The Metropolitan Opera’s new staging of Verdi’s La Forza Del Destino has caused much comment about the performance of one of the composer’s great soprano roles by a singer (Lise Davidsen) best known for her performances of the heroic German roles. Many reviewers felt that her performance was an outstanding effort. Others, including me, thought that while she had a great instrument, it was not best suited for Verdi.

For the dramatic parts l heard in performance, the finest Verdi soprano was Zinka Milanov (1908-89). Her great strengths were threefold. She had the perfect timbre for Verdi. Her voice was smooth, without a hint of stridency, and was rich and lush. Second, she had the powerful high notes. required for Verdi’s depiction of moments of extreme emotional intensity. Lastly, she could float a pianissimo high note that though fully supported took on a life of its own as it seemed to come from all parts of the auditorium. I have heard many great sopranos who could sing high notes in alt with delicacy and beauty, but none who could match Milanov in this type of singing. Here she was unique. She worked very hard for a long time to reach the level of excellence that characterized her best years, which were from about age 45 to 50.

Davidsen’s voice is large and powerful. She can sing softly, but it’s not the strongest part of her vocal apparatus. She is reminiscent of Birgit Nilsson. Whether she’ll add the title role of Puccini’s Turandot to her repertory is uncertain, but it’s likely the Italian role that’s best suited for her voice.

I thought it would be of interest to compare the two singers’ rendition of the great aria ‘Pace, pace, mio Dio!’ from Forza’s final scene. I heard Milanov sing Forza in two performances in the 50s. Davidsen I have yet to hear in the theater.

Milanov: Pace, pace, mio Dio!
Davidsen: Pace, pace, mio Dio!