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Thread: Irene Minghini Cattaneo: Dramatic Mezzo Soprano

  1. #16
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    I literally started a thread about examples of singers doing well outside of their fach and had like 10 examples. I don't believe in "straightjacket-ing" singers. Fach is the core of the voice, not necessarily the limits of its potential. Like, the core of my voice is bass-baritone, but I can toe into lower baritone rep and do quite well in various Rossini and Verdi bass pieces (but probably not the whole opera at this point in time).
    I must explain what I mean by "straightjacketing." No one has questioned that singers can do things outside of their "fachs." The question is whether assigning a particular fach necessarily makes sense to begin with. Knowing that a singer like Christa Ludwig can sing music of lower and higher tessitura and requiring greater or lesser power with equal effectiveness, while arguing about what "fach" she should be put into, is terminological straightjacketing. I'm not saying that you don't think your "lyric mezzo" can sing Ortrud. I'm saying that if roles like Ortrud are a substantial part of what she's superb at and known for, it just might be an inappropriate limitation on how she's identified to call her a lyric mezzo.

    It appears to me that the criteria people use for assigning "fachs" is rather confused. Some may argue that the criterion isn't what music people sing most effectively, but how their voices "sound" purely as voices. But that's really rather subjective - how "dark" does a dark voice have to be to be? etc. - and debates can be fun but incapable of resolution. Sometimes a singer fits pretty neatly into one of the broad, generally accepted categories: for example, it makes sense to call Bjorling a "lyric tenor," because his voice was not of sufficient size for Otello, Calaf (though he recorded it effectively), Tannhauser, the Emperor, et al., and made its best effect in music requiring sustained lyricism (Italian and French romantic heroes and a broad song repertoire). Jon Vickers was just as clearly a dramatic tenor; he could sing lyrically, but his power, intensity, and roughness (in a good sense) of tone were best suited to parts requiring great declamatory force and strong vocal acting. But what do we do with Caruso, who sang, or could have sung, nearly everything brilliantly: Nemorino, the Duke, Manrico, Canio, Dick Johnson, Eleazar, Otello (he was preparing to do it when he died), and maybe a move into Wagner (he knew some of the music of Tristan)? His voice was both dark and brilliant, he had great power but also a command of mezza voce, his legato was superb, his coloratura was impeccable (judging from what little we have of it), he could trill... He may be an extreme case, but like Ludwig and Callas he illustrates the Futility of Facile Faching. Callas's dark timbre and strong chest voice have even induced some here to call her a mezzo! Well, Caruso's tone was remarkably baritonal, but he was not a baritone, and Melchior could have gone on singing baritone for the rest of his life (which Ramon Vinay actually did after a period of heldentenoring). What could be less profitable than trying to assign specific fachs to these people?
    Last edited by Woodduck; Nov-03-2018 at 06:09.

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  3. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    What I'm seeing is the attempt to make an ill-defined vocal category into such a distinct thing with such specific characteristics that an argument as to whether Christa Ludwig "is" a dramatic or a lyric mezzo is assumed to be meaningful regardless of the actual accomplishments of Christa Ludwig. Balalaikaboy calls her "lyric." You call her "dramatic." I call her Christa Ludwig, and decline to dance on the head of a pin.

    ...

    I too might call Ludwig a dramatic mezzo in the context of a specific discussion - say, if someone were to call Anne Sophie von Otter a natural for Wagner and I were to say, "no, she hasn't the amplitude and bite of a real dramatic mezzo like Christa Ludwig." Outside such a context - say, in a discussion of Lieder singers, or simply in a discussion of voices as such - I would hesitate to call her that, or anything in particular other than a mezzo-soprano. Debating this with someone who calls Ludwig "lyric" - as if she could not be both (which I think she is) - seems to me pointless and potentially misleading. It seeks to put her in a terminological straightjacket.
    Thanks for your response. I see now where we don't agree. Where I find your position confusing is that one moment you say that Christa Ludwig is just Christa Ludwig, but then that you would term her a mezzo-soprano. This prompts the question what do you think makes someone a soprano as opposed to a mezzo soprano? Is it range or colour of the voice when singing vowels that are natural for that singer, or something else?

    I agree that an ability to sing lyrically or dramatically isn't an innate quality of a voice type and when I term someone a lyric mezzo I don't mean a mezzo who can only sing lyrically. In this context lyric and dramatic refer to the natural weight of the voice. As I have said before, maybe the terminology isn't helpful, but that doesn't mean the concept isn't correct.

    I'm tempted to use the term a medium weight soprano instead of spinto, but I'm sure someone will take offence that I'm referring to the poor woman's dress size!

    N.

  4. #18
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    Where I find your position confusing is that one moment you say that Christa Ludwig is just Christa Ludwig, but then that you would term her a mezzo-soprano. This prompts the question what do you think makes someone a soprano as opposed to a mezzo soprano? Is it range or colour of the voice when singing vowels that are natural for that singer, or something else?
    I think it's mainly a question of range and comfort. Mezzo-soprano is just one of the six basic range categories (bass, baritone, tenor, contralto, mezzo, soprano). I call Ludwig a mezzo-soprano because that's the vocal range in which she was most comfortable and the repertoire she sang most often. She sang a few soprano roles but her voice's center of gravity was lower. She could possibly have managed Isolde, but declined to do it, sticking with Brangaene. Brangaene, Ortrud and Kundry were ideal for her; they're all called soprano roles and have some challenging high passages, but need a full-bodied lower voice and don't go to the top often (neither asks for a high C). Isolde and Brunnhilde require more sustained high singing than Ludwig felt comfortable with, but had she been able to take them on comfortably we might justifiably have called her a dramatic soprano, or simply recognized her as one of those singers who defy categorization.

    I have no quarrel with most of the categories for voices. I just find hair-splitting attempts to shoehorn singers into them based on niggling differences absurd and potentially misleading. We actually see certain singers categorized inconsistently on concert programs and record jackets (or CD inserts, for those too young to remember record jackets). Was Hilde Rossl-Majdan a soprano or a mezzo? I remember her in both incarnations, and frankly I have no objection to that, as she sang music designated for both. In Euryanthe she's a soprano (and a damn good one too); in Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony she's a fine mezzo alongside Schwarzkopf's soprano. I don't know how she thought of herself, or if that changed over time (as it did with Regina Resnik). It really doesn't matter.

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  6. #19
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    To see how my considerations of voice type and acquired skills work I would look at my post in the Netrabko as Salome thread. There's a host of roles someone with Netrebko's voice could have sung, however her limitations as a singer (which she could overcome if she worked at it) mean that the roles she would suit best are much fewer in number.

    My opinion on Netrebko and the roles suited to her voice type when she first came onto the scene are the same now as they were in 1994 (that is I thought she would make an awesome Tatiana before she sang the role). I didn't need to wait for her to sing a range of roles and then pass judgement on her voice type based on what she sang well. However, I couldn't know what her limitations were in terms of singer and artist (as opposed to a voice) until she had sung a few roles.

    Like all voices Netrebko's has developed and that has opened up possibilities in terms of the roles she suits. Her voice has enough weight to make a good stab at Salome, but will she undertake the work needed to master the German language?

    N.

  7. #20
    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Getting back to this singer, I love the dark color and fast vibrato of her voice. I would love to hear the top of her range better, but what I heard is marvelous. I love fast vibratos and her low voice is thrilling. She is perfect for this music.

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