Another selection from Handel’s Messiah today, with the usual difficulty that *everyone* has recorded the Messiah and there are six hundred options and none of them are ever quite what I want (because this is one that I’ve studied as a solo, so I have particularly strong opinions on it!). And so again, I’ve ended up with a style of voice I normally wouldn’t like and certainly wouldn’t associate with Handel (too heavy, basically).
What made me choose this recording in the end was that all the other soloists sounded like mezzo sopranos – lovely and light in the coloratura bits, but lacking something in the lower range. This singer (sadly, I don’t know her name) is a true alto; I don’t think I’ve ever heard a voice of this type before, actually. And her low notes are just wonderful.
Interestingly, listening to the recording again in the background as I write this, I don’t like it that much – but when I switch to the YouTube page and watch her sing, I do. And then I come back here and don’t, so much – all of which suggests that a large part of this singer’s charm is in how she puts the song across. I suspect she would be even better live.
I’ll be interested to hear what you think of this one.
Edited in December 2017: Sigh. This recording has now disappeared, and since I never knew who it was in the first place, I can’t find another recording of her. And so I have spent another hour or so scouring YouTube for a proper contralto singing this aria and once again had to choose between the vocal quality that I find so fascinating and the style of singing that I think this aria wants! Perhaps one just can’t have that depth of voice with the lightness of delivery on the coloratura and I’m seeking the impossible?
But then I found Maureen Forrester, a Canadian operatic contralto, who really has some wonderful low notes and still makes the coloratura flow effortlessly. Hooray! (Having said that, these days I think I really do prefer a Mezzo-Soprano for this aria, but this is still pretty wonderful.)