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Thread: Rank these Mezzosoprani: Barbieri, Simionato, Stignani

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    I suppose the 1946 Aida with Serafin, Caniglia and Gigli or the 1939 Verdi Requiem, also with Serafin, Caniglia and Gigli.

    Still pretty average in my books--a pretty enough voice in better shape than in her late Normas with Callas or the later Aida with Tebaldi, but still not exactly stirring or passionate or engaging.

    eta - revisiting the act 4 duet from the 1946 Aida. I think my reaction to her is similar to my reaction to a lot of Antonietta Stella recordings. She has the perfect, ideal voice for the part, but she doesn't really do much with it, either musically or dramatically. Ultimately listening to her is a boring experience.
    Thanks for the suggestions. I have both those sets but I can't recall anything in particular about Stignani's performances: I'll try them again. She sounds a lot more vivid in the live Trovatore set from La Scala recommended above.

    Re: Stella, when I think about it I actually have heard quite a few of her recordings e.g. Don Carlo in mono then stereo, Simon Boccanegra, Traviata, Aida (Live), Trovatore, Andrea Chenier... the Aida was a much more animated and interesting performance than, say, her Elisabetta in the studio but the sound quality is ropey.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    edit: I'm sorry, you meant Stignani, not Callas. I was very, very confused haha
    The last part of the quote that began about Callas was asking about good recordings of Stignani and I ran with that when I should have said it was about Stignani.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Revitalized Classics View Post
    Thanks for the suggestions. I have both those sets but I can't recall anything in particular about Stignani's performances: I'll try them again. She sounds a lot more vivid in the live Trovatore set from La Scala recommended above.

    Re: Stella, when I think about it I actually have heard quite a few of her recordings e.g. Don Carlo in mono then stereo, Simon Boccanegra, Traviata, Aida (Live), Trovatore, Andrea Chenier... the Aida was a much more animated and interesting performance than, say, her Elisabetta in the studio but the sound quality is ropey.
    I could be wrong but I believe Stignani was from the stand and sing school of singing. This was from the time that having a voice that was both gigantic ( Italian Flagstad you know) and breathtaking in it's beauty was enough. Similar to the great Milanov. Both of these were before the heyday of Callas that upped the game for opera singers. I imagine the shear magnificence of Stignani in an opera house could overcome the visual of a fire hydrant that barely moved onstage.

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  5. #34
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    The thing that I feel was left out of this list if I had started this thread was the addition of Rise Stevens. American singers were often overlooked ( think Steber) during this era in favor of European singers, but Stevens had it all: incredible looks on stage, great acting, one of the most beautiful mezzo voices of all time and she was perhaps the greatest Carmen of all time and the singer who did the role more than any other singer in the history of the Met. She was also sensational supposedly as Dalilah. In a big discussion earlier on great Carmens that I came too late to have any impact on the discussion, I noticed in the discussion I was the only person to mention her. She is often forgotten today but I heard her as Carmen several times when I had Sirius Met Opera channel and she blew me away. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egEVbRy50JE Here she is looking like a woman who really could drive men insane singing with her chocolaty mezzo that was without any breaks and of unearthly beauty from the bottom to the top.
    Last edited by Seattleoperafan; May-28-2020 at 20:25.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    I could be wrong but I believe Stignani was from the stand and sing school of singing. This was from the time that having a voice that was both gigantic ( Italian Flagstad you know) and breathtaking in it's beauty was enough. Similar to the great Milanov. Both of these were before the heyday of Callas that upped the game for opera singers. I imagine the shear magnificence of Stignani in an opera house could overcome the visual of a fire hydrant that barely moved onstage.
    I find a lot of 78 recordings - so basically everything in Stignani's prime years - can sound very dry and boxy when transferred to CD, particularly when a lot of noise reduction has been applied. This really does not help singers like Stignani whose primary virtue was a refulgent voice which filled opera houses: the records like the 1946 Aida can have marvellous clarity but are nearly as dry as Toscanini's records from Studio 8-H.

