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Thread: Switch Hitters: Verrett, Bumbry, Ludwig, Meier

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Default Switch Hitters: Verrett, Bumbry, Ludwig, Meier

    I am a fan of all of the following singers: Grace Bumbry, Shirley Verrett, Christa Ludwig and Waltraud Meier ( less so than the others, but her Tristan DVD is marvelous). What they all have in common is all had successful careers as mezzos but also regularly sang soprano roles as well. I may have chatted around this subject at some time but I think it bears revisiting. Things for discussion: how CAN one classify them? Did you think of them more as mezzos or sopranos?Which, if any, do you think were successful at the switch hitting without damaging their voice. I will say I LOVED Verrett as a mezzo, but must admit that hers is one of the finest Normas I've ever heard. I've heard Bumbry's Salome and she was really good. To me, Waltraud's vocal placement sounds soprano, but others may differ.Ludwig was mostly a mezzo, but her Fidelio ROCKED. Let me hear what you think.

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    I am a big fan of Waltraud Meier but it seemed to me that she did not hit the high notes quite as well as Gundula Janowitz in the Abscheulicher area of Fidelio. Still love her voice though. Well it would be hard for a mezzo/soprano to compete with a pure soprano on high notes though.
    Last edited by Fritz Kobus; Oct-27-2015 at 02:50.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    "The world is made up of two kinds of people, those who divide everything into two and those who don't" ... my point being that the soprano / mezzo distinction is a somewhat arbitrary one as voices don't divide that neatly. As I have observed before, there was a 19th century French singer, Cornélie Falcon, whose voice was described as a dramatic soprano with a strong lower register, who gave her name to a voice type spanning soprano and mezzo with the darker sound of the mezzo and not the upper register of the soprano. I think that Carmen, Cassandra and Delilah are examples of roles which call for that type of voice. If I may be forgiven for invoking the name of Callas, her voice range in her later career was that of a falcon as can be heard on the French aria recitals.
    Last edited by Becca; Oct-27-2015 at 03:17.

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    "The world is made up of two kinds of people, those who divide everything into two and those who don't" ... my point being that the soprano / mezzo distinction is a somewhat arbitrary one as voices don't divide that neatly. As I have observed before, there was a 19th century French singer, Cornélie Falcon, whose voice was described as a dramatic soprano with a strong lower register, who gave her name to a voice type spanning soprano and mezzo with the darker sound of the mezzo and not the upper register of the soprano. I think that Carmen, Cassandra and Delilah are examples of roles which call for that type of voice. If I may be forgiven for invoking the name of Callas, her voice range in her later career was that of a falcon as can be heard on the French aria recitals.
    Callas could have had a longer career if she had considered singing roles like Amneris or Delilah. She probably felt they were a demotion. Don't tell Marilyn Horne that, though.

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    When Urmana was singing mezzo, she was a mezzo. When Urmana was singing soprano she was a soprano.
    It's called the "Domingo conundrum"

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nina foresti View Post
    When Urmana was singing mezzo, she was a mezzo. When Urmana was singing soprano she was a soprano.
    It's called the "Domingo conundrum"
    I forgot about her! I heard her in Gioconda singing the soprano part and she was great. Sounded like a soprano. To me Verrett really sounded like a mezzo as a mezzo, but nailed the soprano parts with secure high C's and even D's.

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    Senior Member gardibolt's Avatar
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    I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm a big fan of Christa Ludwig. She has a lot of versatility and is always doing something interesting--and when called for can bowl you over or delight you with delicacy. And yes, her Fidelio is terrific. One of my favorites.
    Hours of unrecorded, unpublished and unknown Beethoven works at The Unheard Beethoven

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    Quote Originally Posted by gardibolt View Post
    I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm a big fan of Christa Ludwig. She has a lot of versatility and is always doing something interesting--and when called for can bowl you over or delight you with delicacy. And yes, her Fidelio is terrific. One of my favorites.
    Yes, your mention of how great she was recentlyhelped refresh my memory about how much I used to enjoy her recordings years ago. Thanks.

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    Ludwig also did Dyer's Wife and Marschallin. Karajan invited her to perform Isolde with him, but then again, he was a great one for urging singers to wreck their voices on repertoire they shouldn't be performing. Bohm expressed serious disapproval, calling it criminal. Then Bohm told her she could sing Isolde with him if she wanted. She did record the Liebestod with Klemperer, very compelling argument that she could have recorded one of the all time great Isoldes but probably at a serious cost in terms of her longevity and vocal health.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    We have to remember that Ludwig was one of the greatest singers ever in the German repertoire. She had the most amazing range. Of course her high notes don't tell quite so much in Fidelio as (e.g.) Janowitz or Nilsson but then the latter two's low notes don't sound as well as Ludwig. As has been said there is no definite cut off point for a voice. For example, tenors like Vickers and Kaufmann tend to be baritonal whereas someone like Pav was definitely high tenor. So while some voices may fit a convenient category others don't.

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    We have to remember that Ludwig was one of the greatest singers ever in the German repertoire. She had the most amazing range. Of course her high notes don't tell quite so much in Fidelio as (e.g.) Janowitz or Nilsson but then the latter two's low notes don't sound as well as Ludwig. As has been said there is no definite cut off point for a voice. For example, tenors like Vickers and Kaufmann tend to be baritonal whereas someone like Pav was definitely high tenor. So while some voices may fit a convenient category others don't.
    Eons ago I heard Ludwig's Immolation Scene and it was very exciting.

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    I'm reviving this old thread because you mentioned Shirley Verret who is probably my favorite singer and because I have a mixed voice type myself.

    Shirley was truly a falcon soprano and not just a mezzo capable of pushing herself to sing soprano parts and therefore she is entitled to be considered both a mezzo and a soprano.....plus she performed about an equal number of roles in both fachs, didn't she?

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    Senior Member amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    Eons ago I heard Ludwig's Immolation Scene and it was very exciting.
    Listen to it again. It still is.
    Alan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baritenor View Post
    I'm reviving this old thread because you mentioned Shirley Verret who is probably my favorite singer and because I have a mixed voice type myself.

    Shirley was truly a falcon soprano and not just a mezzo capable of pushing herself to sing soprano parts and therefore she is entitled to be considered both a mezzo and a soprano.....plus she performed about an equal number of roles in both fachs, didn't she?
    I'm a big fan of voices which have attributes from both camps like baritonal tenors - e.g. Vinay, Domingo, Melchior - and dark-voiced sopranos. You've mentioned Bumbry, Verrett and others - another few are

    Mirella Parutto (soprano/later mezzo)



    Pia Tassinari (soprano/later mezzo and even contralto as Ulrica)


    Martha Modl (soprano/ later mezzo)


    Rosa Ponselle (soprano/ could sing pretty much anything )


    Not to mention Flagstad, Crespin, De Los Angeles, Dimitrova, Rosalind Plowright, even Tebaldi recorded some mezzo arias when she was close to retirement. Like other posters, I wish that Callas had extended her career in appropriate mezzo rep.

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