Friday, September 25, 2009

What was He Thinking??

Solti, following in the footsteps of von Karajan, or something, from an article in the Guardian:
In the 90s, the late Sir Georg Solti asked American soprano Renée Fleming if she would sing [Isolde] for a production he was planning. Fleming looked at the score, decided that her voice would never be the same, and refused.
Renée Fleming? Honestly? A singer with a smallish voice*, no depth in her low register, and not much thrust on the top? Was he planning to do Tristan with an orchestra of 50, or what?

* I heard her live on a gala some years ago, along with a range of other sopranos and mezzos. Bigger than Janet Williams, a very light soprano, but noticeably smaller than Swenson, and nobody's asking her to sing Isolde.

10 comments:

A.C. Douglas said...

Renée Fleming? Honestly? A singer with a smallish voice*, no depth in her low register, and not much thrust on the top?
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Huh? You're making a joke, right?

ACD

Lisa Hirsch said...

The joke is that anyone could think she was able to sing Isolde. As for what I'm saying, I've heard her live, several times, and I stand by what I say about her voice.

A.C. Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr.B said...

This is a very funny story. It makes me feel that La Fleming is wise about her own gifts.

A.C. Douglas said...

She could do Isolde -- once. She has the instrument for it, although more lyrical rather than heroic. But after that once, that gorgeous voice with its magnificent low register and rich top would be damaged beyond repair.

ACD

calimac said...

I had to read to the end before I knew what you were talking about. Admittedly that's not very far. "... if she would sing the role." What role? The full article had said, but you hadn't.

Funny thing is, Solti was quite aware of these problems. Culshaw quotes him as saying that Wagner was oblivious to the impossible tasks he was setting singers until experience convinced him. His later operas are long but not so taxing.

Lisa Hirsch said...

calimac, I fixed that problem - thanks.

Dr. B. - yes, I agree. She's been careful throughout her career about which roles she will sing, to the point of being, I think, very conservative. She could sing Liu in Turandot successfully, and probably Mimi or Musetta, but has not to my knowledge attempted any Puccini on stage. She is 50, her voice is in great shape, and she'll probably be singing well into her 60s.

ACD, not even that. Fleming wouldn't make it through the process of learning and rehearsing the role without serious damage. Remember Nellie Melba's one attempt at the Siegfried Bruennhilde? That's a short, high-lying role, much shorter than Isolde, and supposedly Melba's voice was never the same afterward.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh, as far as "his later operas are long but not so taxing." Wagner figured this out after Siegfried, evidently, and wrote only two operas after that (Goetterdaemmerung and Parsifal).

calimac said...

True. Well, it's not as if Wagner wrote as many as Verdi.

Parsifal has been cited as a model in that regard, and Gott., though even bigger (I think) than Walkure or Siegfried, does not seem to have the reputation of being quite so much a marathon.

What about Meistersinger? Also relatively late, also not quite in the Tristan class, or so I understand.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The killer roles are Siegfried, Tristan, and Isolde; maybe Tannhauser, which is both high-lying and long. Bruennhilde is demanding but she's not on stage constantly in any of the operas where she appears. Isolde is tough but she is offstage for most of Act III. Parsifal is fairly sanely written.