Could there possibly be an all-American Straussian/Wagnerian soprano?




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    DEBORAH VOIGT SINGS:

STRAUSS & WAGNER

Chrysothemis: Ich kann nicht sitzen
(from Strauss' Elektra
)


Sieglinde: Du bist der Lenz
(from Wagner's Die Walküre
)

Ariadne: Es gibt ein Reich
(from Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos)

Clips are from the
CD "OBSESSIONS"


AMERICAN SONGS

Ives: "At the River"

Bernstein: "Piccola Serenata"

Clips are from the
CD "All My Heart"




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Of course! And her name is...   DEBORAH VOIGT
PROFILE        DISCOGRAPHY        CALENDAR        FOOD & MUSIC


Today she is hailed as the preeminent dramatic soprano of her generation.  Headlines of the current season, such as the following, tell why:

SUPERSTAR SOPRANO WILL SING SIX MAJOR OPERATIC ROLES THIS SEASON, TWO OF WHICH ARE NEW TO HER REPERTOIRE

CAREER ROLE DEBUTS INCLUDE MADDALENA IN ANDREA CHÉNIER IN SEASON-OPENING PERFORMANCES AT BARCELONA’S LICEU, AND WAGNER’S BRÜNNHILDE IN VIENNA STATE OPERA’S NEW SIEGFRIED

VOIGT WILL HEADLINE NEW PRODUCTION OF STRAUSS’S DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN AT LYRIC OPERA OF CHICAGO, AND WILL SING HER FIRST METROPOLITAN OPERA PERFORMANCES AS ISOLDE IN PRODUCTION OF WAGNER’S TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, TO BE BROADCAST LIVE IN HIGH DEFINITION IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

I.e., roles - for the most part the heroines of the German repertoire - sung only by singers with powerhouse voices, such as Deborah Voigt's, which she knew early on in her career had the perfect fit for her big, lustrous voice, and for which she has deservedly garnered the most acclaim. That her superb vocal instrument resided within a big frame associated with opera's proverbial "fat lady" did not matter to the opera lovers and critics who were, and remain, devoted to her and to the widely- held (though now increasingly questioned) dictum that opera is an art form driven primarily by voices.  

But the above-mentioned season headlines also hint that while remaining fully committed to her Germanic forte, she has of late been expanding her repertoire, adding Maddalena (in Giordano's Andrea Chernier) and Poncielli's La Gioconda to her select list of Italian operatic roles that include Aida, Tosca, Amelia (in Un ballo in maschera) and Leonora (in La forza del destino), the latter three she has also performed recently. Credit the medically risky decision she made in 2004 to undergo gastric bypass surgery, more for reasons of health than of career. The procedure and the ensuing dramatic weight reduction was fodder for the media, to be sure - landing her a spread in People magazine and a spot on CBS' 60 Minutes. She handled the matter with her natural candor and grace. 

Today, nearly four years later, to say that the risk paid off has become an understatement. True, the "big girl" that she once was will never be a wisp of a girl, but her spectacularly transformed outer persona gave her the courage and confidence to take on the "pretty woman" roles she would earlier never have dared to play, lifting her career to superstardom (a lot more people know of her than ever before). And opening up opportunities galore - suddenly, in addition to the Italian additions to her repertoire, she could take to the operatic stage the roles she could only sing in concert in the not too distant past, such as: Salome - Strauss' wisp of a 16-year old seductress, which she debuted to a huge standing ovation at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2006; and the beauteous Ägyptische Helena (Helen of Troy whose face launched a thousand ships) in a production mounted for her at the Met in early 2007; as well as re-explore operas she has performed before from an entirely new perspective, such as: Tosca, Un ballo in maschera, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Tristan und Isolde

To make time for these roles, she put off to Spring 2008 her much earlier-scheduled and widely anticipated portrayal of Wagner's Brünnhilde at the Vienna State Opera (see CALENDAR), for which she doubtless comes very well-prepared, having meanwhile already sung the solo parts in concert and on record.  (In the meantime, she continues to sing Sieglinde - downsized in girth but not in voice.)   And then, there's Strauss' Elektra, which, one can reasonably assume, is already more than a blip on her radar screen.  (Also in the meantime, she's content to hang on to her much-acclaimed Chrysothemis.) 

The reprieve, if you will, from these punishing roles has also given her time to show off her light-hearted, blond, blue-eyed, all-American self - singing the songs she grew up singing: Broadway musicals and pop, with forays into cabaret and the American song repertoire. According to Opera News, she "comes to pop singing naturally." And she does it with style, grace and a "devilish sense of humor."

It may come as a surprise to most of us, but neither Flagstad nor Nilsson was known to Voigt until she came upon opera for the first time in her college years at Cal State Fullerton in Southern California where her family moved from the suburbs of Chicago when she was 14 years old.  When she became convinced that she had the talent and the personality for an operatic career, she joined San Francisco Opera's well-known Merola Program for Young Artists - and the rest as they say is history, although one that is still very much in the making.

Voigt will candidly admit that the idols of her youth were in fact Karen Carpenter and The Beatles, and that she went through a Julie Andrews/Sound of Music phase in her young life.  Thus when she takes on tour a program of Broadway, pop and American song as she does when she performs in recital at UCLA Live on January 16, 2008 and when she opens Lincoln Center's "American Songbook" series on  January 23, Deborah Voigt, America's foremost Straussian/Wagnerian soprano, who can swing from singing a Lied by Strauss in one breath to a tune by Gershwin in the next, is simply going back to her roots and being her true blue, all-American self, who on her christening forty-some years ago was so aptly named DEBBIE JOY!
-JB/© FanFaire 2008


Photo credits:  © Joanne Savio - courtesy 21C Media Group; © Robert Millard - courtesy LA Opera

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