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    Stignani was in what some consider the greatest Verdi Requiem ever recorded with Caniglia, Gigli, Stignani and Pinza from '39. There are maybe a dozen versions on Youtube and here is one:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLfdgPlQvkI. The only flaw in my opinion is the gorgeous voice of the soprano is often flat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    Stignani was in what some consider the greatest Verdi Requiem ever recorded with Caniglia, Gigli, Stignani and Pinza from '39. There are maybe a dozen versions on Youtube and here is one:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLfdgPlQvkI. The only flaw in my opinion is the gorgeous voice of the soprano is often flat.
    If the soprano had been the young Tebaldi, it will be perfect.

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    The sound quality is poor, but enough to appreciate the instrument of Stignani. She would definitely be a great Brangäne or Ortrud.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    I could be wrong but I believe Stignani was from the stand and sing school of singing. This was from the time that having a voice that was both gigantic ( Italian Flagstad you know) and breathtaking in it's beauty was enough. Similar to the great Milanov. Both of these were before the heyday of Callas that upped the game for opera singers. I imagine the shear magnificence of Stignani in an opera house could overcome the visual of a fire hydrant that barely moved onstage.
    Visconti, talking about the La Scala Callas production of La Vestale with Stignani as the High Priestess.

    How different from contending with a singer of the old school, such as Ebe Stignani. As the High Priestess, Stignani was hopeless with her two stock gestures, worse than a scrubwoman on stage. Unbearable! She was the antithesis of Maria, who absorbed and grew from day to day. How I don't know. By some uncanny theatrical instinct, if put on the right course, she always exceeded your hopes. How beautiful she and Corelli looked during the love duet in the temple, the sacred flame flickering on the altar. Pure physical beauty, figures of neoclassicism reborn.


    Corelli and Callas in the centre with Stignani to one side with the Vestals.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; May-29-2020 at 12:12.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by silentio View Post
    If the soprano had been the young Tebaldi, it will be perfect.
    Tebaldi would’ve been 17 in 1939, too young.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    The last part of the quote that began about Callas was asking about good recordings of Stignani and I ran with that when I should have said it was about Stignani.
    yeah, I was thinking "I guess he meant the equivalent of Flagstad in Italian rep rather than of Italian ethnicity. even then though...Callas never sounded remotely similar to Flagstad. you would need someone with more head voice participation. more along the lines of Anita Cerquetti, Martina Arroyo or Dusolina Giannini"

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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    yeah, I was thinking "I guess he meant the equivalent of Flagstad in Italian rep rather than of Italian ethnicity. even then though...Callas never sounded remotely similar to Flagstad. you would need someone with more head voice participation. more along the lines of Anita Cerquetti, Martina Arroyo or Dusolina Giannini"
    I had always heard it was Stignani that was the Italian Flagstad because of the size, beauty and evenness of her range I suppose. It was supposed to have been both gorgeous and perfectly enormous. I cannot find anything on this on the internet but I know I read it somewhere . The only place I found Callas being similar to Flagstad was this famous quote by R. Bonynge: He said of Callas"But before she slimmed down, I mean this was such a colossal voice. It just poured out of her, the way Flagstad's did.... Callas had a huge voice. When she and Stignani sang Norma, at the bottom of the range you could barely tell who was who ... Oh it was colossal. And she took the big sound right up to the top
    Last edited by Seattleoperafan; May-30-2020 at 02:34.

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  19. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    So, let's get some definitions clear. I've always thought of 'chest voice' as meaning chest register. All singers use it, almost all the time. Actually almost everybody uses it because otherwise you wouldn't be able to speak. (There are a few women who don't use it at all when they speak and they have very high pitched voices.) The other register is head voice or head register. At the same time a singer also needs to use head register (sometimes referred to as blending the registers). Simionato's demonstration of good singing is exactly what I would call blending the registers, therefore she is singing with both the head and chest registers in the mix. Her demonstration of what she thinks chest voice is, is use of the chest register with practically no head register and therefore no resonance in the mask (as she correctly says). I would expect true voce ingolata to be even more swallowed and falsely dark rather than just not resonating in the mask. Had the question been what do you think about using solely chest voice, then the divas would have been correct.

