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Voice coach says Aretha Franklin was learning a Korngold aria

August 18, 2018 by norman lebrecht

10 comments.


An interview with the diva’s voice coach, Mary Callaghan Lynch:


Comments (10)

  1. Una says:

    Heard the Pearl Fishers tenor aria massacred the other day in Leeds in an Oxfam shop compilation by a pop singer!! Couldn’t believe my ears for the wrong reasons. We shall never hear Aretha Franklin singing Korngold at 76 when most opera singers would have hung up their singing clogs. Maybe not a good thing but within her style and range, for sure she was outstanding and sang with a heart and an honesty that is a lesson to many of us in the classical world as singers, and maybe tgevway to remember her.

  2. Caravaggio says:

    Never understood, and never will, the praise heaped upon Aretha Franklin for her hatch job against “Nessun dorma”. It was vile, embarrassing, atrocious. Nothing whatsoever to do with opera singing. But you’d never know it from the hosannas. In her R&B and soul music world, she deserves utmost respect, of course. But not in the classical realm. Never never.

    1. Bill says:

      I’d rather hear her sing “ Nessun Dorma “ than hear Pavarotti sing “Respect”.

      1. Caravaggio says:

        I’d rather hear neither in those pieces. What is your point?

        1. Bill says:

          My point is is that she sang Nessun Dorma better than most opera singers could hope to sing R&B, or any pop, for that matter.

          No one expected her to sound like Callas when she sang it, but she knew how to make it work for her voice and style.

          1. V.Lind says:

            It was awful.

  3. Martin Spencer says:

    The coach cannot even pronounce the word “aria” correctly. But she has a nice voice. It’s ridiculous to suppose that Aretha could sing opera based on one poorly done aria in a classical style. Now she did personalize it and re-write the melody, but opera cannot handle that in Puccini. She was a famous gospel singer who very kindly filled in for Pavarotti, but their talents are as different as their respective cultures.

    1. barry guerrero says:

      Agreed, but at least give her credit for liking that music and showing genuine interest.

  4. Phillip Ayling says:

    When Aretha Franklin sang Nessun Dorma, she did so with only two hours notice. She had no prior rehearsal. She sang once at the dress rehearsal and learned her marks as they blocked the show at Radio City Music Hall.

    She was not performing Turandot at La Scala after a week of rehearsals and with many prior performance of Puccini under her belt. She was singing in a language that was not a reflex for her, and she was a mezzo doing repertoire for a tenor

    She was stepping in at the last minute in the context of “The show must go on”. Aretha was performing live for an audience of about one billion people and doing something way outside of her wheelhouse.

    Yes, she was an R&B/Gospel singer. Her performance would come up short against most, if not all professional operatic tenors…unless it was viewed in context.

    It’s not about whether her performance that night would have gotten an A for senior vocal recital at a major conservatory or critical praise for a debut at the Met. Nor is it about any of us who might feel confident saying Puccini would have been offended to the depth of his being

    In an unbelievably stressful environment, she sang with confidence, energy and and absolutely stunned the audience.Even if one believes that many in that audience lacked sophistication about opera, they would have lacked sophistication even if Pavorotti had sung as expected…but she connected with the people for whom she was singing.

    She truly stretched herself as an artist. In my opinion she deserved all the accolades she received.

    1. MusicBear88 says:

      I couldn’t agree more. She didn’t try to sing it operatically, she sang it as only she could. The Italian was less than perfect, but the authority with which she presented it was 100%, and as a classical singer and vocal coach I treasure that performance greatly.


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