View Poll Results: Who sang it better?

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  • Sayao

    13 61.90%
  • Rethberg

    8 38.10%
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Thread: SOPRANO TOURNAMENT: (Quarterfinal 4): Sayao vs Rethberg

  1. #1
    Senior Member Bonetan's Avatar
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    Default SOPRANO TOURNAMENT: (Quarterfinal 4): Sayao vs Rethberg

    Bidu Sayao, Brazil, 1902-1999 (defeated Fleming 18-5)



    Elizabeth Rethberg, Germany, 1894-1976 (defeated Gheorghiu 15-10)



    Who's singing did you prefer and why?

  2. #2
    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Rethberg has a beautiful voice, sings very well, does very nice things, but ultimately is rather charmless and her singing of this aria is very plain. She’s the vocal equivalent of a plain girl.

    Sayao shows us a living, breathing, living character. She charms with her timbre, she enchants with her phrasing, she teases with her appogiature.

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  4. #3
    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Wow, it is like comparing Rolls Royce with Bentley. Mozart would be very very pleased with both sopranos. Both fabulously and elegantly sung. I give the garland to Sayao by vitue of slight edge she has in regard to having what must be one of the most beautiful soprano voices of all time in my opinion. The sparkling perfection of her vibrato, the crisp way she attacks each note while maintaining perfect legato, and the warmth she imparts with her performance, so full of characterization.
    Last edited by Seattleoperafan; Mar-06-2021 at 08:40.

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Ok, I don't hear this, but my sister, who taught voice, said she heard intonation problems with Sayao, when I sent the video to her. She is very hard to please and I thought Sayao would do the trick, but that was not the case. Do any of you hear this?

  7. #5
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Both singers have surpassingly beautiful voices and both sing the aria very well. Rethberg's singing is wonderfully poised and beautifully phrased and I'd also commend her use of appogiature, which were surely not generally observed in those days. However Rethberg sounds more like a Countess to me and she lacks the charm and twinkling eye of Sayão. Susanna is, after all, teasing Figaro with this aria. She is not really serious at all and Sayão brings that out beautifully. In short, Rethberg's is a beautiful piece of singing, where Sayão simply is Susanna.

    It's a slightly cruel comparison because Susanna was one of Sayão's best roles, where Rethberg was better known for her Verdi and a host of roles Sayão would never have sung. Sayão would have been Oscar to Rethberg's Amelia.

    Incidentally, Seattleoperafan, I listened for intonation problems in Sayão's performance and can't say I noticed anything that bothered me.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Mar-06-2021 at 17:28.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  9. #6
    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post

    Incidentally, Seattleoperafan, I listened for intonation problems in Sayão's performance and can't say I noticed anything that bothered me.
    I respect your opinion and am relieved my hearing wasn't too faulty. My sister is, as they say, wound very tightly. She rarely is pleased with any examples of singing I send her..... if ever LOL

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Did you know that the gorgeous Bachianas Brasileiras by Villa Lobos was written for Sayao? My one opera friend in Seattle brought this to my attention.

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    This was a torture job for me. Both were wonderful in their way. And of course I must get over a terrible prejudice of the fact that Sayao was my mother's favorite soprano and not only does she sound similar to my mama's voice but they even look alike too.
    And then comes the "meat and potatoes" of Rethberg and I am carried away by her performance which gives me guilt, but to be perfectly fair I must go up there and cast my vote for Rethberg. (Mama please forgive me!)

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  15. #9
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    Did you know that the gorgeous Bachianas Brasileiras by Villa Lobos was written for Sayao? My one opera friend in Seattle brought this to my attention.
    Yes I did. She also sings the soprano solo in his Forest of the Amazon, the last recording she ever made in 1959, after she had retired from the stage.



    I love Villa-Lobos's gorgeously colourful music.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    This one is a difficult but interesting match. Sayao is the ideal Susanna. I have a live Figaro at the Met in the 40s with her in the role, Steber as the Countess, Tajo as Figaro, Brownlee as the Count. She is simply delightful, both as a singer and a vocal actress.

    Now, Rethberg is a few singers you can ask the question, "Is there anything she couldn't sing?". Can you nominate any singer post-1950 who can handle Wagner, heavier Verdi (Aida, Leonore, Amelia), Strauss, Mozart, Handel, and even lieder like her? I have a live Don Giovanni with her as Donna Anna, and I think she is my favorite in the role. While I agree with Tsaraslondon that in Figaro, she should be the Countess, I am still amazed that she could pull out a Deh Vieni, Non, Tardar this well (now imagine Nilsson or Sutherland mangle this ). I will give the vote to Rethberg while acknowledging that Sayao has the edge since Susanna is the natural fit for her.


    P/S: Can we please have the like of Rethberg, Lehmann, Lemnitz, Steber, Sayao etc., in Mozart, rather than the HIP superstars?
    Last edited by silentio; Mar-06-2021 at 21:18.

  18. #11
    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    Ok, I don't hear this, but my sister, who taught voice, said she heard intonation problems with Sayao, when I sent the video to her. She is very hard to please and I thought Sayao would do the trick, but that was not the case. Do any of you hear this?
    No intonation problems as far as I can tell.

  19. #12
    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silentio View Post
    P/S: Can we please have the like of Rethberg, Lehmann, Lemnitz, Steber, Sayao etc., in Mozart, rather than the HIP superstars?
    What's your problem with having both?

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  21. #13
    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Yes I did. She also sings the soprano solo in his Forest of the Amazon, the last recording she ever made in 1959, after she had retired from the stage.



    I love Villa-Lobos's gorgeously colourful music.
    She was actually the instigator for that piece (the Aria section). She apparently pestered him for a while, saying: (paraphrasing) Villa, I can sound like a violin, you’ll see, just write it for me!
    You can actually thunk Sayao sounds like a violin, at the bouche fermée section of the main melody, especially when she sweeps up to the final note, pianissimo.

    I met her once, when Terry McEwen invited her up for a premiere, along with Gencer, and a few other past luminaries. She was very tiny, super slim, with a certain dignity of carriage and the sweetest mien.
    She was very gracious as well, as I complimented her on her singing, etc.
    Last edited by MAS; Mar-06-2021 at 22:09.

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  23. #14
    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    Yes I did. She also sings the soprano solo in his Forest of the Amazon, the last recording she ever made in 1959, after she had retired from the stage.



    I love Villa-Lobos's gorgeously colourful music.
    The music was composed for the film Green Mansions, starring Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins.

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  25. #15
    Senior Member Azol's Avatar
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    Ended up voting for Sayao.
    Both ladies give exceptional performances, Rethberg is more poised and calm and Sayao is more lively and charming. Hard to pick one, to be honest, what a balanced match!

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