James Jorden: So what
did Marwdew Czgowchwz really sound like?
James McCourt: I had in mind for her a
Farrell-Traubel voice, unleashed torrents of sound. But to tell the
truth, I didn't know what she sounded like. For the Amneris, she would
have sounded as much like Rita Gorr as possible, that big a sound.
But in addition, she would have the consummate artistry of Simionato,
plus she would be a little nuts like Fedora Barbieri.
Do you think singers need to be nuts - or, let's
say, "flawed" to be interesting?
don't know of a singer who in the estimation of everybody is unflawed.
I suppose you could say that Tebaldi had a flawless voice. And yet,
they always used to joke that the diapason must be lower in Italy
because in New York she was a quarter-tone flat. And Victoria, maybe
she was flawless, but her energy flagged, she would tire later in
the evening. Victoria had a funny idea about opera. She sang only
four performances of Ariadne auf Naxos in her career, at La
Scala. A big success, but she said she noticed her voice was changing,
getting larger: "I realized that if I continued to sing like
this, I wouldn't be able to sing a Schubert song again the way it
must be sung." And Desdemona, a role people thought was a natural
for her -- she waited until 1958 to sing at the Met, then after that
she sang it in San Francisco, and never again. The only voices I heard
even on recordings that seemed to me to be completely flawless were
Ponselle and Flagstad. Certainly Ponselle was flawless, even in that
rather strange Carmen she did. Other than that I never heard a flawless
Kiri te Kanawa had a flawless sound but she
was not a very interesting artist.
I was at her first Countess at the Met and I found it very boring.
Maybe Schwarzkopf had a perfect way of singing - perfect for herself,
but not a perfect voice, because by the time she got here she had
next to nothing left. There are times when singers do seem perfect,
like the Fischer-Dieskau, de los Angeles, Schwarzkopf, Gerald Moore
Is it the flaws that make an artist interesting?
I would say the idiosyncrasies, yes, the flaws are part of the character
of a voice. Now, I don't mean the wobble you could walk through that
Maria developed. Whatever de Hidalgo did to put that voice together
and keep it together until the late '50s, that was as perfect a technique
as you could want. When Rysanek was hitting her prime, the vocal personality
that she was giving was so overwhelming that we can't speak of flaws. She was a goddess, everyone knows that. Even in Nabucco she
was never less than exciting, and her debut was just phenomenal --
which brought great consternation to us all! I was perfectly prepared
to loathe this woman!