Cher Public

Earthy Pleasures

radvanvosky_amazonThere is no cry heard more often these days than, “Where are all the Verdi sopranos?!?” Yes, there was a day when we had the likes of Aprile Millo, Eva Marton, Leontyne Price, Renata Tebaldi, Maria Callas, Leonie Rysanek, Zinka Milanov and Antonietta Stella all singing in the same, say 25 or 30 years. While we do have a few adept Verdi sopranos, the one most promising for “Legendary” status is Sondra Radvanovsky, whose new album Verdi Arias all but seals her status as a leader in the crowd of Verdi specialists. 

As with all good singers, some very much dislike Ms. Radvanovsky’s voice. Some say it is too earthy, some don’t care for the upper register, and some manage to say the voice is too small. After hearing Ms. Radvanovsky live three times at the Met in recent seasons (Leonora, Lina, and Elvira), I can assure you her vocal presence is as clear and powerful as any soprano out there today, so let’s put that canard to rest.

But what really excites me about her singing is its uniqueness. I love when you hear a singer and know, after only a few bars, who that special timbre belongs to — think of the list in the first paragraph. That is indeed the definition of  “memorable,” and Ms. Radvanovsky’s voice is memorable to say the least. The earthy, smoky, almost husky middle and lower voice blossom into a powerful and shining upper register with a golden color over which she has wonderful control.

And yet in all that beauty, Ms. Radvanovsky can find a vicious anger, as seen in a passage many sopranos under-emphasized, the  “Maledizione!” at the end of “Pace, pace.” The ringing top edges on madness, and all sense of time and beat falls away into a desperate curse.

Luckily this is the only instance where phrasing is thrown to the wind for effect. Ms. Radvanovsky truly has a feel for the line and shape of a Verdian phrase. The clarity of her Italian leaves something to be desired, committing more focus to creating a legato phrase than to clearly defining individual sounds – but to me this is certainly the side on which a Verdi singer should err.

One thing that drove me wild on this album is her Aida. While she has not performed the role in its entirety yet, the liner notes indicate that the announcement of a Radvanovsky Aida is coming soon, and when it is, I am getting a ticket. Her treatment of the recitative was nothing short of sublime, and the heart-rending conflict of the piece is drawn to its furthest extent without losing sincerity. And it is all summed up in one of the most beautiful pianissimo endings of  “O patria mia” one will ever hear.

In a perfect world you’d have it all, but I’m more than happy to take the small “imperfections” in Ms. Radvanovsky’s voice. After all, that’s what makes a singer great – not a generic sound or feeling, but to express our own individual statement and feeling, which Ms. Radvanovsky does with deft ability and a truly unique beauty.

  • operaman50

    Believe me, I’ve heard her live, plenty of times …. and she’s nothing but a rather loud, “singing-saw” with with no ability to use words or phrasing to make the music jump off the page. She gives it the good old “American try”, but her Italian is pedestrian….. she has no ear for syllable emphasis or, it would appear, singing in the center of the pitch …. and to put her in the same category as Callas, Tebaldi, Caballe, Price, Milanov and Stella is ludicrous, as well as rather an insult to these great artists.

  • Bill

    Krassimira Stoyanova sings Desdemona, Gilda, Violetta,
    Elisabeta, Alice Ford, Verdi Requiem, Lida in La Battaglia,
    Luisa Miller, Trovatore Leonora, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra with Giovanni d’Arco forthcoming. Does that not qualify her as a Verdi soprano (also with 6 Mozart roles in her repertory)of sorts though not yet essaying the most dramatic Verdi soprano roles?

  • MontyNostry

    But, Bill, Stoyanova hasn’t sung at the Met for a while, which means she doesn’t even exist for some people on here …

  • MontyNostry

    … and she never seems to get invited to Covent Garden. She’d make an extremely welcome change from Marina Poplavskaya.

  • uwsinnyc

    I assume this is the version from the recording. It’s very impressive and yet I do not ultimately find it transcending.

  • Valmont

    I will say I was actually very impressed with Adrianne Pieczonka’s Amelia last season. First time hearing her, and I liked it a lot.

    Not Verdi, I know, but I think she’s new to the Verdi fold.

    • virginblogger

      Pieczonka did a great Verdi “Requiem” in LA a couple of years ago, if that counts…

  • Bill

    Stoyanova will be singing some Mimis at the Met next season and Desdemona sometime in the future at the Met. The problem at the Met is that Stoyanova, when she has sung, seems always to be in the second or third cast and no one
    notices it or reviews her performances. I do not know whether the Met does not invite her (or invites her too late) or that she feels she has a sufficient number of
    substantive engagements in Europe -- her main house seems to have been Vienna where she has sung a variety of roles and her website indicates that in the next years through 2013 she will be singing Mimi, Desdemona, Elisabeta and in 2013 Anna Bolena in Vienna. I have liked her Violetta much better than that of Fleming and some of the others we have had at the Met lately. Upcoming roles seem to include
    Rusalka, Tatiana, Madame Butterfly and she has sung
    a fair number of French roles, Rachel, in Huegenots, as Michaela, Antonia, most of the lyric Puccini (Mimi, Villy, Liu) , some Gomes operas, both of Gluck’s Iphigenias and has sung in Oratorios, Requiems so one would think (based upon her excellent Donna Annas at the Met a couple of seasons back) that she would be a very valuable and versatile soprano today in any opera house. Plus she wisely seems not to have been pushed into heavier roles like Ameila in Ballo, Aiad or Tosca etc. I have no clue why Covent Garden has ignored her. Muti is utilizing her for his upcoming Chicago Symphony Otellos. I do not know how old she is but she made her debut in Vienna in 1998 some 12 years ago and is a Kammersaengerin there since last October or so.