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Who do you prefer in this, Callas or Sutherland

  • Maria Callas

    Votes: 18 78.3%
  • Joan Sutherland

    Votes: 5 21.7%
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Looking through the versions of this aria on youtube threw up some interesting candidates. Bumbry and Verrett would seem a perfect fit, but I wouldn't have thought it would suit the likes of Cotrubas and Gheorghiu. I know Gheorghiu recorded a sympathetic Charlotte, but the role sounds a bit low for her and I would have thought Chimène would be too. Scotto recorded it late in her career and I came across versions by Resnik, Caballé, Yoncheva, Françoise Pollet, Kasarova, Te Kanawa and Félia Litvine, not to mention a host of versions by singers I've never heard of. It seems to be a popular recital piece.

I doubt I'll be listening to most of them (there's only so much time in a day), but one or two piqued my interest.
Are we too impatient to wait for the next round? :lol:
 

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Looking through the versions of this aria on youtube threw up some interesting candidates. Bumbry and Verrett would seem a perfect fit, but I wouldn't have thought it would suit the likes of Cotrubas and Gheorghiu. I know Gheorghiu recorded a sympathetic Charlotte, but the role sounds a bit low for her and I would have thought Chimène would be too. Scotto recorded it late in her career and I came across versions by Resnik, Caballé, Yoncheva, Françoise Pollet, Kasarova, Te Kanawa and Félia Litvine, not to mention a host of versions by singers I've never heard of. It seems to be a popular recital piece.

I doubt I'll be listening to most of them (there's only so much time in a day), but one or two piqued my interest.
Let us know which ones you find most worthwhile.
 

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I think John has some more rounds in store for us, so maybe I'll wait until he's chosen which versions he's including.
I think that's wise, I've heard a number of versions of this aria over the years and very few can even begin to do it justice. That's one reason why Sutherland's recording is so remarkable. I haven't heard Verrett, who I think would be superb and Bumbry is good, but I haven't heard hers in a while so it will be interesting to compare with Joan.

N.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
I think that's wise, I've heard a number of versions of this aria over the years and very few can even begin to do it justice. That's one reason why Sutherland's recording is so remarkable. I haven't heard Verrett, who I think would be superb and Bumbry is good, but I haven't heard hers in a while so it will be interesting to compare with Joan.

N.
Virtual hug! Need to put in more words LOL
 

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To be perfectly honest, Sutherland's voice isn't free from being tonally-neutral and choosing between late Callas and late Sutherland is a no-brainer for me. This part is more suited to lower voices. Massenet is not about the size (we're not talking about Esclarmonde), but with those deeper chest tones missing, some of the dramatic power is lost.
Again, with all due respect - Sutherland is a very surprising choice for this aria. But I'm sure the next round will come up with another worthy contestant!
The Sutherland recording comes from her Command Performance album recorded in 1962! It may not be the prime pre 1961 Sutherland, but it certainly isn't late Sutherland and her diction and droopiness is well under control. This is an example of a soprano entering foreign territory and excelling herself. Had Bumbry (who was far more suited to the part) bothered to put in even as half dramatic commitment as Sutherland does here. I voted for Callas, but only because her uncanny ability to wring the utmost meaning from any recitative was unparalleled. Sutherland could be dramatically convincing and she proves that here.

N.
 

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it certainly isn't late Sutherland and her diction and droopiness is well under control.
Can you speak or sing French? I can do both, quite accurately, and I can't catch half of what she's saying. I have to wonder how much I'd be able to distinguish if I'd never heard the aria before. All the vowels tend toward a "schwa," tinged with something like the French "eu," and consonants are variable. The very first phrase of the aria, "Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux," might as well be "meuweu, meuweu, meuse yeu." Her phrasing may not be "droopy," but in the quiet passages it is somewhat limp and lacks intensity and drive, partly due to her mannerism of swelling and backing off of notes rather than steering them strongly into each other in a sharply etched legato line. Where the music is more declamatory and doesn't permit this sort of swooniness she's better, so that she leaves a more positive impression than her beginning led me to expect.

