My belief about the Wagnerian and Verdian voice myth is that, with the loss of bel canto schooling, singers lost the ability to sing dramatically from vocal balance – they lost sight of the truly mixed voice. The mistake that is still made is the assumption that to sing the works of these composers you not only need a large voice (which of itself is fair enough) but you have to use it in a ‘beefy’ or overcharged manner. No voice, however big, responds kindly to such treatment. The results have been disastrous for the music and most of its exponents alike.
Harrison, Peter T. Singing: Personal and performance values in training. Dunedin Academic Press Ltd. 2013.
2 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”
The opera world is teeming with singers at the highest levels of the profession whose voices are in various stages of decline (usually congruent with age). I have seen this tendency for big voices to always sing in a “beefy” way rather than just letting the size of the voice be present through a flexible range of dynamics, color, and expression. I keep coming back to Birgit Nilsson, but she really had this figured out. Recordings and video clips show that she was singing at “full throttle” at no higher percentage of the time than her light colleagues such as Roberta Peters and Bidu Sayao. Big and flexible will assert its true identity easily enough and thrill as much as anything. Big and pushed makes the Muses weep with sadness and anxiety.
Not much more to say. Nilsson’s extraordinary pitch security, free of wobble or tremolo is almost shocking in it’s ‘slenderness.’