Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kashu-do (歌手道): Malena Ernman, Swedish Song Goddess

I am of the opinion that Opera will never cease to exist because of the sensational Swedes.  I am in the middle of several very serious technical blog posts, which are taking a long time to write because I am teaching a lot and practicing perhaps even more.  Lots of exciting things to come hopefully before the new year.  But while you patiently wait, a little bit of entertainment is an order.

Great singing is great singing no matter how you cut it, and as I enjoy my few days in Umeå, in the north of Sweden (they decided to raise the freezing temperature of water to accommodate this Caribbean Tenor), teaching some truly committed singers (Tackar alla er, mina vänner och studenter)
I was introduced to a Swedish household name.  Malena Ernman is a singular singer/comedian/show-woman of extraordinary proportions--An operatic vaudevillian if you will, in the style of Viktor Borge or Dudley Moore.  The difference is that she is a bona fide opera singer who has sung lead roles at the Royal Opera Stockholm, Vienna Stadtsoper, Berlin, Brussels' La Monnaie, etc.  Slated as a lyric mezzo of extraordinary versatility, she successfully and repeatedly exemplified what makes classical singing appealing and entertaining without resorting to vocal vulgarity.  She will twist operatic norms occasionally to suit the purpose of the moment but never resorting to vocal parody.

This woman exhibits a refined technique that should have thrilled audiences worldwide.  If her remarkable vocal and comedic talents have not been imported beyond Europe, I would guess it is most likely that she is like many Swedish women, very family-conscious and decided to limit her travels.

As a lyric mezzo, we would certainly expect her to have fun with Rosina:




Or use mezzo arias to have fun with famous Swedish sports figures at an athletic gala.




But an impromptu Queen of the Night at a Christmas Concert is something else.  Her perfectly in-tune high Fs are flute voice tones as they should be for a healthy mezzo.  Her high Ds are modal.  If she was not just having fun with a famous aria, she could make a scary Queen.



There is indeed a big difference between a well-trained classical singer with a magnetic stage presence and great comedic timing and someone with little voice singing operatic tunes with the aid of a necessary microphone.

This is a singer who has sung at the great houses of Europe with deserved success and critical acclaim who can also have fun in less formal situations when she wants to.

 If the so-called crossover singers had half of her vocal and theatrical talents we would be in very good shape in the classical universe, but alas that is not the case.

I'm very happy my friend Martin in Umeå, a regular contributor to blog discussions shared some of these clips with me.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

© 12/14/2011

2 comments:

Oskins said...

My 13-month old really enjoyed her Queen of the Night. He has discriminating taste, so that's a real compliment. I am absolutely in awe.

Beth said...

Thank-you for posting this. I've never heard her sing but I LOVE the way she does it. It is so wonderful to see someone singing an aria with so much in mastery of her voice and yet also so full of expression. It is the ideal I aspire to. It is pure gold to me to hear and see good examples of it.