Post by firstname.lastname@example.org
“Fine voice”? I just watched a bit of that Youtube clip, as much as I could stand of her shrieking gargle and mangled vowels. Absolutely bloody frightful. And sadly all too typical of the standard of Wagner singing today. Flagstad, Nilsson, Varnay and a host of others must be madly spinning in their graves. And don’t get me started about Herlitzius, who seems to be the hog caller du jour.
To describe any singer of Theorin's standing as producing a "shrieking gargle" is the usual kind of hyperbole one hears batted around the interval bars, usually in overloud voices, and laden with comparisons to singers safely departed or known only from recordings. In Nilsson's time the same kind of voices made exactly the same kind of disparaging comparisons to Flagstad, and so on back through the generations to Nanny Larsen-Todsen and beyond. Rather like Bartolo in Barbiere, disparaging Rosina as opposed to a long-dead castrato ...
I heard Nilsson live, early in my career, and while she was certainly phenomenal, her diction, for example, was by no means perfect, she wasn't always spot on pitch, along with many of the other minor flaws one expects from any singer in live performance. Theorin is not in her league, but then neither were Nilsson's contemporaries either -- including Varnay. Some of the younger ones, though, had valuable qualities Nilsson lacked -- Rita Hunter, for example. While there are serious questions over modern voice teaching, premature role assumption, and the workload expected of modern singers, the actual state of Wagner singing is probably about what it always was. It's simply that the real giants don't come along that often, and we're currently awaiting the next ones to emerge.
Meanwhile we have a wide range of really excellent singers who are, if not quite that amazing, as good as their previous equivalents. In the last few years I've heard excellent Brunnhildes, Nina Stemme for example, and Christine Goerke, Anja Kampe (though handicapped by the production) and some promising new Wagnerians in Heidi Melton (despite a dismal Siegfried recording) and Amber Wagner. And, of course, Irene Theorin. There are plenty of others.
It's rather too easy to achieve a certain snob value about wine, by praising only the impossibly rare vintages, and ignoring what one can actually drink to enjoy, and about hifi by lauding billionaire-level equipment; and I fancy the same might apply to singers.