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Thread: Where in the 7 Hells have all the mezzos and contraltos gone?

  1. #16
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    Janet Baker, yes. Frederika Von Stade sounds like a soprano singing lower. imo, most "lyric mezzos" around today really lyric or spinto soprani while most "dramatic mezzos" are dramatic soprani singing lower. in my mind, lyric mezzo is closer to Cossotto:

    Well, I'm not so bothered about fach as you are. Von Stade did have a lovely soprano sounding top register, but she was definitely more comfortable in a lower tessitura and stuck to roles that were suited to her lyric voice - Charlotte, Cherubino, Cendrillon, Cenerentola, Margeurite (in the Berlioz), Chérubin, Mignon and La Périchole. She also sang Elena in La Donna del Lago and Amina in La Sonnambula but in the Malibran version. I think she's still a mezzo.

    According to my singing teacher, who knew Janet Baker well, she used to exercise up to a top D. She started her career as a contralto, but it never really had those contralto depths of Ferrier.

    As for Cossotto, her voice was beefier than either Baker or Von Stade, though probably didn't have the decibels of Simionato or Barbieri. I doubt Baltsa's voice was any bigger (though it was plenty big enough in the theatre), and I'd still think of her as a dramatic mezzo.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  3. #17
    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Well, I'm not so bothered about fach as you are. Von Stade did have a lovely soprano sounding top register, but she was definitely more comfortable in a lower tessitura and stuck to roles that were suited to her lyric voice - Charlotte, Cherubino, Cendrillon, Cenerentola, Margeurite (in the Berlioz), Chérubin, Mignon and La Périchole. She also sang Elena in La Donna del Lago and Amina in La Sonnambula but in the Malibran version. I think she's still a mezzo.

    According to my singing teacher, who knew Janet Baker well, she used to exercise up to a top D. She started her career as a contralto, but it never really had those contralto depths of Ferrier.

    As for Cossotto, her voice was beefier than either Baker or Von Stade, though probably didn't have the decibels of Simionato or Barbieri. I doubt Baltsa's voice was any bigger (though it was plenty big enough in the theatre), and I'd still think of her as a dramatic mezzo.
    I would have thought the same of Baltsa, but someone who heard her live said it was a big voice. Didn't sound more than medium big on recordings.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Well, I'm not so bothered about fach as you are. Von Stade did have a lovely soprano sounding top register, but she was definitely more comfortable in a lower tessitura and stuck to roles that were suited to her lyric voice - Charlotte, Cherubino, Cendrillon, Cenerentola, Margeurite (in the Berlioz), Chérubin, Mignon and La Périchole. She also sang Elena in La Donna del Lago and Amina in La Sonnambula but in the Malibran version. I think she's still a mezzo.
    oh I'm not really "bothered" in this case. she had a lovely voice and I could listen to her at length...but it sounds like a lovely soprano singing low, not a lovely mezzo like Elena Cernei or Ebe Stignani.

    According to my singing teacher, who knew Janet Baker well, she used to exercise up to a top D. She started her career as a contralto, but it never really had those contralto depths of Ferrier.
    sounds about right. the top just reaching into the next higher fach and being mistake for the next lower fach are quite common among singers

    As for Cossotto, her voice was beefier than either Baker or Von Stade, though probably didn't have the decibels of Simionato or Barbieri. I doubt Baltsa's voice was any bigger (though it was plenty big enough in the theatre), and I'd still think of her as a dramatic mezzo.
    as this point, I'm honestly wondering if "lyric mezzo" is even a fach and if Mister Opera isn't correct about this assertion, but I'm not ready to say that yet. Agnes Baltsa is another voice I'd call a solid (and tremendously underrated!) lyric mezzo

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    I should clarify: if a soprano with a solid chest voice can sing mezzo work and sound beautiful, I'm not bothered by this at all. By all means, why limit yourself? What I'm bothered by is that there are a lack of mezzos of any kind to sing such music.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    I should clarify: if a soprano with a solid chest voice can sing mezzo work and sound beautiful, I'm not bothered by this at all. By all means, why limit yourself? What I'm bothered by is that there are a lack of mezzos of any kind to sing such music.
    Exactly, and that's what this whole fach prattle is about, limiting. Singers do not fall into comfortable categories. Given any two fachs there will also be just as many who fall in between, so where's the point?

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  9. #21
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    oh I'm not really "bothered" in this case. she had a lovely voice and I could listen to her at length...but it sounds like a lovely soprano singing low, not a lovely mezzo like Elena Cernei or Ebe Stignani.


