Monday, September 04, 2006

I think we're all getting a little tired of these.

You'll have read elsewhere by now that Astrid Varnay has died at age 88. A singer I was just discovering, oddly, but a name the people who taught me opera always invoked with great respect. Someone else with solid cred calls her memoirs "one of the few modern singer's bios worth reading." I do think I'll read them. Varnay was the sort of go-for-broke singer whose vocalism is an athletic act; on most lists, one of the great Wagneriennes of the last century though the last of her performances I listened to (with the Wellsungs) was an Elektra. The role was on its way out of her voice but through towering self-assurance and a primal sense for all the triumph and tragedy of Sophocles and Hoffmansthal, she pulled it off. Now can we please take a long break from this funeral procession of vocal eminences?

7 comments:

meretrice i. d'oscena said...

Amen to that.
Her Elektra recording is hot; the sound is verflucht, but isn't it amazing how the great voices still can sound great even heard on a wretched recording?

I'm a fan, but her Brunnhilde puzzled me-- the hojotoho's were done with oddly short, yipped high notes.
But who am I to throw stones at a giant. I've read that the live Dutchman is amazing; reviews of Varnay's recordings always seem to mention 'white-hot vocal steel'.

Maury D'annato said...

Her Siegfried Brunnhilde is pretty gripping. I know what you mean about hojotohooooYIP, though. It's like matzoh balls: some people like them fluffy and others heavy. I prefer the hojotoho to go up to a solid, held note but it's a matter of taste. Check out the Sieg/Brun on Parterre. (Me, I've never been able to tolerate Dutchman much.)

She was also a fascinating looking woman.

manprano said...

And add to the list Leopold Simoneau, whose death I wouldn't have known about had it not been for the sidebar on The Standing Room. Enough. Basta così.

Ariadne said...

I totally agree! Ich habe genug.

Maury D'annato said...

Duly noted about Simoneau. Not, perhaps, a titan but a worthy artist, vocally a gentelman. Like a lot of other people, apparently, I kind of assumed he died years ago. Listening to him and Dermota, a baker's dozen years ago, I got my imprint of how Mozart tenoring should sound. (Thank goodness this is a category we are not now bankrupt in, as opposed to Varnay's, really.)

meretrice i. d'oscena said...

She really was fascinating looking-
I would love to see her Elektra, and I imagine that her Ortrud was pretty hair-raising to watch as well. I usually find it impossible to root for that simp Elsa, even when she was sung by Nilsson. But who couldn't be seduced by (if not intimidated by) the dark side when Varnay was the bad guy?

As for the matzoh-- if I throw it, I want it to break a window. Mmmmmmm.....

Anonymous said...

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