This is an example of a soprano entering foreign territory and excelling herself.
If she excels herself, it's only the self of 1962 which had declined after the Lucias of the 1950s.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 · (Edited)
Can you speak or sing French? I can do both, quite accurately, and I can't catch half of what she's saying. I have to wonder how much I'd be able to distinguish if I'd never heard the aria before. All the vowels tend toward a "schwa," tinged with something like the French "eu," and consonants are variable. The very first phrase of the aria, "Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux," might as well be "meuweu, meuweu, meuse yeu." Her phrasing may not be "droopy," but in the quiet passages it is somewhat limp and lacks intensity and drive, partly due to her mannerism of swelling and backing off of notes rather than steering them strongly into each other in a sharply etched legato line. Where the music is more declamatory and doesn't permit this sort of swooniness she's better, so that she leaves a more positive impression than her beginning led me to expect.

If she excels herself, it's only the self of 1962 which had declined after the Lucias of the 1950s.
Never again will I post Sutherland in any contests. Sorry folks. I have some she'd be great in such as Turandot but I hate seeing my love raked over the coals so and it is inevitable in this crowd. I must have abysmal taste. Oh, well.
 

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Never again will I post Sutherland in any contests. Sorry folks. I have some she'd be great in such as Turandot but I hate seeing my love raked over the coals so and it is inevitable in this crowd. I must have abysmal taste. Oh, well.
Awwww. May I recommend a scented bubble bath and a glass - or maybe a whole bottle - of Harvey's Bristol Cream?
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Awwww. May I recommend a scented bubble bath and a glass - or maybe a whole bottle - of Harvey's Bristol Cream?
She's been a constant in my life for 50 years and more than other stars there is very strong emotional connection, much more than just being a fan. You are likely too mature to have such adolescent attachments to singers but I am an early teen in an old body.
 

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She's been a constant in my life for 50 years and more than other stars there is very strong emotional connection, much more than just being a fan. You are likely too mature to have such adolescent attachments to singers but I am an early teen in an old body.
Ah, I see now (maybe I'm slow about some things). If she's that special to you, you would indeed be wise to set her aside, else you could go through an awful lot of bubble bath and Bristol Cream. I think most of us are responsible critics, but we do call 'em as we hear 'em.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Ah, I see now (maybe I'm slow about some things). If she's that special to you, you would indeed be wise to set her aside, else you could go through an awful lot of bubble bath and Bristol Cream. I think most of us are responsible critics, but we do call 'em as we hear 'em.
It is like trying to sell American pies to the Brits who find them too sweet. Not going to work LOL
 

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Can you speak or sing French? I can do both, quite accurately, and I can't catch half of what she's saying. I have to wonder how much I'd be able to distinguish if I'd never heard the aria before. All the vowels tend toward a "schwa," tinged with something like the French "eu," and consonants are variable. The very first phrase of the aria, "Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux," might as well be "meuweu, meuweu, meuse yeu." Her phrasing may not be "droopy," but in the quiet passages it is somewhat limp and lacks intensity and drive, partly due to her mannerism of swelling and backing off of notes rather than steering them strongly into each other in a sharply etched legato line. Where the music is more declamatory and doesn't permit this sort of swooniness she's better, so that she leaves a more positive impression than her beginning led me to expect.

If she excels herself, it's only the self of 1962 which had declined after the Lucias of the 1950s.
I am of the same mind here vis à vis Conte's surprising positive comments on La Stupenda. Could he be switching to the Stimme camp and forgo Maria? Horrors! :devil:
 

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She's been a constant in my life for 50 years and more than other stars there is very strong emotional connection, much more than just being a fan. You are likely too mature to have such adolescent attachments to singers but I am an early teen in an old body.
And yet you have Birgit as your avatar?
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 · (Edited)
And yet you have Birgit as your avatar?
This is actually a strange case. I LOVE Nilsson as a personality and her acting in her late Elektra, but I don't really listen to her much anymore but WORSHIPPED her as a teen. I find her very funny which is why I love my avatar. Her sound is fascinating but it is not my favorite. I'd rather watch her sing than just listen to her sing, except for Sibelius and Grieg. I did do a two part video series on her based on my Toastmaster speeches which my club loved. I mostly would have loved to have heard her live, so it is a case of nostalgia. I admire so much about her and the savvy way she managed her career and left a $40 mil foundation!!
 

