05 September 2007

Sediziose voci

There's a Casta Diva sing-off happening on YouTube: twenty-two renditions of the aria for you to see, hear, and score, courtesy of one "coloraturafan". (Bummed that the cabaletta isn't included, but whatever, I'll live.) The range is quite spectacular, from quality (duh) to name recognition (Anait Mchitarian who?). I have my favorites, but I'm not saying, lest I doom them.

New Yorkers may be interested in hearing two clips in particular: Hasmik Papian's and Maria Guleghina's. Both ladies are scheduled to sing Norma at the Met in the fall. I saw Papian's Aida a couple of years ago, but didn't bother to enter a review here. All I remember now is a plain, smallish voice struggling to be heard. But Norma has a more forgiving orchestration; and if she still possesses the delicate contours of the voice as displayed in her Casta Diva clip (from 1999), she'll likely see some success.

USS Guleghina, quite the opposite, is a known quantity in these ports. Her Casta Diva entry is a pirate recording, and it's quite revealing. Because the capture is from a single vantage point with one distant microphone, you can get a sense of just how her big sound interacts/dominates/humbles the acoustic frame of the hall. She's more than loud: she seems to have tapped into the natural frequencies of wood and concrete, such that the entire auditorium resonates with her lungs at about 4.0 in the Richter scale. There're charming attempts to modulate dynamics, but the written crescendos always tend to push her voice back to its natural teradecibel setting. Listen to the extreme distortion of the recorded sound: indeed, she's the mortal enemy of cheap mics. (I know.) Lucky for her that a bona fide bel-cantist, Dolora Zajick, will be there too, so it won't be the all-out circus ... you and I are secretly hoping for.

Oh yes, our Anna Netrebko, always up for anything, is among the contestants. But she best watch her back, because these babes are gaining fast.