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cclowell38

Best Movie Soprano Voice?

139 posts in this topic

I've really enjoyed this discussion about "The Sopranos." lol

 

I would like to recognize one of my favorite sopranos from the movies (and Broadway), Julie Andrews.

 

What a shame that Jack Warner didn't cast her as Eliza Doolittle in the film version of "My Fair Lady."

 

I wonder how her career would have proceeded had she been born ten, 20, or 30 years earlier and had had the benefit (?) of the American studio system. I wonder what movie musical roles from the "Golden Era" she could have performed.

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How's this for supreme irony? Somewhere around 1947, MGM musical producer Joe Pasternak, who'd mentored Deanna Durbin, Kathryn Grayson, and Jane Powell, got word of a twelve-year-old English soprano named Julie Andrews who was knocking them dead on English radio and on the music hall circuit. He ordered up a screen test by the MGM London unit - and the youngster flunked, being judged unphotogenic. Whatever happened to that kid?

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Whatever happened to that kid?

 

Dunno, but those "unphotogenic" rumors about her persisted for years. In the mid-1960s, she was suggested for some musical flick about a nun-wannabe looking after a gaggle of rich brats of a widowed officer in some European locale, and almost lost the role when the film's producers expressed concerns she was unphotogenic.

 

I heard she eventually got the role, but who knows what became of the film itself?

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I just read the following review of the annual Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation Gala in Opera News. The musical charity organization give scholarships to upcoming vocalists each year. The review confirms (and counters my unfortunate theory) that M?rtha Eggerth and brings up another soprano which has gone unnoticed in this thread so far: Kay Armen. Armen was the zaftig mother with the big voice in 1955's Hit the Deck. "Ciribiribin" anyone?

 

"...Roberta Peters, not a regular performer in the Albanese gala, raised a few eyebrows when she came out and announced that she would sing 'Vilja' (a number long associated with the gala's perennial showstopper M?rtha Eggerth). Her high-B was still impressive. Kay Armen, nearly ninety-one [iMDB lists her birth year as 1920, so this math seems a little odd], blew the audience out of the water with her moving, stylish, mangificently sung medley of "In the Wee Small Hours of the the Morning" and "Time After Time". When [Patrice] Munsel prematurely appeared on stage, Armen resmonstrated "I'm not finished," in a tone that sent the emcee scurrying back to the wings, then lit into a superb "The Man I Love". Closing the first half, finally, was Eggerth -- ninety-six -- whose czardas "Hejre Kati" was a staggering feat of rhythmic elasticity and breath control that brought the audience to its feet."

 

I wish that TCM would grab these two movie sopranos for a little interview!

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Is Kay Armen a soprano? My only experience of her is HIT THE DECK - but she sounds like one of the generally extinct contraltos to me.

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I guess I considered Kay Armen to be a mezzo. Your contralto theory has me curious to rewatch Hit the Deck. I'm also guessing with training she could have been a dramatic soprano. I wish I knew more about her. I understand she was a radio star (Stop the Music and Bob Crosby Show among others), born in Chicago in 1920. Anyone else know more about her?

 

[i won't tell Ewa Podleś that she's extinct. ;) ]

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You know, Jack, I would have to agree with the CONTRALTO theory on Kay Armen. The reason I say that is that she sounds somewhat similar in range to Jane Froman, who is classified as a contralto. Still and all, she was a powerhouse in her day (and from the sound of things, still is).

 

Wow - Roberta Peters! Is that VILJA the same song sometimes listed as VILIA from "The Merry Widow"?

 

BTW, thanks for the visit to the GORDON MacRAE thread, pal.

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Based on her singing in HIT THE DECK, I would also say that Kay Armen is probably a contralto. Perhaps a dramatic contralto. She could be a mezzo, but she doesn't sound much like, say, Eileen Farrell. Even when Farrell sings "pop" in her lower range, the timbre of the voice sounds more soprano to me than Armen's, which doesn't sound soprano at all, at least, not to me.

 

Anywho, kudos to all these older movie sopranos (yes, even Peters and Munsell had their cinematic moments), still gettin' it done despite the passage of time.

 

And "Thanks" to everyone who's participated in this thread and made it such an enjoyable and informative one. I've learned a lot and enjoyed reading everyone's different perspectives on a topic that doesn't seem to get enough attention or respect these days.

