So, Sondra made a live broadcast for 96.3 FM at lunchtime today. It was one of those media things where the audience was aggressively stage managed by the floor staff but otherwise quite enjoyable. Also there was lunch which was a definite plus. What was a bit annoying was the overall vibe of “fitting opera into the programming for old folks”. Way to build a new audience there!
The performance was varied and interesting with Sondra on good form and the ever reliable Rachel Andrist on piano. There was no printed progrmme or lyric sheets so I’m going from my hastily scribbled notes but we got some Rachmaninov songs, which suited Sondra really well plus arias from Trovatore, Norma, Tosca and Andrea Chenier plus a Verdi song, Copland’s Simple Gifts and I could have danced all night. Nothing if not varied! It’s interesting how dropping from big opera rep to something like the Copland can be astonishingly effective. Simplicity and lack of artifice has it’s charms. And, yes, I want to hear her Norma and, if rumour is half way correct, probably will in the not too distant future.
Sondra has an unusual voice and it was really interesting to be able to listen close-up without an orchestra. She puts the colours down to having a very fast vibrato but I’m hearing something a bit different too (not that I’m at all a technical expert in this area). Most dramatic sopranos, when they go high and loud, sound either steely or brassy to me. That’s quite a subjective thing but I think it’s a combination of widening vibratoand a particular kind of harmonics; kind of how the horns sound in Shostakovich but not as extreme. Occasionally one hears someone like Schwanewilms (maybe Schwarzkopf too) where the vibrato doesn’t widen and the harmonics are “silvery” maybe like a flute. With Sondra I hear a reedy quality, like a clarinet maybe. I think maybe if one put a spectrometer on it one would see third, fifth, seventh harmonics quite prominent. I like it but I get why some people don’t. It’s fun to think about!
All in all, not a bad way to spend a lunch “hour”. Also how cool is that one of Canada’s leading divas lives in the same small village that produced Canada’s women’s rugby captain. And remember, you can catch Sondra in Roberto Devereux at the COC between now and May 21st.