    sounds about right. the top just reaching into the next higher fach and being mistake for the next lower fach are quite common among singers


    as this point, I'm honestly wondering if "lyric mezzo" is even a fach and if Mister Opera isn't correct about this assertion, but I'm not ready to say that yet. Agnes Baltsa is another voice I'd call a solid (and tremendously underrated!) lyric mezzo
    I don't think she was underrated at the peak of her career. I heard her live quite a few times and she usually had great reviews. She recorded quite a lot too - complete recordings of Aida, Don Carlo, Carmen, Samson et Dalila, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Cenerentola, L'Italiana in Algeri, Idomeneo, Ariadne auf Naxos, Der Rosenkavalier, Don Giovanni (as Donna Elvira), La Forza del Destino, Maria Stuarda (as Elisabetta), Tannhäuser, La Gioconda, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, the Verdi Requiem (twice) and some I've no doubt forgotten, not to mention a few recitals. She's also recorded Das Lied von der Erde, Les Nuits d'Eté, Wesendonck Lieder and is on quite a few different choral pieces too. I think you'll find that's more than most mezzos managed.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  11. #22
    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    Exactly, and that's what this whole fach prattle is about, limiting. Singers do not fall into comfortable categories. Given any two fachs there will also be just as many who fall in between, so where's the point?
    "you shouldn't limit yourself" =/= "certain music doesn't sound best on certain types of voices"

    there are sopranos who have successfully sung Azucena, but without the witchy lower register of a real mezzo, they will never fulfill the role's full potential (and vice versa). that's what I'm concerned about: not matching singers properly with roles where each will fulfill the other's full potential. most dramatic soprani can comfortably sing mezzo (indeed, I think most singers can sing one fach lower quite comfortably, but it won't have the same excitement, richness or intensity).
    Last edited by BalalaikaBoy; Sep-14-2019 at 21:09.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    "you shouldn't limit yourself" =/= "certain music doesn't sound best on certain types of voices"
    That is patently obvious and did not need saying. The point is that the constant dividing, sub-dividing etc. of fachs and then arguing over whether a singer fits neatly into one or another (most won't) seems counter-productive. The very existence of fachs and their use is limiting.

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  14. #24
    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    That is patently obvious and did not need saying. The point is that the constant dividing, sub-dividing etc. of fachs and then arguing over whether a singer fits neatly into one or another (most won't) seems counter-productive. The very existence of fachs and their use is limiting.
    the divide between soprano and mezzo is a pretty basic one. I'm not over here like "no, that's not a lyric mezzo, it's a light baroque colorautra mezzo" or anything like that (ftr, I don't actually consider coloratura mezzo a fach).

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    the divide between soprano and mezzo is a pretty basic one. I'm not over here like "no, that's not a lyric mezzo, it's a light baroque colorautra mezzo" or anything like that (ftr, I don't actually consider coloratura mezzo a fach).
    Actually it isn't, and all you have to do is look at the singers who were active in France in the last half of the 19th century to see that. As I said, people don't fall into nice categories, even ones like soprano/mezzo.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    Actually it isn't, and all you have to do is look at the singers who were active in France in the last half of the 19th century to see that. As I said, people don't fall into nice categories, even ones like soprano/mezzo.
    Indeed. What about Verrett and Bumbry, both of whom switched between soprano and mezzo roles successfully? Of course going back there was Cornélie Falcon, who had a voice which fell between the two and gave her name to a certain type of voice.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Verrett and Bumbry were both wonderful sopranos, but as mezzos they really stood out in their field. They both lost something singing higher roles in richness and color, but could have had very good careers only as sopranos.

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  20. #28
    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    Actually it isn't, and all you have to do is look at the singers who were active in France in the last half of the 19th century to see that. As I said, people don't fall into nice categories, even ones like soprano/mezzo.
    the vast majority of female voices fall cleanly into either soprano or mezzo (let's face it, contraltos are rare). that there are a few outlier voices like Shirley Verrett, Christa Ludwig or Maria Ewing does not change this. from there, things can get a little hairy (who is a spinto vs a lirico spinto vs a full lyric vs a dramatic coloratura soprano, etc), and I can see how endless sectioning off into smaller and smaller boxes can get annoying, but the basics have been there for hundreds of years for a reason, even if only a couple hundred.

    perhaps a demonstration will illustrate that I'm not just talking semantics. no soprano, not even the deepest, darkest, best trained soprano in the history of mankind...can do this:


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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    Verrett and Bumbry were both wonderful sopranos, but as mezzos they really stood out in their field. They both lost something singing higher roles in richness and color, but could have had very good careers only as sopranos.
    I like Bumbry better as a mezzo and Verrett in...pretty much everything she's ever touched.Her Azucena is the only role I have a tiny complaint about (not quite enough witchy nastiness and chest voice), but other than that, she is a freak who is equally glorious from mezzo all the way up to high D.

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  23. #30
    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    the vast majority of female voices fall cleanly into either soprano or mezzo (let's face it, contraltos are rare). that there are a few outlier voices like Shirley Verrett, Christa Ludwig or Maria Ewing does not change this. from there, things can get a little hairy (who is a spinto vs a lirico spinto vs a full lyric vs a dramatic coloratura soprano, etc), and I can see how endless sectioning off into smaller and smaller boxes can get annoying, but the basics have been there for hundreds of years for a reason, even if only a couple hundred.

    perhaps a demonstration will illustrate that I'm not just talking semantics. no soprano, not even the deepest, darkest, best trained soprano in the history of mankind...can do this:

    Ponselle could have come close.. BUT that is amazing!!!!! Ponselle was a freak, of course. I read one author who said Nicolai had a voice of truly titanic proportions, maybe bigger than even Flagstad's or Grob Prandl's. Can imagine hearing her in a theater???

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