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Okay, okay - you got me on Ewa - who I believe was recently spotted swimming in Loch Ness. But are any others classified as contraltos these days? If I'm not mistaken, even a sublime foghorn like Dame Janet Baker is classified as a mezzo.

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Well, let's see... Maureen Forester was considered a contralto, but I don't think she's singing anymore. I saw her perform though, so in my lifetime anyway... Sara Mingardo is a contemporary contralto... Yvonne Minton was sometimes billed as a contralto, but like Shirley Verrett she considered herself beyond the fach. Contralto Nathalie Stutzmann does a lot of concert work. So there's a few to chew on...

 

That said, you're right; they seem to be a rare breed these days.

 

There's hope though: Mark Adamo wrote the character of Jo to be a contralto in his recent opera Little Women. And someone has to sing La Cieca and Azucena!

 

Now, speaking of singers with extensive ranges and colors (like Verrett and Minton above), we haven't mentioned Yma Sumac yet! Said to be raised by the animals of the Peruvian jungle, this Incan princess was speciously[?] exposed by a journalist who said she was actually Amy Camus (Yma Sumac, in retrograde) from Brooklyn. She was outraged by the accusation and denied it vociferously. In the meantime, her low rumbling voice could glissande like the whistle of a teapot to the upper stratosphere. She claimed 5 octaves. She made her film debut in Secret of the Incas. I'll defend her history to the death.

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Thanks for the info. The names Forrester, Minton, and particularly Verrett are familiar to me - but I'm afraid my opera IQ has migrated considerably south since I let my OPERA NEWS subscription lapse seven or eight years ago. I was never a technically knowledgeable operative - just partial to certain superstar singers of the eighties and nineties. Once Placido, Luciano. Jose, Kiri, and Flicka began shuffling off to the rest home showers, I sort of threw in the towel. I know Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel are legitimate big deals, but - I dunno - it's sort of like rooting, respectively, for Katie Couric and a tree stump .

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Now, now; no need to start throwing sod into the grave. Placido Domingo is still going strong. I saw him sing in Die Walkure at the Metropolitan only last year, and he was strong, virile, confident, and in great voice. Flicka (Frederica von Stade) is still quite active and is presently on tour with baritone Samuel Ramey. Though Kiri Te Kanawa has retired from the operatic stage (with the 2004 production of Barber's Vanessa), she's still singing in concerts and recitals. Sr. Carreras? Well, he hasn't been the same since his illness in the early 1980's anyway. All those who discovered him as one of the "Three Tenors", never heard the real Carreras; and it's true that Sr. Pavarotti is not well enough to sing anymore. But he cancelled so often over the past decade plus, he seems more of a glittering memory of an opera era gone by.

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Well, let's see... Maureen Forester was considered a contralto, but I don't think she's singing anymore. I saw her perform though, so in my lifetime anyway...

 

 

I've been doing a little hunting. Haven't found exactly what I was looking for, but the link below is close enough. This, from early last year, speaks of "a form of dementia"; a different link from August states "now suffering from advanced Alzheimer's." This link is a more upbeat story of a sad condition.

http://www.therecord.com/links/links_060105164312.html

 

I guess the giants can't all go on like Marta Eggerth (8-<) .

Bill

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Ah, but if DIE WALKURE comes, can GOTTERDAMMERUNG be far behind? - Especially with time and wear and tear nibblin' at his lungen.

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> You know, Jack, I would have to agree with the

> CONTRALTO theory on Kay Armen. The reason I say that

> is that she sounds somewhat similar in range to Jane

> Froman, who is classified as a contralto.

 

Jane Froman was always very adamant about being a mezzo, NOT a contralto.

Since Kay Armen's voice was the nearest to Jane Froman's I'd have to classify her as a mezzo as well.

 

Of course, I think the best Movie Soprano Voice -- if we're counting mezzos and contraltos -- is Jane Froman.

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Hi babuon:

 

>>Jane Froman was always very adamant about being a mezzo, NOT a contralto.

Since Kay Armen's voice was the nearest to Jane Froman's I'd have to classify her as a mezzo as well.

 

Of course, I think the best Movie Soprano Voice -- if we're counting mezzos and contraltos -- is Jane Froman.>>

 

 

I love Jane Froman, but her own opinion to the contrary, her voice definitely sounds like a contralto to me, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone else classify her as a mezzo. The timbre is much too dark for a mezzo-soprano voice, in my opinion.

