Her entrance that night has to be the most spectacular entrance ever experienced - the love from her fans is easily felt.
What has always impressed me most about Steber's singing is how clean it is.
By "clean," I mean that her tone is focused and forward (and beautiful)
with steady, unobtrusive vibrato, her attack on notes spot-on with no slides
or scoops, her phrasing straightforward and unfussy but musical (Renee
Fleming could learn a thing or two from Steber in this regard), her diction
clear, her attention to note values and dynamic markings scrupulous, and her
stylistic grasp sure. One could take musical dictation from almost
everything Steber sings. All these qualities, which were based on
rock-solid vocal technique, enabled her to sing at least very well, and at
best superbly, in an incredible variety of repertoire, from baroque to the
20th century. Until the very latter part of her career, she was an
extraordinarily consistent singer.
If I had to identify a flaw in Steber's singing, it would be that the
amazing efficiency of her singing sometimes rendered it a bit impersonal.
She certainly did not lack personality, but she also rarely had that effect
of reaching out and grabbing you and demanding your attention through
individuality of utterance. She was similar to Melba in that sometimes she
comes across as a singing machine. But even in those instances, what a
machine it was!
I saw Steber many times. In recital in Boston's Jordan Hall she sang an
entire program of demanding operatic arias -including Qui la Voce - and she
spoke to us in the audience and said that when she was a New England
Conservatory student she heard the leading artists of that time in the same
hall and wanted to give us the kind of program she herself experienced. She
is quoted as saying that when Bruno Walter first heard her he was very
impressed. He asked her where she learned to sing like that and she told him
she learned her technique from Dr. Whitney in Boston. I never heard her
with the BSO, but of course many times in opera in Boston and New York.
I am grateful for her many recordings and Firestone broadcasts. In
particular her Knoxville Summer of 1915 is something I can play again and
again and it spoils me for the thin voiced sopranos who perform it so much
these days. Les Nuits d'Ete -
I have heard it so often I can practically sing the whole cycle with her
(very quietly of course). Quand viendra la saison nouvelle - March in Boston
is an appropriate time to hear those words. I saw her in Trovatore at
Lewiston Stadium - probably the only time she ever sang it. She sang
everything with generosity- that is the key word I would use for her. Her
voice was generous - and she gave everything she had and you knew that
singing was a gift that she loved to share with her listeners.
Angelo in Boston