Saturday, May 26, 2012


A mentor and friend of mine encouraged me to take a peek at how Leontyne Price conducts herself while on stage and so today, I decided to watch Kultur’s DVD, The Great Sopranos: Classic Performances 1950-1963 and it was awesome.

I grew up in a Roman Catholic Church and since I was young, I developed a pleasing ear for classical music. I’ll never forget the soprano that used to render music on Sunday mornings at St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn. Her name was Joanne and her voice would just ring through the church and send chills into the bodies of the entire congregation along with the pipe organ that accompanied her. The sopranos featured on the DVD were comparable to her.

The Great Sopranos: Classic Performances 1950-1963 was about an hour long. Not only did it feature a performance by Leontyne Price, but it also featured other lyric and coloratura sopranos like Joan Sutherland, Roberta Peters, Anna Mofo, Jeanette MacDonald and many other great divas singing arias from classical musicians that are well known to the world.

Watching them was an eyeful. While I have found myself closing my eyes often when I emote as I vocalize, these true divas featured in the program showed real emotion and did not close their eyes even once.  My mentor is always nagging about it, but seeing them has made me see that singing loud and strong does not require your eyes to be closed. Instead, they opened their mouths as wide as they could to release all the voice they had in them, without restriction, distortion, and with all the clarity that could make a crowd go crazy.

Eleanor Staber was just one of the performers and she sang with much emotion and attitude. Her tone was clear and even though she was singing in one of the Romantic languages that is foreign to my ear, she sang with enough clarity to hear each note that was released. Joan Sutherland added her fascinating runs, somewhat similar to those that you might hear Beyonce add to her pop tunes.

Leontyne Price is just phenomenal. She has a voice with bass bottom that can pierce through the ceiling and send chills down a listener’s spine. I have some of her recordings and listen to her music, but to witness her grace the stage is amazing.

On this DVD, you could actually visualize that when she opened her mouth to sing, it was almost like her bottom jaw dropped to the floor. And when she sang, it was almost as if you could see the sound coming out from her feet, the way her body moved as she belted out a high E. Articulation was key. The sound that came out was simply beautiful.

It was also a pleasure to see a performance of a song I only heard in the past from watching the movie Shrek. The song is entitled Der Holle Rache and was performed by Roberta Peters. It was good to see it live from a diva, even though it wasn't so bad to hear in a cartoon program.  To have found familiarity with the song itself means that it was exposed to many people, and that's good.

I am glad that my mentor encouraged me to watch something like this because it taught me a whole lot. I loved watching the way these singer presented themselves on stage in pure elegance. They had such beautiful dresses on as they sang their hearts out. I have found a heart for wearing gowns. Maybe my performances have not been as grandiose as theirs were as most were singing in Opera shows, but even as an aspiring artist who performs, you have to wear something on stage and the long dress look is so clean and nice to me.

To be honest, my favorite fashion of all time was back in ancient times when women would wear those long dresses with slips underneath that fluffed their dresses out and carry opened umbrellas in their hands. I love that look.

Perhaps that would be a little crazy to wear in modern times like today, but I think that I will definitely be trying my best to keep an appearance like the sopranos on stage. Well at least I will try to; sometimes. What do you think?

The other thing I loved about these divas was when their voices hit the sky as high as Minnie Ripperton would let her voice ring, it was incredible; especially when they held their notes for like 25 minutes long. They weren't yelling, they sang it soft and had no restrictions to let the sound out clearly and beautifully. I loved it. Seeing their performances made me realize the importance of practicing your instrument.  If anyone could be an inspiration to a singer, divas like the ones featured on The Great Sopranos: Classic Performances 1950-1963 are definitely great choices.

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