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More o’ Leonora

Since you so adroitly identified the voice of the mystery Leonora as Anja Harteros, La Cieca thought you might like to hear the soprano in the complete Act 4, Scene 1 of Il trovatore

Anja Harteros sings Leonora


  • Arianna a Nasso says:

    I don’t understand Bill’s and Feldmarschallin’s views that using chest voice in Verdi will damage Harteros’s voice or her ability to sing Mozart, etc. Yes, over-using the chest voice can cause problems, but using it tastefully and in a technically intelligent fashion, as surely Harteros is capable of doing, should not cause any harm, especially if she balances her repertoire between composers. Following the last century of singing, the vast majority of listeners expect chest voice in lirico spinto Verdi roles like Leonora and Elisabetta, and I agree that by not attemping it, one is not doing the music justice, just as when Gheorghiu for a while banished portamento from Puccini. The chest voice is part of the voice; one just needs to use it responsibly.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      The thing is that Harteros *does* use chest voice in that Trov excerpt in the Miserere especially, it’s just that it isn’t hammered out alla early Callas, is very slightly mixed, and retains the beautiful, velvety colour of the rest of her excellently produced voice, which surely comes to the same thing as ‘using it tastefully and in a technically intelligent fashion’.

  • imelda says:

    I have to agree with Arianna on the use of chest voice.
    Fiordiligi, Vitellia, Elettra? Not going to get far with those ladies without responsible use of the chest register. (Does a soprano have a (audible) low g without using their chest voice?)

    • Bill says:

      Imelda -- not every Fiordiligi has had to utilize
      chest voice -- Both Seefried (the only Fiordiligi
      in Vienna and Salzburg from 1943-57) sang the low
      notes beautifully in Cosi without chest voice and
      so did Jurinac -- both had strong lower registers.
      The last really great Fiordilgi I heard on stage was Isokoski and she did not use chest voice the times I heard her. I do not recall that Miah Persson did either this autumn at the Met. Actually though, not many of the well known Mozart singers of the last 60 years
      have been singing Leonora in Trovatore -- Welitsch did, Harteros does Zylis-Gara was a wonderful Mozartian and did sing Leonora at least a few times
      but I did not hear it, and Studer and Varady were effective in Mozart and sang in some Trovatores.
      I did not much care for Leontyne Price in Cosi.
      Steber sang Verdi but I think maybe not Trovatore But most of the singers of Mozart stayed away from Trovatore -- more usual Gilda, Nanetta, Desdemona,
      Alice Ford, Violetta. and Elisabetta all of which a lyric can manage. I am sure Mrs JC could offer a countless list of sopranos who used chest voice
      extensively earlier on and ended up with shattered voices later in their careers. Some Mozartian sopranos had some difficulty with the lowest notes -- della Casa for one -- the voice was a bit scratchy very low -- and Schwarzkopf can be heard using a few chest tones as early as her 1950 Donna Elvira in Salzburg -- but I think it was more a matter of just getting some sound out for the lowest notes. Harteros has a beautiful line in the Trovatore excerpts we heard earlier on this blog. I much prefer this type of singing than something more gutteral resorting to frequent chest tones.
      I though Harteros as Alcina was truly lovely -- better actually than she was in the 4 Last Songs
      illustration where there was just a little spread in the higher notes. The new British Opera Magazine for March which just arrived has a long story about Harteros. It would appear that she does not
      particularly desire to be typecast and will continue
      with Mozart, Strauss as well as Verdi and other Italian composers. Tosca maybe upcoming -- Senta perhaps someday, Salome -- a long way in the future if ever.

  • Feldmarschallin says:

    well one can take as example Rethberg who managed the Italian roles beautifully without having to dip into the chest all the time. Her tonal beauty is a marvel and she didn’t need to resort to cheap effects to make her point. She also was very famous for her Italian roles as well as German roles and was a master in mixing up composers. Her Aida with the piano high C in the third act is one of the best versions if not they best. Harteros can certainly see how Rethberg managed and she sang some of the heaviest Italian roles, perhaps even a tad too heavy. She was a true musician who sang everthing from Handel to Wagner to Puccini to Verdi and Mozart and much more plus she was famous for her Lieder. I find her Ballo and Chenier arias some of the best versions as well and prefer her anyday over someone like Caniglia or Cigna.

    • Arianna a Nasso says:

      Feldmarschallin -- I don’t think anyone is suggesting Harteros “dip into the chest all the time” or “resort to cheap effects” simply by expecting her to use a reasonable amount of chest voice in Verdi.

      I love Rethberg’s recordings too, but she came to the Italian repertoire from the German tradition. I have a hard time accepting that the German approach to an Italian composer like Verdi is superior to the Italian one. I also think Cigna and Caniglia are rather extreme contrasts to Rethberg compared to, say, Ponselle and Muzio or Tebaldi and Stella.

