Friday, September 29, 2006

Technique in Action

Like I said, I’m going to leave reviews of the three operas I saw this week to other folks. I have opinions, of course, but I realized that these singers are, essentially, my peers. Sure, most of them are a few steps above me on the ladder, but regardless, it’s probably best not to critique my colleagues.

That said… (You knew I wasn’t going to leave it at that, didn’t you?!) The one thing I’ll say is this. Every one of the voices that moved me this week had one thing in common: They were seamless. From top to bottom and all the notes in between, there wasn’t a hitch in the voice. I think this is a real mark of a top professional, finding the ways to make the weaker parts of your voice (and we all have them) blend in with your “money notes.” I can't think of a role that stays on the money notes all the time, not even the trick-pony role of the Queen of the Night. We have to sing all the notess!

I was struck by how rangy almost all of the lead roles were this week. Mezzos and baritones had high notes, sopranos and tenors had low ones. And in my opinion, a strong, well-produced low note coming out of a soprano, be she a spinto or a light coloratura, is pretty darned impressive. (Same goes for the other voices, natch.) We assume, rightly or wrongly, that the soprano will have killer high notes; it should be a given. But if you really want to wow them? Get your low notes and all those pesky passaggio notes (the ones between registers) solid and smooth and lined up.

One other thought. At one of the operas, I was sitting close enough to see the singers’ technique in more detail, rather than just hearing it. Again, the thing in common: they really opened up and let ‘er rip. Their throats were so open and free of tension and the voices just soared out. I told my voice students (and the folks in the choir at my parents’ church) to imagine that their throats were as wide as their shoulders as a way to get them to free up any neck tension. Watching these singers, I felt as if their necks really were as wide as their shoulders! And the sound was wonderful…

Next week I’ll see Boheme at City Opera and hopefully I’ll make it to Idomeneo at the Met in the next couple of weeks. I’m also dying to see The Fantasticks and A Chorus Line and Wicked and …

But for now: sleep.

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