Monday, October 02, 2006

Singing and Aging

Re: singers who don't age well, I don't think it always means poor technique by any means. Physical ailments, significant change of physique and, probably most of all, emotional turbulence in one's private life can all work to derail a superb voice and technique. And life isn't fair: there are those who sing the wrong things, eat the wrong things, drink the wrong things and screw the wrong things who still manage to keep their voices amazingly well like the Duke escaping Monterone's curse.Re: singers past their prime, I say let the public decide rather than try to institute forced retirement. For those who care only about the youthful, sensual sound of the voice, they can stay home and just not listen to the recordings. For others, like myself, for whom the actual sound of the instrument is only one aspect of a singers art, so long as the artist has something compelling to say with the music I'm willing to listen.Some singers compensate for the loss of high notes and tonal freshness with deepened interpretive insights. Nobody would claim Flagstad's voice was at is prime in her late 50's when she made the studio "Tristan" recording under Furtwängler, but in addition to singing that is still beautiful most of the time she brings an incredible wealth of musical and dramatic subtlety of inflection to that recording that I certainly wouldn't want to have missed. Hotter's recording of "Winterreise" with Erik Werba in the early 60's has a searing depth that you just don't get from the one made in his vocal prime with Raucheisen, or even the excellent mid 50's version with Gerald Moore. Sutherland's Norma became a much more interesting creation when she was having to dispense the tonal fireworks much more sparingly.Some even become better singers when they're having to apply care to the use of an aging voice. Lotte Lehmann, who had a chronic tendency to oversing in her prime, learned to open up those shrill high notes and even out her scale quite agreeably during that period from the late 30's to mid 40's when the instrument was still certainly intact but wasn't doing her bidding with such abandon.Max* * * * *

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