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Thread: Styles of dramatic singers

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Default Styles of dramatic singers

    this is more a matter of aesthetic tastes than anything, but, basically, when listening to dramatic voices, I lump them into two basic categories depending on the way their voice moves, their timbre and their singing style.

    1) prone to large, percussive outbursts, shooting out high notes from nowhere, more forceful, piercing, often steelier, similar to a canon.
    examples:
    - Maria Callas
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAXJ8pAQUns

    - Boris Christoff
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muy6DtnZ2Xg

    - Lucia Valentini-Terrani
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qSL0xGd62o

    - Birgit Nilsson
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-GV5t5XLjg

    - Mario del Monaco
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH-4qoD1a4Y

    - Sherill Milnes
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGk3UmtfAP4


    2) just as heavy as the former category, but with a more flowing singing style, the sound is warmer, more effortless, ebbs and swells like the waves of the ocean or a steady flow of lava
    examples
    - Kirsten Flagstad
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoTv5hahTGI

    - Boris Shtokolov
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D524ucRm9Ic

    - Oralia Dominguez
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQkTo5D_yYY

    - Mykola Kondratyuk
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDUWed2RT8o

    - Joan Sutherland
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSTTue6KHfk

    - Elena Cernei
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d69QWn-EoPw

    3) in-between
    examples:
    - Shirley Verrett
    - Samuel Ramey
    - James King
    - Regine Crespin
    - Franco Corelli
    - Jessye Norman

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    As you can see, it doesn't necessarily divide along the lines of fach, composer or even gender, but personally, I have a preference for the second category over the first. I'm awed by the presence of a voice that combines powerful, dramatic weight with a smooth, melodious delivery more than I am bellowing out high Bs and Cs in The Ring Cycle (well, as it's performed in the modern era. the golden age singers had more variety, and many would fall into the second camp).

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    This is very interesting. I see it as a matter of style and I would say there are four categories of singers here. Those who sing with the first style, those who sing with the second, those that sing with both depending on the nature of what they are singing and those who sing with neither.

    I prefer singers who can (and do) sing with a range of styles and therefore are more able to interpret their roles with depth and integrity. Of the singers you mention with whom I am familiar enough to judge I would put the following into the category of being able to sing in both styles:

    - Maria Callas
    - Sherill Milnes
    - Kirsten Flagstad
    - Oralia Dominguez
    - Joan Sutherland
    - Shirley Verrett
    - Franco Corelli

    N.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I don't see two kinds of singers here. Some singers have better legato than others; some have warmer timbres. Fine. But a singer's timbre and the way her voice moves have nothing to do with each other, and the two elements don't somehow combine to create "two kinds of singers."

    We have here a great variety of singers, as well as a variety of styles in the music you chose specifically to illustrate your point. You could have had the very same singers performing effectively very different music, which would quickly have exposed the unreality of your typology. But that is already exposed by your placing Callas at the head of a list of singers supposedly "prone to large, percussive outbursts, shooting out high notes from nowhere." She was prone to nothing of the sort; what she was prone to - as many singers are similarly prone - was matching her vocal delivery to the style of the music she sang.

    The artifice here exceeds even that of the fach system.

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    This is very interesting. I see it as a matter of style and I would say there are four categories of singers here. Those who sing with the first style, those who sing with the second, those that sing with both depending on the nature of what they are singing and those who sing with neither.

    I prefer singers who can (and do) sing with a range of styles and therefore are more able to interpret their roles with depth and integrity. Of the singers you mention with whom I am familiar enough to judge I would put the following into the category of being able to sing in both styles:

    - Maria Callas
    - Sherill Milnes
    - Kirsten Flagstad
    - Oralia Dominguez
    - Joan Sutherland
    - Shirley Verrett
    - Franco Corelli

    N.
    That's a good list (though I don't know who Oralia Dominiquez is), and I see your point.

    Personally, my "two kinds of singers" are these: those that have basically lyric voices with dramatic qualities, and those that have basically dramatic voices with lyric qualities. I'd put Milnes in the second category, and (say) Robert Merrill in the first.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Apr-21-2018 at 01:51.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    That's a good list (though I don't know who Oralia Dominiquez is), and I see your point.
    then you should enjoy the clip of her I posted. trust me, you won't go back

    Personally, my "two kinds of singers" are these: those that have basically lyric voices with dramatic qualities, and those that have basically dramatic voices with lyric qualities. I'd put Milnes in the second category, and (say) Robert Merrill in the first.
    I always considered Robert Merrill more of a dramatic. his voice was big, opulent, commanding. To my ears, lyric baritone is more Herman Prey or Peter Mattei.

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    then you should enjoy the clip of her I posted. trust me, you won't go back


    I always considered Robert Merrill more of a dramatic. his voice was big, opulent, commanding. To my ears, lyric baritone is more Herman Prey or Peter Mattei.
    The way I hear Merrill, he had a big, dark, lyric sound; the "bigness" and "darkness" were what helped him in Verdi, I think. The thing is, I always end up comparing Merrill's voice to Leonard Warren's; and, to me, Warren had a more obviously "dramatic" sound than did Merrill. It's kind of hard to explain.

    Actually, I have heard Oralia Dominiguez before; I'd just forgotten the name.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Apr-21-2018 at 18:47.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    The way I hear Merrill, he had a big, dark, lyric sound; the "bigness" and "darkness" were what helped him in Verdi, I think. The thing is, I always end up comparing Merrill's voice to Leonard Warren's; and, to me, Warren had a more obviously "dramatic" sound than did Merrill. It's kind of hard to explain.

    Actually, I have heard Oralia Dominiguez before; I'd just forgotten the name.
    Warren was a good example of the former type and Merrill the latter. If anything, I think Merrill had the bigger vocal weight, he was just less piercing, had a lower tessitura and sung in a smoother style.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    This is very interesting. I see it as a matter of style and I would say there are four categories of singers here. Those who sing with the first style, those who sing with the second, those that sing with both depending on the nature of what they are singing and those who sing with neither.

    I prefer singers who can (and do) sing with a range of styles and therefore are more able to interpret their roles with depth and integrity. Of the singers you mention with whom I am familiar enough to judge I would put the following into the category of being able to sing in both styles:

    - Maria Callas
    - Sherill Milnes
    - Kirsten Flagstad
    - Oralia Dominguez
    - Joan Sutherland
    - Shirley Verrett
    - Franco Corelli

    N.
    eh, Maria Callas never sounded effortless or smooth. She is exciting, tumultuous, intense, but I've never just relaxed into her voice the way I could with Elena Cernei, Kirsten Flagstad or Robert Merrill. It just doesn't have that quality regardless of the repertoire. Much more edgy, steely, raw.

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