    N.
    I agree with you that almost everyone will be using a blend of head and chest registers almost at all times except for very annoying female voices or Morgan Freeman. (joke)

    The terminology is quite tricky here. All registers, chest or otherwise resonate in the head, but we are not calling them all head voice. For example when Simionato gestures at her chest and tried to constrict the sound to that area as if she was singing with her lungs, she was trying to prove that a resonance in the chest is impossible which technically makes sense, because unless it resonated in the vocal tract in the head no sound whatsoever would have been produced. Hence her challenging Stefan to prove it even exists.

    To me chest voice is something that happens in the throat. It's certain muscles that you engage and somehow it manipulated and positions the larynx in a way that produces that much darker and clearer sound. Some people have "lower" darker voices because of how developed these muscles are or how low their larynx naturally is. I'm not really sure about this, to be honest, I'm not an expert. But that's what I gathered from my personal experience, my sensations when I try to sing and what I've read.
    Last edited by Tuoksu; May-30-2020 at 12:38.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuoksu View Post
    I agree with you that almost everyone will be using a blend of head and chest registers almost at all times except for very annoying female voices or Morgan Freeman. (joke)

    The terminology is quite tricky here. All registers, chest or otherwise resonate in the head, but we are not calling them all head voice. For example when Simionato gestures at her chest and tried to constrict the sound to that area as if she was singing with her lungs, she was trying to prove that a resonance in the chest is impossible which technically makes sense, because unless it resonated in the vocal tract in the head no sound whatsoever would have been produced. Hence her challenging Stefan to prove it even exists.

    To me chest voice is something that happens in the throat. It's certain muscles that you engage and somehow it manipulated and positions the larynx in a way that produces that much darker and clearer sound. Some people have "lower" darker voices because of how developed these muscles are or how low their larynx naturally is. I'm not really sure about this, to be honest, I'm not an expert. But that's what I gathered from my personal experience, my sensations when I try to sing and what I've read.
    We agree 100% (Even about Morgan Freeman. )

    I find it interesting that the first diva in the Stefan Zucker clip changes the term to emissione di petto which clarifies your point that they think chest voice means chest resonance, whereas I associate it with chest register and therefore a group of sounds that relate to movements of a particular muscle group in and around the throat.

    "To me chest voice is something that happens in the throat. It's certain muscles that you engage and somehow it manipulated and positions the larynx in a way that produces that much darker and clearer sound."

    I like this description, yet I would go further. The dark nature of what you call chest voice comes from the chest register and the clearer nature comes from head register. Therefore what people tend to label chest voice (including Zucker) is actually a skillful blend of the two registers. This may partly explain why the mezzo divas misunderstand what he is talking about.

    N.

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  22. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    We agree 100% (Even about Morgan Freeman. )

    I like this description, yet I would go further. The dark nature of what you call chest voice comes from the chest register and the clearer nature comes from head register. Therefore what people tend to label chest voice (including Zucker) is actually a skillful blend of the two registers. This may partly explain why the mezzo divas misunderstand what he is talking about.

    N.
    I call this chiaroscuro. It's that balance that makes a good chest voice good. the imbalance can produce two things: The first is too much chiaro and the voice is very lacking in "chest contribution" for lack of a better term and therefore is too light and overbright and "empty" like modern coloraturas (as opposed to Tetrazzini, Patti or De Hidalgo who had great chest contribution in their voices.) The other way it could go is too much scuro which is the voce ingolata, when you try to add too much chest contribution that it constricts muscles that don't need to be constricted and creates that woofy Netrebko/Kaufmann sound.
    Last edited by Tuoksu; May-30-2020 at 13:27.

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