The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (72): She goes higher than anyone

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (72): She goes higher than anyone


norman lebrecht

May 26, 2020

The Panamanian-Dutch coloratura soprano Marianne Blok.



  • violin accordion says:

    Minnie ripperton ?

  • Bruce says:

    Bell Song: she doesn’t go any higher than anyone else. It is lovely singing though; it’s rare to hear a soprano who actually sounds like a young woman. And I think the last note is the longest I’ve ever heard it (as well as being refreshingly non-screechy).

    A vos jeux: again, lovely. And the high F# (!) at the end actually sounds sweet.

    I had never heard of this singer. Thanks Norman.

  • How about Mado Robin?

  • M2N2K says:

    She is a fine singer, but there is no evidence here to support the “higher than anyone” claim, unless she was singing this while standing on the summit of Mount Everest. The top note of these two recordings is F# in the excerpt from Hamlet. Just to cite one well-known relatively recent example, Natalie Dessay successfully climbed all the way to Ab in her performance of Strauss’s Spring Voices in December of 1993. A few decades ago I heard a solid A-natural in a recording of Alyabyev’s Nightingale, but unfortunately I do not remember the name of that soprano. However, according to Guinness, the highest note ever performed was actually achieved in 2008 by a male singer named Adam Lopez. They claimed that it was the piano’s top C, but to my ears the highest note he sang convincingly in his record-breaking attempt was A just below that which is amazing enough and a full octave higher than I ever heard reached by any female singer. For the widest vocal range of over four octaves with high end no lower than the piano’s top D, Yma Sumac in 1950s remains my favorite.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    Recording is a nerve-wracking proposition, at best.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    Exquisite. Extraordinary fullness of color and tone.

  • Clarrieu says:

    Well, both Mado Robin and Natalie Dessay certainly got higher, but nevertheless a beautiful discovery, thanks Norman.

  • AndrewB says:

    I heard Marianne Blok sing the Queen of the Night at the English National Opera many years ago. I was still a schoolboy at the time and my parents took me to the performance. The Coliseum is such a large theatre. I remember mostly how tiny Marianne Blok suddenly seemed to me when she got off the impressive peacock chariot she rode in on for the first act aria- but perhaps that was exaggerated by the distance too. It was certainly a lovely voice and very accurate. The cast included Eiddwen Harrhy, David Rendall and Niall Murray if memory serves me right. Anne Collins sang the third lady and Marilyn Hill Smith was Papagena. Many theatres would love a cast like that now for a revival I am sure.

  • Eric B says:

    Beautiful voice. She reminds me the timbre and technique or other dutch soprano Elly Ameling.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Agreed, but Blok is much more spontaneous and easy. Ameling often sounds studied and willed.

      • Bruce says:

        I’ve found that’s often true of lieder singers. Maybe they’re so accustomed to paying a lot of attention to the text that they can’t let go and just make pretty noises. (The reverse is often true of opera singers who sing lieder, to my ear anyway)

  • John Borstlap says:

    The most musical and natural voice the Netherlands have produced. She did not break-through internationally for reasons, common to very small and culturally-challenged countries.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      I’m inclined to agree. Just glorious.

    • Gregory Mowery says:

      The Netherlands is hardly a culturally challenged country.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Great musical talents flee the country to make a career abroad (a few examples of many: conductor Bernard Haitink, conductor Hans Vonk, Lied singer Robert Holl, conductor Jaap van Zweden, there is a whole list). When they make their name abroad, they are welcomed back with open arms. But first their extraordinariness has to be killed in the bud.

  • Mike Aldren says:

    Erna Sack used to get pretty high too…

  • Edgar Self says:

    I think Yma Sumac matched Blok for height, and Miliza Korjus for charm. Erna Sack has been mentioned. Ilse Holweg, Erna Berger, Erika Koeth, and Lucia Popp are of this lineage. Blok is a very welcome and valuable addition to it, and as a current practitioner deserves all praise. I’ve heard Dessay only in Alcina, Lucia, and Manon, very fine but not stratospheric. I am too young to have heard ifrazini. , but loved Amelita Galli-Cuci from afar, on records. I enjoy Bruce’s comments on Lieder singers.

  • Gregory B. Mowery says:

    This soprano has a lovely voice, but the tempi on this is caterpillar slow.

  • Lord Bus Stop says:

    No recordings in Amazon’s vault…Too bad…
    Great discovery!

  • Edgar Self says:

    Minority opinions on coloraturas told me by the conductor-husband of one:

    Karl Muck – “The higher the voice, the lower the intellect.” (He quoted this while glaring at his wife.)

    George Bernard Shaw – “Nightingales’ tongues, peacocks’ brains.”

    • John Borstlap says:

      Students came from all over the world to take lessons from MB, who was also appreciated for her intelligence. Such sayings cannot be generalized….

    • I can assure you this kady has an IQ of 140 or higher…and she could sing and hold the C sharp an ocatave above high C..

  • I can assure you this Lady has an IQ of 140 or higher…and she could sing and hold the C sharp an ocatave above high C..