Saturday, April 29, 2006

Smart Singers

While listening to today's Lohengrin, and the mini interview with Ben Heppner before Act 3, I started thinking about which singers were really intelligent. I don't mean just in terms of managing their careers or being on top of the latest p.r. trends, but really smart as in high I.Q.I think this topic occurred to me while listening to Heppner because I am beginning to think he may be a bit dim. Not stupid, mind you, just... dim. I've seen him live and heard him on recordings and broadcasts many times. He's a very fine tenor, one of the best we've had in years, but he always strikes me as stolid, which isn't all that uncommon in tenors. And now something isn't working in his voice and he doesn't seem able to get it right again. This led me to ponder upon singers who may not have had (or have) the magnificent voice Heppner has (or had) but who have mental depth and an ability to manage their careers to unexpected lengths. Anja Silja comes to mind. Here is a soprano who never possessed the most beautiful or powerful of voices but she has out-lasted all of her collegues from her prime days. I remember when the critics panned her regularly for faulty production and an ugly 'whiteness' of sound. Yet, we are going to hear her next season at the Met.. she will be 65. She is also a very intelligent woman. Wieland Wagner was not one to suffer fools and he spent many years in Silja's company so I figure she must have a first class brain.Aside from Brigitte Fassbaender and Siegfried Jerusalem (and maybe Callas), Silja strikes me as being one of those rare opera singers who are far above average in pure intelligence over their collegues. There is that old famous quote by, I believe, Anna Russell, who said 'singers have resonance where their brains out to be'. Do any of you have a singer or singers in mind who you think (or know for certain) are really smart? People who perhaps read and contemplate Kant or majored in calculus in some German Universit├Ąt, something like that. Bernd Weikl just popped into my head. I think he studied engineering or something then turned to singing.Just curious... woolgathering with echoes of Lohengrin rolling around (and sometimes croaking) in my inner ear.Jeffrey

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