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You will find below some lyrical singers who are for me a reference.

Here, Tita Ruffo. A diabolical clash. He said to whoever wanted to hear him: Piu e forte, meno mi costa. "The louder I sing, the less it costs me".

Here, Georges Thill, admire the leading voice present everywhere. Through his masters, Fernando de Lucia, still had a lot of influence from the Castrati and the basis of his teaching was the Mezza Voce, crescendo, diminuendo, over the entire length of the voice. We must not forget that he made his debut in 1885 in Faust. I got this information from a student of Georges Thill. The verism was to arrive later and weigh down the vocal emissions. Notice the total lack of effort. 

Here, Beniamino Gigli. The lead voice is also present everywhere. 

Here, Luisa Tetrazzini. Admire the Staccati. The vocal gesture is sublime. Verism had not yet struck !! In his day, it was common to only have 30 musicians in the pit, so one might be struck by hearing a higher vocal position than what one does today. 

Most recent, Dame Joan Sutherland. Extraordinary perfection. 

Here, Birgit Nilsson. Admire the hooking of the sound, and the locking of each tone. No sound is open, no sound comes out of the mask. The whole voice rests on the column of air. Not a sound is near. A laser. 

Here, Frederica Von Stade in Rusalka. Vocal perfection. 

Just sublime of perfection

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