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Callas: I tend to find later Callas mannered. She overcompensates for the loss of her voice by giving her line excessive inflection until it is no longer spontaneous, as it was in her miraculous earlier recordings. I was bored by the rendition. It was kind of like a lullaby with the occasional booming sound on the bottom. At least there was an absence of distorted vowels and off pitch notes. The harshness of the top is seeping down. Seattleoperafan correctly characterized the wobble, although the piece lies lower, so that wasn't much of an issue.

Sutherland: Again, she didn't draw me into the character. Callas was Callas and Sutherland was Sutherland, who is usually fairly generic. I'm not a fan of her sound on record (not old enough to have heard either live, unfortunately) and her distorted vowels bother me and muddy the tone.

I best liked the Tirard (who I'd never heard of) rendition that Revitalized Classics posted. She is poised and has a tragic sensibility, but also spontaneous and free with her vocalism. The only fault is the weak low notes where she refuses to switch into chest voice, despite obviously having one (she has wonderful chest coordination in her head voice). She could have used some coaching from Callas on that score. Cernay was also very good. Felia Litvinne does a remarkable version as well. Brava Tirard, however, for showing once again that voice and art are not opposed. If it's true that a beautiful voice "isn't enough", as the oft quoted phrase goes, it's also true that there is a distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions.
 

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Callas: I tend to find later Callas mannered. She overcompensates for the loss of her voice by giving her line excessive inflection until it is no longer spontaneous, as it was in her miraculous earlier recordings. I was bored by the rendition. It was kind of like a lullaby with the occasional booming sound on the bottom. At least there was an absence of distorted vowels and off pitch notes. The harshness of the top is seeping down. Seattleoperafan correctly characterized the wobble, although the piece lies lower, so that wasn't much of an issue.

Sutherland: Again, she didn't draw me into the character. Callas was Callas and Sutherland was Sutherland, who is usually fairly generic. I'm not a fan of her sound on record (not old enough to have heard either live, unfortunately) and her distorted vowels bother me and muddy the tone.

I best liked the Tirard (who I'd never heard of) rendition that Revitalized Classics posted. She is poised and has a tragic sensibility, but also spontaneous and free with her vocalism. The only fault is the weak low notes where she refuses to switch into chest voice, despite obviously having one (she has wonderful chest coordination in her head voice). She could have used some coaching from Callas on that score. Cernay was also very good. Felia Litvinne does a remarkable version as well. Brava Tirard, however, for showing once again that voice and art are not opposed. If it's true that a beautiful voice "isn't enough", as the oft quoted phrase goes, it's also true that there is a distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions.
It's impossible to argue with perceptions, but it's amazing how differently we hear things. Listening to Callas give what seems to me an absolutely characteristic performance - concentrated and with an inward intensity, never letting the mental and physical energy flag, shaping phrases thoughtfully, tautly and with impeccable legato, responsive to every word of the text without ever resorting to an unmusical, superficial or unstylistic effect to express them - I can't imagine what "mannerisms" you're detecting, or how her finely detailed realization of the aria's moods could suggest a lullaby. I hear her making music with the same sure intuition, musicality and integrity that characterizes all her work, early or late. It's true that in her late recordings her voice sometimes undercuts her intentions - which are nonetheless pursued with not-always-comfortable zeal - but here that's a problem only in the high-lying climaxes. The darker timbre which her voice took on at this stage seems made for tragedy (or, as in Carmen and Dalila, an earthy sensuality).

I agree that Tirard (new to me too) sings and interprets the piece beautifully, though the voice as recorded (important qualification) has less depth of tone than I'd like. Marian Anderson's deep voice is surprisingly wonderful in this music. I just wish she'd taken a less hurried tempo.
 
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