Friday, June 01, 2007

20 Greatest Sopranos

This list is from BBC Music magazine, April issue. It's based on a poll of critics.

1 Maria Callas 1923-1977 Greek-American*
2 Joan Sutherland 1926-2010 Australian*
3 Victoria de los Angeles 1923-2005 Spanish*
4 Leontyne Price 1927-  American*
5 Birgit Nilsson 1918-2005 Swedish*
6 Montserrat Caballe 1933-  Spanish*
7 Lucia Popp 1939-1993 Slovakia
8 Margaret Price 1941-2011 Welsh
9 Kirsten Flagstad 1895-1962 Norwegian*
10 Emma Kirby 1949- English
11 Elisabeth Schwarzkopf 1915-2006 German*
12 Regine Crespin 1927-2007 French
13 Galina Vishnevskaya 1926- Russian
14 Gundula Janowitz 1937- German
15 Karita Mattila 1960- Finn
16 Elisabeth Schumann 1888-1952 German
17 Christine Brewer 1960- American
18 Renata Tebaldi 1922-2004 Italian*
19 Rosa Ponselle 1897-1981 American
20 Elly Ameling 1933- Dutch

The asterisks confer a "selbstverstaendlich" status. Of course. Any list must include these people.

People I don't know at all are:

20. Elly Ameling
16. Elisabeth Schumann (I bet you don't either)
13. Galina Vishnevskaya (Huh?)
10. Emma Kirby (not an opera singer at all)

I don't ever remember getting worked up over:

7 Lucia Popp 1939-1993 Slovakia (She's OK, I guess, but not my style.)
8 Margaret Price 1941- Welsh (I think this ranking is much too high. Placing her above Flagstad is nonsense. They must be British critics.)

People who are missing from the list include:

Eileen Farrell 1920-2002 American (she would definitely be on my list.)
Beverly Sills 1929- American
Renata Scotto 1934- Italian
Mirella Freni 1935- Italian (I think she is the heir to Tebaldi and a very important singer.)
Kiri Te Kanawa 1944- New Zealand
Jessye Norman 1945- American
Kathleen Battle 1948- American (she makes my list.)
Waltraud Meier 1956- German (Wikipedia says she is a mezzo.)
Renée Fleming 1959- American
Angela Gheorghiu 1965- Romanian
Anna Netrebko 1971 Russian

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I would gladly see Lucia ranked even higher but 7th is probably fair.
Emma Kirkby has sung opera and in any case I don't think it specifies they must be operatic sopranos. But I still think she's ranked way too high. Personally I can't abide her. On the other hand she has done a lot for early music.
I'd tend to support Elly Ameling's presence; among other things she seems often to be cited as a formative influence for subsequent sopranos.
Not sure how Christine Brewer made her way in there - she must have some devotees among the critics.
I have heard Elisabeth Schumann occasionally and she was quite lovely (though on substandard historical recordings) but not enough to have an opinion on her ranking here.
Among your omissions I agree most strongly with the first four. Mirella should definitely be there. But I wouldn't put Anna in the top 20 yet.
This comment is much too long.

Dr.B said...

This comment is great. This is your area of expertise.

Dr.B said...

I must say Lucia Popp's "Deh vieni non tardar" is pretty fabulous.

Anonymous said...

You cannot be serious placing Callas at top of list, granted she was the greatest actress and had great presence but hardlt the greatest voice. Jim

Anonymous said...

so nobody seems to remember or like leyla gencer, virginia zeani, raina kabaivanska, edda moser etc... victoria de los angeles? gimme a break! oh and don't mess with lucia popp shes great

Dr.B said...

I think they probably won't appear in the list unless they have recorded a lot.

Unknown said...

I´m very happy to see the greatest soprano of the Early Music (from Dowland and Bird, Bach and Handel until Mozart and Haydn)Emma Kirkby,one voice of the Heaven, being recognised for all her work and for have given us such beauty and divine things!
this is my best soprano!and about opera!! I´ve got some operas of Handel, and Mozart, Vivaldi and Purcell arias sung by Kirkby, and they are excellent!!

Robert Stephen Higgins said...

I was really impressed with American Nancy Gustafson when she appeared with Pavarotti at Brindisi, Italy.