Astrid Varnay

Astrid Varnay Sings Wagner

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Astrid Varnay was one ofe most notable Wagnerian sopranos of the mid twentieth century, active both in the United States and Europe, and she sang regularly at Bayreuth. This collection brings together studio recordings of selections from eight Wagner operas, made relatively early in her career, and her strength and artistry are evident in all of the excerpts presented here. Varnay's voice is not particularly warm, but she is remarkably secure over the extent of her large range, and she has the brightness and clarity of tone to easily cut through Wagner's dense orchestration. She brings a striking vehemence to these Wagnerian heroines, accentuating their strength and resolve more than their vulnerability and femininity. Her account of Senta's ballad is strikingly resolute, but the pacing of the scene, conducted by Herman Weigert, is choppy and lacks momentum. Her astonishing power, seamless legato, and ability to convey dramatic urgency are fully evident in her performance of the "Immolation Scene," in which she soars ecstatically over the orchestra. Varnay is accompanied by a variety of orchestras, most of which are conducted by either Weigert or Erich Leinsdorf, and except for the Fliegende Holländer excerpt, they provide strong support. The sound quality varies considerably, from very good on most tracks to mediocre on several tracks with background noise and scratchiness.

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