 

Are there any articles/interviews available in which Jane speaks about the quality/range of her voice and classifies it as a mezzo-soprano?

 

Also, just for the record, although I think Jane's beautiful voice belongs on the "chosen few" list of any list of top movie singers, when I thought up this thread, I was thinking of Movie Sopranos, not mezzo-sopranos, altos or contraltos. I certainly welcome comments on other non-soprano singers, but I think the title of the thread speaks for itself.

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I was lucky enough to know Jane Froman from the time she had her TV show at CBS in the early '50's and continued to know her until her passing in 1980. She always said she was a mezzo, but this information is also contained in a soon to be published biography by author Barbara Seuling.

 

While Jane did not appear in many films because of a pronounced stutter when speaking, she did sing in "Stars Over Broadway", "Radio City Revels" and a short film called "Kissing Time". But if nothing else she should be remembered for the glorious soundtrack from "With a Song in My Heart".

 

This topic is quite wonderful, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the education I've been getting. Thanks so much for this thread.

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I love Jane Froman, but her own opinion to the contrary, her voice definitely sounds like a contralto to me, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone else classify her as a mezzo. The timbre is much too dark for a mezzo-soprano voice, in my opinion.

 

In her earlier years - the early '30s, remember, 25 years or so before "Song" - her voice was definitely lighter. Check out the short that's been mentioned, "Kissing Time." Also, she recorded an album of Gershwin for RCA in about 1937 in which her voice was also maturing by then to its better known warmth. There are mezzos who are light and can sing some soprano (operatic) roles; then, there are those who still call themselves mezzo but have incredible richness, and can only sing a couple of top notes. Armen and Froman can call themselves what they wish, but in the usual sense Froman was only a mezzo in her earliest days; I imagine Armen was singing "baritone" in her childhood! (Meant in the very kindest way - seriously!)

Bill

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Hi Bill:

 

A friend of mine sent me a tape of Froman performances, which includes a late 20s or early 1930s recording. I'll have to listen to it again and see if I hear a "mezzo" quality to Jane's sound.

 

In any case, I do believe that, at its' mature peak, Jane's voice was a contralto. Whatever her range may have been, as I hear it, the timbre of the voice had no "soprano" qualities to it whatsoever, mezzo, or otherwise, even if her range included some mezzo-soprano notes, the quality of the voice, which exuded a rich, dark quality, seems to be unmistakably contralto.

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I think it's not unreasonable to say that Jane was a mezzo in the '20's and' '30's and her insistence that she was a mezzo may date back to her studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. By the late '40's her voice was getting richer and darker and by the time of "With A Song in My Heart" and her recordings of "I Believe" and other records in the '50's, she certainly sounded more like a contralto than she did in her early years. Even her rendition of "Connais-tu le pays" from "Mignon", which is sometimes shown on Classic Arts Showcase, is darker than an earlier rendition I've head of that aria.

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I think it's not unreasonable to say that Jane was a mezzo in the '20's and' '30's and her insistence that she was a mezzo may date back to her studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

 

That's quite possible. I'm still amazed that the high light voice I hear coming out of Dorothy Dandridge's mouth in CARMEN JONES is that of Marilyn Horne, whose mature stentorian mezzo bore little or no resemblance to the thin light sound of the film's soundtrack.

 

By the late '40's her voice was getting richer and darker and by the time of "With A Song in My Heart" and her recordings of "I Believe" and other records in the '50's, she certainly sounded more like a contralto than she did in her early years. Even her rendition of "Connais-tu le pays" from "Mignon", which is sometimes shown on Classic Arts Showcase, is darker than an earlier rendition I've head of that aria.

 

I have recordings Jane made in 1941(?) of "Boy, What Love Has Done To Me," and "When I See an Elephant Fly," which sound very much like the "contralto" Jane Froman who recorded the soundtrack for WITH A SONG IN MY HEART a decade later. This is one reason I thought she was always a contralto.

 

Oh well, whatever she was, mezzo or contralto. What a WONDERFUL that lady had. She was really one of a kind!

 

And does anyone know why WITH A SONG IN MY HEART has never been released on VHS or DVD?

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And does anyone know why WITH A SONG IN MY HEART has never been released on VHS or DVD?

