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Thread: Your favorite assoluta voices

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Default Your favorite assoluta voices

    in the interests of not getting to pedantic with definitions, you can call "assoluta" any singer whose voice straddles the line between mezzo and soprano. some of my favorites include
    - Shirley Verrett
    - Fiorenza Cossotto
    - Agnes Baltsa
    - Rosa Ponselle

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Well, there's Yma Sumac...

    But you said mezzo to soprano, not euphonium to theremin, didn't you.

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    I'm not sure I understand the question. I'm going to interpret it as who is your favourite singer who sang/sings both mezzo and soprano roles.

    Maria Callas
    Magda Olivero
    Joyce DiDonato

    N.

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    Jessye Norman
    Astrid Varnay
    Leonie Rysanek

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Callas. I can think of no other singer who fulfilled the demands of so many disparate roles and composers. It's not just that she could sing Verdi and Puccini, Wagner and the bel canto, but the dramatic range of the roles she sang. Just think of the roles she sang and their various demands. In Verdi alone she sang with equal success Abigaille, Lady Macbeth, Gilda, Violetta, both the Trovatore and Forza Leonoras, Elena, Amelia and Aida, and she sang all these roles on stage, not just in the studio.

    There is hardy a bar in the whole range of nineteenth-century music for high soprano that seriously tested her powers.
    Walter Legge.

    Admittedly she never sang a mezzo role on stage and I think Dalila's low tessitura would have probably tested her on stage, but I have no doubt she'd have been able to sing such roles as Carmen and Eboli with ease.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    I also have to add Martha Modl.

    N.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I don't like the term "assoluta" (Italian for "absolute," "total," "complete," etc.) as a name for a voice type. There's no such thing as a "complete" voice - i.e. a voice that has an effective range from contralto to high soprano and a flawless technique capable of singing anything. In my time Callas came closest, but only in her prime, and hardly anyone came close to her. There probably haven't been enough singers of such capabilities to constitute a type. Some of the singers mentioned have successfully bridged the soprano-mezzo divide, but don't exhibit extraordinary technical skill.

    Ernestine Schumann-Heink was classified as a contralto, but except for the highest soprano notes she had everything else in her vocal arsenal. Her trill alone was worth the price of admission.Try these:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVYI6KvtNsA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIoACAM1ENg

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Victoria De Los Angeles is another singer who sang both soprano and mezzo roles, and though she sang Manon and Violetta with success, she isn't entirely happy in the upper reaches of those roles. I know of at least one singing teacher who is convinced she was actually a mezzo, though I'm not sure I'd agree. That said she sang Rosina in the mezzo keys and was an appreciable Charlotte and Carmen.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Pia Tassinari's lovely voice was tricky to define and spanned soprano and mezzo roles

    - as Violetta


    - as Suzel


    -as Margherita


    - as Carmen


    -as Dalila

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    I'm not sure I understand the question. I'm going to interpret it as who is your favourite singer who sang/sings both mezzo and soprano roles.

    Maria Callas
    Magda Olivero
    Joyce DiDonato

    N.
    that's a valid interpretation. the question is a general one.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I don't like the term "assoluta" (Italian for "absolute," "total," "complete," etc.) as a name for a voice type. There's no such thing as a "complete" voice - i.e. a voice that has an effective range from contralto to high soprano and a flawless technique capable of singing anything. In my time Callas came closest, but only in her prime, and hardly anyone came close to her. There probably haven't been enough singers of such capabilities to constitute a type. Some of the singers mentioned have successfully bridged the soprano-mezzo divide, but don't exhibit extraordinary technical skill.
    understandable. my dilemma was that my choice was otherwise between either a cumbersome phrase "singers who span between soprano and mezzo" or more hyper-specific categories like falcon, dugazon, etc and getting lost in obscure classifications that 90% of people don't even use.

