March 5, 2013

Lady Liebestod

Kirsten Flagstad as Isolde
Wagner's Liebestod. It comes at the very end of  a very long opera - Tristan und Isolde. I'm assuming you know something of the work, yes? Well. I found myself listening to it on YouTube a few days ago, and one thing led to another. You know how it is. You listen to one thing, see those other singers in the right hand column, and before your know it, a good twenty minutes has gone by. Of course, this gave me an idea. Why not compare them? To that end, I have assembled six sopranos who were considered exemplars of the role (I am not sure Farrell sang it in the house however), presented in chronological order from available material. Of course, I have my preference, that being Kirsten Flagstad's rendition. Her voice was said to be oceanic, and hearing her here, I can quite believe it. 

One curious thing to pay attention to is the tempi. Whether it was the need to fit the work onto one side of the disk or not, the  first two are much faster than the later interpretations. Is this quickness representative of how it was done in the theatre? That's what I'd like to know. So would those who have to sing it! 

Each singer has her quirks and vocal mannerisms. Each has the goods- as it were. What does it take to sing this music? The ability is sing in declamatory fashion with ease, a good deal of it in mezza voce manner - a tall order, especially after one has been singing onstage for a couple of hours. Technically speaking, this means being able to keep the vocal tube in it's longest length for a long time. As such, Old School teachers didn't allow their students to do this kind of thing until the student was nearing their 40's, when body strength was at its peak.









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