Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director David Zinman is a good judge of talent. So when an opportunity came yesterday afternoon at Temple Oheb Shalom to hear Deborah Voigt, whom Zinman described in conversation a few weeks back as the "next great Verdian soprano," it was hard to resist.
After listening to Voigt, 30, for less than 40 minutes (the Tchaikovsky Competition-winning soprano shared the program with other young contest winners in a concert sponsored by the Yale Gordon Trust), it was hard to disagree with Zinman's assessment. My only contention might be with the word "next."
Voigt's is an astonishing voice -- it is huge and it is beautiful. She sang Verdi's "Ernani, involami" from "Ernani" with invincible penetration, with steadiness and opulence of tone and with full-throated power that stunned even those listeners who were prepared to hear something remarkable. Voigt has high, soft notes that are pure velvet. In turbulent passages, the voice never loses focus and is just as beautiful as it is in softer ones.
This seems to be a voice that has noholes -- there were not, for example, any discernible prefatory breaths before attacks on the aria's most vertiginous notes -- and one that is used most musically. There is supposed to be a current shortage of Verdian sopranos -- singers with solid middle and bottom registers, brilliance and reliability at the top, an ability to sing long legato lines, an aptitude for attack, and vocal heft to cut through the mass of an orchestra and a chorus. Something tells me that the shortage may be over.
Voigt's performance of two songs by Tchaikovsky and of an aria NTC from that composer's "Pique Dame" were just as persuasive as the Verdi aria. They showed spontaneity, passion and inward feeling that recalled -- and perhaps surpassed -- Galina Vishnevskaya at her youthful best. A performance of Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" showed that Voigt could scale down her natural resources and apply her taste and refinement to all manner of material. Her fine pianist was Levering Rothfuss.
The other featured soloists were violinist Maria Bachmann and pianist Ory Shor.