Saturday, December 15, 2012

Amber Wagner

So did you ever wonder what Sondra Radvanovsky would sound like if she'd been born a full-on dramatic soprano (big Wagner, etc.) instead of the classic dramatic coloratura (Verdi from his beginning plus, you know, Norma) she in fact is?

Well, it turns out that the answer is basically "just like Amber Wagner". Or, rather, the felicitously-named Wagner sounds basically just like what you'd get if you put the soprano she covered (and, for last night's final performance, replaced) in Ballo into (baby) full-dramatic shape. There's slightly more chest-grounded fullness (something Radvanovsky, like most well-trained American non-dramatics, didn't use much at all while young) from the bottom, a slightly less-easy extension at the very top, and the top otherwise hits with a slightly more direct physical impact than Radvanovsky's astonishing and somewhat unsettling ringing of the whole house. (And, oh yes, she's built a bit more stoutly -- though not at all so that it's an issue, especially for a real dramatic.) But the basic, rippling quick-vibrato timbre is recognizably akin, as is Wagner's way with the text: in the rapid, dialogue-heavy parts of ensembles you could close your eyes and imagine Radvanovsky still there. And even the basic ballpark vocal size & volume!... though seeing Radvanovsky as Amelia again recently reminded me of just how easy it is to under-remember the thrilling scope and texture of her instrument.

But make no mistake: Wagner is her own singer with a prodigious gift of her own, and a pretty glorious performer already in her own right. On stage right now she's basically just a singer -- the action isn't unnatural but it's not at all what you notice -- but that is, if not yet as good as her predecessor on the whole, quite enough. She has, so far, turned out exactly as I hoped from her 2007 Met Council finals win -- where she lapped the field, including Angela Meade, on sound quality. She still does. See her in everything you can.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.