      • Feldmarschallin says:

        Ponselle is of course great as well. I meant that Harteros needn’t look far (Rethberg) for how Italian opera can be sung quite well. There are some overlaps with the Ponselle and Rethberg but also certain roles which I believe Ponselle didn’t sing or at least didn’t sing much. Aida was not done very often and I don’t think Ballo was done at all by the divine Rosa. You know that some of the Verdi wasn’t done that often in those days. Desdemona is another Rethberg role and Ponselle didn’t sing Amelia Grimaldi since Mueller sang it in 32 and then Rethberg. Another reason why I mentioned Rethberg was the weight of the voice. Ponselle was a dramatic soprano from the start which Rethberg and Harteros never were nor will be. From the early start of both in Mozart to the easy top and relative agility Harteros is more similiar to Rethberg. Muzio, Tebaldi and Stella are a different matter altogether. I doubt you will find Handel, Mozart,Strauss or Weber very prominently. The word ‘German approach’ I find a bit puzzling. After all Theresa Stolz was a noted Verdi singer who sang under the composer many times. Where would someone like Zinka Milanov fit in? Varady?
        Both certainly were not Italians and if anything were perhaps closer to this ‘German approach’ you mention. For your information I find the two best versions of the Ballo aria by Callas and by Rethberg. Certainly very different but equally great IMO. But in the shaping of the line and the use of the words and rhythm but are supreme.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        Again, Harteros *does* use chest voice in that Trov clip -- why is this debate happening?

  • daviddc says:

    Honestly, dude, you’re being an idiot. “She makes Verdi sound like Mozart.” What does that even mean? Sung in tempo and as written? Sung with precision and control, like Verdi doesn’t need that? What? “Slancio”? Are you channeling Ed Rosen? This is gorgeous singing. Your inability to hear that is your problem, not Hartertos’s. And, really, you can listen to this and type “feh”? Rather than criticize the very slow tempos (the orchestra almost goes out for a smoke several times), the best (least) you can summon is “feh”? Same to you. Not to be rude (OK, intending to be rude) but Harteros rocks, unlike tired old you. Stop listening to musicians making music, it’s clearly past you. Really, dude, I know this is harsh, but you hold yourself out on Parterre as a struggling musician, and if you can’t get this … maybe that’s the problem and explains the struggle.

  • ilpenedelmiocor says:

    Methinks myself transported to the nether regions of the youtube commentariat….

  • armerjacquino says:

    The ad hominem stuff is a bit unnecessary, but I must admit that I found myself wondering what on earth ‘She makes Verdi sound like Mozart’ could actually mean without insulting one or both of the composers.

  • m. croche says:

    I assume the “dc” in the screen-name stands for “diplomatic corps”.

  • louannd says:

    Why can’t I think of this stuff to say? I guess I just get so nonplussed that my mind goes beserk. Thanks Diplomatic David.

  • ianw2 says:

    Oh, but it sounds knowledgable, which is the main thing. I suggest that we all adopt is the standard way to discuss any singer, and the more obscure the better!

    She makes Mussorgsky sound like Paisiello. He conducts Bellini like Zemlinsky. They sing Ades like Cilea.

  • peter says:


  • peter says:

    The touché was meant for m.croche.

  • daviddc says:

    AJ, you’re right (as often), this got kinda ad hominem (my cover of “you’re being” rather than “you are” notwithstanding) and I apologize to Sanford, who has posted many interesting things on Parterre. I was just so “I live on Mars, you on some other planet” by Sanford’s comparison of Harteros to Brightman, that … I went Old Yeller. What can I say? Apologies to all.

  • louannd says:

    Really, do we know what we are talking about? I am SURE that Harteros when singing with what instrument she has IN HER LARYNX, CORRECTLY, knows how to sing. That is evident from the beauty of sound, and her ability to sing WHAT IS WRITTEN. She can no more control her “CHEST” resonators than any of us can.

    During singing in the lower register, the larynx is lowered since the muscles which connect it to the rib cage are tensed whereas the muscles above the larynx are not tensed. Consequently, a large proportion of the vibratory energy is transmitted to the thoracic area, giving singers the impression that their voice is resonating in the chest. This impression however is false. The chest by virtue of its design and location can make no significant contribution to the resonance system of the voice. The chest is on the wrong side of the vocal folds and there is nothing in the design of the lungs that could serve to reflect sound waves back toward the larynx.

    [edit] See also

  • Nerva Nelli says:

    In re: “Old Yeller”

    [img] Yeller.jpg[/img]

  • armerjacquino says:

    That’s handsomely said, dc. If it’s any help I think it was Kermes who was being compared to Brightman, not Harteros.

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    Not really very helpful, louannd, since whatever is going on physiologically really isn’t as important in this context as what the term ‘chest voice’ has come to mean in common usage amongst opera singers and opera lovers, ie an audible change in registers and usually a hardening of the tone.

  • louannd says:

    I would argue that perhaps among opera lovers “chest voice” is often discussed but what you are describing sounds painful to me. Here is a another tidbit about the chest voice from a pedagogical point of view:

    The term was later redefined during the bel canto period when it was identified as the lowest of three vocal registers: the chest, passaggio and head registers. This approach is still taught by some vocal pedagogists today.[3]

    However as knowledge of human physiology has increased over the past two hundred years, so has the understanding of the physical process of singing and vocal production. As a result, many vocal pedagogists have redefined or even abandoned the use of the term chest voice.[3] In particular, the use of the term chest register has become controversial since vocal registration is more commonly seen today as a product of laryngeal function that is unrelated to the physiology of the chest and lungs.

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    But the pedagogical point of view isn’t really relevant here -- we’re using the term ‘chest voice’ to describe a specific colour that people have come to expect on the lowest notes in dramatic singing, and how that colour results, while interesting, isn’t the point. It’s whether it is necessary for great Verdi singing, among other things. You say it sounds painful to you as if you don’t know what I’m talking about, but surely you’re being disingenuous?