The Dynamos of Opera

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Birgit Nilsson and Giusepe di Stefano in Puccini's 'Turandot' at Vienna State Opera in 1961. Birgit Nilsson and Giusepe di Stefano in Puccini's 'Turandot' at Vienna State Opera in 1961. (Imagno/Getty Images)

Dramatic and Wagnerian sopranos are the long distance runners of opera. They have the stamina to withstand the longest opera and the power to soar over the largest orchestra. They play lofty goddesses and mortals of deep passion. These are women to be reckoned with.

This week, host Debbie Voigt illustrates the difference between dramatic and Wagnerian sopranos with excerpts by Kirsten Flagstad, Helen Traubel, Astrid Varnay, Martha Mödl, Rosa Ponselle and others in works by Wagner, Richard Strauss, Puccini and Verdi.

The program also features a tribute to the late Magda Olivero.

Program playlist:

Götterdämmerung: “Immolation Scene”
Richard Wagner
Kirsten Flagstad, soprano
San Francisco Orchestra
Edwin McArthur, conductor
RCA 7914-2-RG

Die Walküre: “Hojotoho!”
Richard Wagner
Helen Traubel, soprano
Uncredited Orchestra
Ernst Knoch, conductor
Preiser Records WWV 86B

The Flying Dutchman: “Traft ihr das Schiff”
Richard Wagner
Astrid Varney, soprano
Austrian Symphony Orchestra
Hermann Weigert, conductor
Preiser Records

Parsifal: “Ich sah das Kind”
Richard Wagner
Martha Mödl, soprano
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Hans Knappertbusch, conductor
Archipel-Walhal

Turandot: “In questa reggia”
Giacomo Puccini
Birgit Nilsson, soprano
Franco Corelli, tenor
Chorus and Orchestra of Rome Opera
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, conductor
Angel/EMI 65163

La forza del destino: “Pace, pace, mio dio”
Rosa Ponselle, soprano
Uncredited orchestra
Rosario Bourdon, conductor
Recorded 1/23/24
BMG 09026-61580-2

Tannhauser: “Dich teure halle”
Richard Wagner
Deborah Voigt, soprano
Bavarian Radio Symphony
Sir Richard Armstrong, conductor
EMI Classics 243-5-57681-2

Madama Butterfly: “Un bel di”
Giacomo Puccini
Renata Tebaldi, soprano
Orchestra of Santa Cecilia Academy, Rome
Tullio Serafin, conductor
London 467466

Aida: “Ritorna vincitor!”
Giuseppe Verdi
Leontyne Price, soprano
London Symphony Orchestra
John Alldis Choir
Erich Leinsdorf, conductor
RCA 6198

La Wally: “Ebben ne andrò lontana”
Alfredo Catalani
Magda Olivero, soprano
Orchestra of RAI
Ferruccio Scaglia, conductor
Radio concert broadcast, 1958
Cetra CDMR 5024

Comments [4]

Clare G. from Portland

Suzanne from New York…you are right, and WQXR makes other mistakes. On the regular Operavore show, they have repeatedly attributed an aria from "The Flying Dutchman" to Birgit Nilsson when it is definitely Jessye Norman.

Feb. 11 2015 02:35 PM
Jessica B. from New Jersey

Did Debbie Voigt say that before the dramatic repertoire was established, all that sopranos needed were "scales, trills, and a pleasant stage presence"? I'm trying to remember exactly what she said, wrap my head around it, and reassure myself that it was not, in fact, an unfair (if possibly inadvertent) dig at every operatic soprano that came before Verdi and Wagner. Surely even the bel canto era had singers who could act.

Nov. 15 2014 01:10 PM
Suzanne from New York

That was NOT Franco Corelli singing with Nilsson in the "Turandot" excerpt. It was Jussi Bjoerling. I'm surprised at WQXR's error. There IS a commercial recording with Nilsson and Corelli that I'm sure could have been used.

Nov. 15 2014 12:31 PM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

The repertoire on this program may well bear out Nilsson's quote"Wagner made me famous,Puccini made me rich."The most stentorian soprano voices,in addition to Wagner and "Turandot" also display their vocal powers in roles like "Elektra" and the Dyer's Wife in "Die Frau Ohne Schatten".

Nov. 15 2014 01:59 AM

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