Word has it that Minnesota-born Audrey Stottler is the new hochdramatische soprano
to watch. Since her debut at the Metropolitan Opera NY in
2002 she has been building an enviable reputation in her Fach.
Her calling-card at the Met was Turandot and this has become
her signature role. Other roles have been the Dyer’s Wife
in Die Frau ohne Schatten, Lady Macbeth and Abigaille
in Nabucco. Knowledgeable readers will probably sigh
and mutter: ‘Voice-killers all’. And this is of course the
dilemma today: as soon as a strong dramatic voice appears
everyone wants her to sing these and other heavy roles. The
biography doesn’t mention much Wagner though apart from the
music on this disc, but this is presumably the next phase:
opera houses queuing up for her Isolde and Brünnhilde. Listening
to this disc, the prospects are a bit daunting.
To be sure she has a basically fine voice, grand, brilliant,
long-breathed and fearless and steady tone – I emphasis basically.
As represented on this recording – at least in Sieglinde’s
two solos from the first act of Die Walküre (tr. 1
and 2) – the aforementioned roles have already taken a toll.
The voice is decidedly worn and frayed and the tone is unattractively
shrill, even shrieky. The surface is definitely seriously
scratched. Without seeing the photograph of a young woman
I would have guessed that it was someone approaching 50 after
a long career as a Wagnerian soprano. On the credit side
there is much sensitive phrasing and a willingness to reduce
the volume but by and large, as soon as she sings forte and
above, the singing gives little pleasure.
These excerpts may have been recorded on an off-day, since
what follows has more to recommend it. As Brünnhilde, in
her act III scene with Wotan, starting with War es so
3) she begins softly, inwardly and with care for the text.
As long as she avoids putting undue pressure on the voice
she sounds well. The immolation scene from Götterdämmerung is
intense and there is no denying her involvement; I can even
find some beauty in the tone. The wear and tear, so noticeable
in the Sieglinde solos, is much less prominent here. In the
two scenes from Tristan und Isolde she is even better.
It is never a really comfortable sound but it is straighter,
cleaner and the tone has a raw kind of beauty – there is
even a thin silver coating. Isolde’s narration and curse
from the first act is a high-octane reading. Finally in the Liebestod there
is both nobility and power and she ends it on a beautiful
My first misgivings turned out not to be fully justified
but the disc remains a far from unqualified success. I imagine
would have been more satisfied if hearing her live, since
there is an undoubted thrill in the voice and, as we all
know, microphones are not the neutral observers they should
be. Some voices are easy to record, others are not. I don’t
know anything about the size of the recording venue - and
why, I ask myself, do they still call it the Leningrad Documentary
Film Studio, 15 years after the city was renamed St Petersburg?
- but she might sound more comfortable if more distant from
the microphones. On my machine there was an extra metallic
edge. The orchestra is adequate with fine woodwind ensemble
at the beginning of Brünnhilde’s War es so schmählich and
Maestro Steinlucht’s conducting is unquirky. The booklet
has full texts with English translations, a biography of
the singer but no notes on the music. The playing time is
A powerful, thrilling and intense singer but the voice production – on
this hearing at least – leaves much to be desired.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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