Monday, December 31, 2007

Hardly “Silent” but kinda “Heavenly”

I just happened upon recordings on youtube of two great Wagnerians giving their take on "Silent Night".

So, two Scandinavian farm gals (I'm just speaking figuratively; I know that Flagstad didn't grow up on a farm) who were the two supreme Wagnerians of the last century singing the most innig of all Christmas songs. How do they do?

It's really interesting to compare and contrast them. Flagstad's was a voice of dark honey (occasionally threatening more toward molasses) and Nilsson's was one of ice (that sometimes veered more toward laser beam). Flagstad's work emphasized the humanity of her characters; Nilsson's their imperiousness. There's a reason her Turandot was so celebrated. And why Flagstad's Isolde was so revered. And there's a reason why (in my opinion) Nilsson's Isolde was not her most successful role and why Flagstad never took on Turandot (apart from the fact that her top was never as secure as Nilsson's).

Those virtues are certainly to be heard in their singing of this Christmas favorite.

And so, without further ado, here are our two contestants:

In this corner, from Norway, weighing in at 250 pounds, Kirsten Flagstad:

And in this corner, weighing in at a trim 200 pounds, Sweden's Birgit Nilsson:

They're both some kind of wonderful, these gals, aren't they!?!?

Will we ever see their equal?

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