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My sole qualification for intruding in this moribund discussion may well be that I actually did once hear Sutherland sing Wagner - as a Walkure to Anny Konetzni's Brunnhilde in one of Goodall's touring performances of 1954. A couple of nights earlier I heard her also as Agathe in Freischutz - a performance apparently especially valued by Lord Harewood - (and she was good, no question) - and there survives a recording of a (somewhat reconstructed) BBC Euryanthe of the same period under Fritz Stiedry which is well worth attention. Of course, Birgit Nillsson was already attracting attention by then.
I'd suggest a quick look at George Bernard Shaw's reviews from the 1880s and 1890s, especially the one in which he describes Patti singing one of the Wesendonck lieder. Not to mention listening to an online snatch of Jadlowker in Raul's opening aria in "Les Huguenots". Wagner was a practical musician and wrote for singers who knew their business - and so was Meyerbeer, come to that. Perhaps knowing their business is a bit harder these days.
It is not surprising if Suthrland could sing effectively one of the Walkure roles (not a huge task) or a couple of Weber's main operatic roles in 1954. Her transformation to the singer with the established reputation we know happened around 1958-9, under the influence and guidance of her husband R. Bonynge. After that, she excelled in belcanto and a bit in other Italian and French repertory but she could not have had it both ways. Thus, she avoided the risky paths...
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