'Cute' is probably not the first word that springs to mind in thinking about Brünnhilde. But on the video The Art of Singing: Golden Voices of the Century, Kirsten Flagstad's 'Hojotoho' is just that: adorably cute. The video is a collection of opera singers on film, from Caruso, Ponselle and Tetrazzini through to Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas, and, probably the most recent, Jon Vickers. Some clips are more interesting than others; quite a few are lipsynched; but as a whole it's fascinating and a lot of fun.
You can see Rosa Ponselle's 1936 MGM screentests for Carmen, singing 'Les tringles des sistres tintaient' and the Habanera; Luisa Tetrazzini late in life singing along to a Caruso recording; Renata Tebaldi and Jussi Björling in the final scene of Act I of La Bohème; Boris Christoff's definitive and very scarily made-up Boris Gudunov; and the list goes on.
But to get back to Kirsten. Hers is probably my favourite bit of the whole video. Her performance was obviously part of some variety show type thing- she's introduced by a very very youthful looking Bob Hope, who doesn't crack a single joke. Maybe the producers thought she'd scare everyone if she went into full warcry mode, or maybe she just wanted to have fun- in any case, she certainly seems to be having the best time in the world with her aria, grinning away and waving her spear. She's adorable- and the voice, naturally, is gorgeous. I've never really felt the urge to introduce myself to Wagner, outside the odd aria ('Dich teure Halle' most notably) that turns up on a recital disc. I don't particularly feel that urge now either- but if I had no choice but to do the Wagner thing, I'd definitely want Kirsten to be there.
CD du jour: The Sorceress: Kiri Te Kanawa. Our public library has the video this but I have yet to see it. I have the CD though. It's a collection of Handel arias from various operas which I gather they put together to make a sort of one-soprano show type opera. I'm not sure. But Kiri does Handel supremely well. I really should get that video out some day.