 

According to FOX Home Entertainment musicals don't do as well financially as other kinds of films. However, they are planning to finally release "With A Song in My Heart" this year in honor of Jane Froman's Centennial which will be celebrated in Columbia, MO in November.

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. I'm still amazed that the high

> light voice I hear coming out of Dorothy Dandridge's

> mouth in CARMEN JONES is that of Marilyn Horne, whose

> mature stentorian mezzo bore little or no resemblance

> to the thin light sound of the film's soundtrack.

>

 

That IS amazing, isn't it? I haven't seen the film for a few years, but found the soundtrack album (on vinyl!) in a thrift store. It doesn't look as if it has ever been played. Marilyn Horne did such fine work "matching" the timbre of Dorothy Dandridge's speaking voice.

 

Additionally, I've enjoyed reading the Jane Froman comments. My late aunt studied under one of Ms. Froman's former teachers from the Cincinnati Conversvatory of Music. My aunt Mary was a mezzo; however, her vocal range was similar to Eileen Farrell's. Mary used to tell me how she hated trying to "color" her voice darker for this instructor, but she was able to put the technique to good use when she sang with the Cincinnati Opera. (In those days, the opera was performed at the Cincinnati Zoo!) In fact, Mary had a radio show for a number of years that was broadcast out of Cincinnati, and her theme song was "With A Song In My Heart". I've heard her recording of it - her show was before my time - and there are shades of "Janie" Froman in her rendition.

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Additionally, I've enjoyed reading the Jane Froman comments. My late aunt studied under one of Ms. Froman's former teachers from the Cincinnati Conversvatory of Music. My aunt Mary was a mezzo; however, her vocal range was similar to Eileen Farrell's. Mary used to tell me how she hated trying to "color" her voice darker for this instructor, but she was able to put the technique to good use when she sang with the Cincinnati Opera. (In those days, the opera was performed at the Cincinnati Zoo!) In fact, Mary had a radio show for a number of years that was broadcast out of Cincinnati, and her theme song was "With A Song In My Heart". I've heard her recording of it - her show was before my time - and there are shades of "Janie" Froman in her rendition.

 

Hi filmflub:

 

That's quite a gift to have "shades" of Jane Froman in one's voice. Sounds like your Aunt was a wonderful singer in her own right. I'm looking forward to WITH A SONG IN MY HEART's DVD release. It's about time!

 

It seems as if it can be tricky to properly categorize a voice in one range or another. For instance, I read a review of Deanna Durbin's 1943 film, HERS TO HOLD in which she sings Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine." The reviewer expressed surprise that when Deanna sang the song, "a mezzo sorpano voice came out." I took it to mean that he was surprised she wasn't singing a high-flying operatic showpiece, but, even though I think Deanna had a very full and rich lower register, I feel fairly confident that she was a soprano, not a mezzo-soprano.

 

On the other hand, I think most people would probably categorize jazz diva Cleo Laine as a mezzo-soprano, if not a contralto. This is undoubtedly the vocal range she uses most of the time when performing. But a few years back I heard one voice expert assert that, because her stratospheric high notes (which she uses only when she scats) extend to high C and beyond, Laine is technicallly a coloratura soprano.

 

Of course, it probably doesn't help matters much that many sopranos have very wide ranges.

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According to FOX Home Entertainment musicals don't do as well financially as other kinds of films. However, they are planning to finally release "With A Song in My Heart" this year in honor of Jane Froman's Centennial which will be celebrated in Columbia, MO in November.

 

It's interesting that FOX would make a comment like that, yet they've released (or are in the process of releasing) elaborate box sets dedicated to Betty Grable and Alice Faye, two of their biggest musical stars, and have released many of the studio's best musicals (e.g., ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND, DADDY LONG LEGS, CALL ME MADAM, etc.) on DVD.

 

In any case, I'm delighted to hear that Fox will mark Jane Froman's centennial with the DVD release of WITH A SONG IN MY HEART. I don't really consider WASIMH a musical, so much as a biography of a musical performer, but I'll be happy to see it on DVD just the same.

 

Now, if only Universal would release more of Deanna Durbin's films, and MGM release more of Jane Powell's, Jeanette MacDonald's and Kathryn Grayson's, one might not feel that movie sopranos were so undervalued by the studio bigwigs.

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