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Subject: Re: Opera Singers Reading Music
From: [log in to unmask]
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 1 Apr 2010 18:49:15 EDT
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In a message dated 4/1/2010 12:56:18 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
[log in to unmask] writes:

It's  well-known that Pavarotti could not read music


Well known?  After reading this post, I searched "Pavarotti  reading music" 
and found an assertion that he wasn't able to read music when he  first 
began to study it at the age of 19. I didn't find anything else. That  doesn't 
mean it isn't true. There are biographies, what do they say?  I've not read 
any of them.
 
But I can assert from my own knowledge that Pavarotti was not entirely  
musically illiterate. Pavarotti was a collector of rare first edition musical  
scores (something almost unheard of from someone who can't read music) and 
one  time when I visited him to show them to him, he opened up the scores of 
Turandot  and Idomeneo and sang and hummed particular passages of the music 
as he turned  the pages. I could see with my own eyes that he was reading 
the music  as he was humming. Pavarotti also knew the interesting point which 
makes the  first edition of the piano vocal score of La Boheme unique and he 
quizzed me on  this. [How many people on the list know this interesting 
fact? answer at the  bottom]*
 
 Now just how well Pavarotti could study a score I don't know,  perhaps 
there are professionals on this list who could answer the question. It  isn't 
unusual for a singer to need a coach to learn a score. Caruso needed such  
coaching, but from my knowledge of Caruso it seems he could read music, if 
with  some difficulty. It is true that Ezio Pinza, like Irving Berlin, couldn't 
 read music at all a fact that bedeviled him as he learned South  Pacific 
and was handed newly revised pages of music daily. 
 
On the question of Broadway composers having others score their music, this 
 was a common practice even to name two of the greatest American music  
masters, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.  Richard Rodgers  certainly had 
the training, but he invariably turned the task over to  others like Robert 
Russell Bennett or Don Walker. The practice was not unknown  in opera - 
Gluck had Gossec orchestrate the famous ballet for Alceste for  instance. 
Arthur Sullivan used Alfred Cellier, the noted conductor, to create  and 
orchestrate several of the overtures for his "Savoy"  operas".
 
James Camner
 
*The first issue of La Boheme has the last two pages in real  time.

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