Maybe She’s Born With It? Maybe it’s Bel Canto™?

One of the distinctions I’ve never seen made before related to the Old School is “How Did it Look?”.

Culling the writings of singers of the time, as well as those in observance and all the glitterati who swirled in the circles of this art form, one is struck by one thing: the effortlessness of the singing.

Summa ars est celare artem.

From all I’ve learned, the singing school known as bel canto was not JUST about the sound and the coloratura and the range AND the messa di voce AND the beauty of the sound: it was also about how people LOOKED in space.

Breath taking was inaudible, and NOT perceived by the human eye when being inspired. NO ‘tanking up’ in this world. Fiendish coloratura was delivered with poise and astonishing facility. Sustained, legato singing betrayed no sense of effort whatsoever.

Facial grimaces, ticks, contortions?

Unknown in the bel canto.

Distended stomachs? Pulsing epigastriums? Physicalization of the singing?

Unknown in the bel canto.

Thrusting the face or jaw forward or down? Pulling on the musculature of the neck?

Unknown in the bel canto.

The whole concept of bel canto as a GESTALT is one of total beauty: beauty of sound, beauty of tone, but also BEAUTY OF DELIVERY. The EXPERIENCE of the bel canto was one of beauty – beauty of presentation! The singer did NOT make themselves ugly, or tie themselves in KNOTS to sing the highly developed music of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Singers that DID were usually seen to be INFERIOR singers.

The criteria is not just HOW DOES THIS VOICE SOUND, but also…

How does it look when this person sings? (Easy? Hard? Effortful? Agonizing? Spasmodic?)

Food for thought….

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