Voices in the crowd
"Greatest" or "best of" lists are always satisfyingly controversial, since someone's favorite is always missing. But NPR is soliciting votes to come up with a list of 50 interesting, important voices -- great, if not "the greatest" -- to be featured in a series starting next year.
The real function of a "best of" list is to serve as a litmus test against which to measure one's own preferences. The criteria are almost impossible to establish. What makes a voice great? Is it sheer beauty, or expressive power? Does Bob Dylan have a "great" voice? Does Callas belong on the list for her dramatic genius, or Tebaldi for her beauty of tone? And though I was, growing up, more a Domingo girl than a Pavarotti one, I was struck that Pavarotti wasn't on the NPR's preliminary list of nominees.
I couldn't begin to compile a list of greatest voices overall, but if I had to make a list of the greatest voices in opera, it would start with Caruso, Ponselle, and Flagstad. But the others? Callas, Tebaldi, Milanov, McCormack? Ewa Podles? A lot of people would name Di Stefano; I might say Corelli instead. Who would your nominees be?
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