die Frau Ohne Schatten, and Sieglinde.
    She was great!!! She was about to have the big break-through at Salzburg that summer as Salome for Karajan.
    When she went on to sing Brünnhilde, I had doubts, but she convinced me, especially in the Bayreuth Rings of 1983 - 1986.
    One can hear her in the 1983 Ring with Solti on YouTube. She did not have the biggest of Brünnhilde voices, but then no one else did either.
    She was also a tremendous actress - one of my favorites.
    Last edited by Pip; May-12-2014 at 13:48.

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    One of the few Brunnhildes who could fit into hourglass shaped battle armour. It didn't go unnoticed by the Wagnerians. There were a lot of lot of guys in the first few rows Much like Netrebko in recent years.
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    Quote Originally Posted by schigolch View Post

    Her voice was not the biggest one in the universe, but was well projected and she managed it well. She was also a nice actress, and this somehow compensated for a rather undistinguished timbre. She was always piercing and soft, at the same time, which is no small feat.
    I love the piercing and soft bit. Very apt. In her early years she was probably the best that era had, and her beauty, acting, and ability to convey both strength and vulnerability made her a worthy artist for the Met's Ring. Her only liablity on video was her tendency like Jessye Norman to sweat a lot. From the audience this would not be seen.

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    I saw her only on DVD, the Flying Dutchman. It was good but I felt she was too old to play the part. Should have done it earlier in her career.
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    I always felt like her voice was two sizes too small for Wagner.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    I have grown to appreciate Hildegard Behrens more since she stopped singing and has since past away.
    There are quite a few singers we can appreciate more when they've stopped singing.

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    Senior Member SixFootScowl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    There are quite a few singers we can appreciate more when they've stopped singing.
    Like maybe Andrea Bocelli?
    "Life is too short to spend it wandering in the barren Sahara of musical trash."
    --Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz Kobus View Post
    Like maybe Andrea Bocelli?
    Bocelli's fine if he stays away from opera.

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