21 November 2004

The "Generic" Voice

The Empress by the Beach

I remember someone e-mailing me some time ago to declare that his displeasure for Deborah Voigt's voice stems from it being too "generic," and many others have made similar comments elsewhere. I sit in the sun-filled "Florida" room on a Sunday afternoon, listening to Act III of the MET Die Frau ohne Schatten broadcast for the first time in many, many months, after being the one CD alternating with all else in my CD player. If Voigt's voice is indeed generic (I'm assuming they also mean lacking uniqueness and personality), then why is it that the venerable American voice factory isn't producing more clones; that, in truth (to my ears), no one else in the world's current roster can sing like her. The evenness in vocal production is astounding, as is the certainty in tone, and the audacity to constantly sing on pitch. With such technical attention, the passion isn't lacking, as some lazily conclude, but is profoundly cleansed; through her singing, one can reach the domain imagined by the composer unencumbered by vocal limits, and therefore participate in a transcendent, more timeless passion. The other night, her Elisabeth shimmered without compare, and it still plays in the soundtrack of my days. Those who say generic will be hard-pressed to name another active soprano that can overwhelm the theater with a sound as full-bodied, as relentlessly classical; have they even heard Voigt live? OK, the opera has just concluded; Peter Allen is speaking; there's a blue jay splashing around in our bird bath, which we bought from a yard sale yesterday: our first guest.