And now, cher public, let’s put today’s singers, the Contemporary Divas, under the microscope. How do they stack up?
Yes, there are (many) nights when she phones it in, but when Angela Gheorghiu decides to take the audience on an Emotional Journey, a queen could ask for no better tour guide.
Jay Caspian Kang: “From 6:42 on in this video, she really does morph into another being, someone who doesn’t quite follow the same laws of physics as the rest of us. Maybe a later version of these rankings could examine what exactly happens when the diva starts to get all incandescent and then starts fucking shit up? It’s like she just went up a level in Dungeons and Dragons.”
At any given time during a golden era there are perhaps four or five truly great voices; in our own less generously endowed epoch, Dolora Zajick reigns supreme as exemplar of Stimm.
A generation’s definitive Kundry is by definition also its supreme practitioner of Kunst: Waltraud Meier. (Note that in the course of this study we have observed the Kunstdiva in two somewhat different stages of her metamorphosis: standing immobile next to a grand piano, and crawling in a frenzy across a mirrored stage floor. The only immutable aspect of the Kunstdiva is her caftan.)
JCK: “This should have been narrated by Scott Hamilton. It’s like watching Surya Bonaly do fifteen backflips in a row in Olympic competition, not giving a shit that the judges aren’t allowed to score them as legitimate jumps. On the last backflip, she catches a bit of an edge but holds…HOLDS! On! Also, 1:03 would’ve broken the scale for the pop divas hand gestures scale. Even Mariah would have run out of notes to point out!”
La Cieca replies, “Fan or no fan, you have to admit that Cecilia Bartoli has trademarked The Cenerentola Show. (La Cieca adores how the bootleg camera does its own merry jig in time to the diva’s “Sparkle, Neeley, sparkle!” body English.)
It’s still a bit early in Joyce DiDonato‘s career to grant her full Cult Status, though this performance may well mark the turning point. She’s singing no differently (i.e., with uniform excellence) than she did before breaking her leg, but now she’s That Girl with Spunk.