Say "Wagnerian soprano" and what comes to mind? A formidably large woman? Perhaps in a horned helmet. And without doubt a German. No question that these are still the stereotypes. But they are not the reality. Today's Wagnerian sopranos come in as many sizes as the world's women do. They almost never wear the caricature Nordic kit. And some of the best Wagnerian sopranos these days are not German – but British. Rachel Nicholls, who hails from Bedford, is the latest of them. As Brünnhilde in the triumphant Ring cycle at the Longborough festival last week, the athletic and tireless Ms Nicholls, who looks a bit like the young Mo Mowlam, was the star of the show. In July, Nottingham's Catherine Foster is Brünnhilde at Wagner's own Bayreuth festival, no less. Wagnerian opera was once a Teutonic monopoly. But these days British singers like Ms Nicholls and Ms Foster would seem to be running rings around the competition.