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Quite the diva list imbroglio

March 25, 2007|Chris Pasles

MAKING a list of great opera singers is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. BBC Music Magazine did just that when it recently invited 20 opera critics to name their Top 10 sopranos of the recorded era and printed the 20 most frequently cited.

Maria Callas came in first, followed by Joan Sutherland, Victoria de los Angeles, Leontyne Price, Birgit Nilsson, Montserrat Caballe, Lucia Popp, Margaret Price, Kirsten Flagstad and Emma Kirby. (To see the entire list, go to

The reaction? Martin Kettle of Britain's Guardian newspaper opined that "the really striking absence has to be today's singers. There is no Renee Fleming (a double victim, being both American and contemporary), no Angela Gheorghiu, no Anna Netrebko, no Natalie Dessay and no Barbara Frittoli."

"Any list that excludes Rysanek, Olivero, Fleming and Freni (to name only a few) gets the Bronx cheer from me," wrote one contributor to the Opera-L website ( "Stupid poll. (Aren't most of them?)"

Acknowledging the ruckus, BBC Music Magazine invites readers to comment (


-- Chris Pasles

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