    Ernestine Schumann-Heink was classified as a contralto, but except for the highest soprano notes she had everything else in her vocal arsenal. Her trill alone was worth the price of admission.Try these:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVYI6KvtNsA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIoACAM1ENg
    truly an underrated singer from a time before contraltos sang with fake, artificially swallowed placement akin to a counter-tenor (okay, maybe that's a lil extreme, but still).
    Last edited by BalalaikaBoy; Dec-02-2019 at 23:29.

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    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    In modern times, only Callas qualified in 1948/49 and part of the 1950s. Listen to her, and try to contrast DiDonato, Olivero, De Los Angeles and any other soprano you can name (Verrett, Bumbry, Gencer) that even approaches the divine Maria.
    Singing soprano and mezzos roles concurrently and/or alternately alone doesn’t qualify. You need the absolute facility, ferocity, incisiveness, élan, agility, acuti, authority of style, and musicianship to be a soprano assoluto. Yes, Maria Callas, absolutely!

    CD0BDC6A-9043-41E7-BE13-3BAC32B7C593.jpeg

    Also, see previous thread:
    Https://www.talkclassical.com/44122-...its-place.html
    Last edited by MAS; Dec-05-2019 at 21:13.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    In modern times, only Callas qualified in 1948/49 and part of the 1950s. Listen to her, and try to contrast DiDonato, Olivero, De Los Angeles and any other soprano you can name (Verrett, Bumbry, Gencer) that even approaches the divine Maria.
    Singing soprano and mezzos roles concurrently and/or alternately alone doesn’t qualify. You need the absolute facility, ferocity, incisiveness, élan, agility, acuti, authority of style, and musicianship to be a soprano assoluto. Yes, Maria Callas, absolutely!

    CD0BDC6A-9043-41E7-BE13-3BAC32B7C593.jpeg

    Also, see previous thread:
    Https://www.talkclassical.com/44122-...its-place.html
    Actually I agree with you, but the OP had made the qualification of singers who were or had been successful in both soprano and mezzo roles, which is why I mentioned De Los Angeles. Grace Bumbry and Maria Ewing might also belong to that category, but in the usual sense of assoluto, a soprano who could virtually sing anything, then early Callas is the only singer who fits the bill. It is one of the reasons she caused such a sensation and became known as the soprano who could sing anything. Singing Elvira in I Puritani whilst still engaged as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre released her and gave her wings to fly, and those wings took her to a wide variety of different composers and roles - Haydn, Mozart, Cherubini and Gluck, Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, to add to the Puccini, Wagner and Verdi she was already singing. The range of roles she sang was also staggering, as she sang Rossini's Fiorilla one day and Kundry the next. In the same season in Mexico, she sang Gilda and Tosca, as well as Violetta and Lucia. Can you think of one other soprano who ever did that? Furthermore she not only managed to sing the notes on the page with accuracy, but somehow assimilated the differing styles of each composer. She was a musical miracle. Not for nothing did Victor De Sabata say to Walter Legge,

    If the public could understand, as we do, how deeply and utterly musical Callas is, they would be stunned.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Dec-06-2019 at 10:04.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    In modern times, only Callas qualified in 1948/49 and part of the 1950s. Listen to her, and try to contrast DiDonato, Olivero, De Los Angeles and any other soprano you can name (Verrett, Bumbry, Gencer) that even approaches the divine Maria.
    Yes, quite. However, as Tsaras has pointed out the OP set the definition quite wide and the title of the thread is Assoluta voices. I also agree with Woodduck, if a voice type is so rare that only one singer in a generation fits the bill, can it said to be a voice type. Isn't it rather an exception?

    Whilst Callas' Violetta remains unparalleled, you only have to listen to Olivero or De los Angeles in the role to understand how versatile they were and how able they were to adapt to rep outside of their normal sphere.

    N.

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    I don't think Montserrat Caballe has been mentioned so far. Her versatility was pretty extraordinary.

    Virginia Zeani sang just about everything.

    Historically, Lilli Lehmann and Rosa Ponselle stand out too

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