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Subject: Re: that trill in Dove sono
From: Dennis Ryan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Fri, 24 Mar 2017 20:45:40 -0400
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Hi, Y'all!  
    Some reactions to Max's thought-provoking post  here:  
    I fully agree with everything Max says about "Dove  sono."  But were I 
a soprano, I would find "Porgi amor" even more difficult  for exactly the 
same reasons.  And "Voi che sapete" is a terror for mezzos,  because it 
presents exactly the same difficulties.  
    Skillful vocal ornamentation of any type, provided  in any manner, can 
say as much about the plot, the characters, the setting, and  the central 
theme of an opera fully as well as can the music it is designed  to ornament.  
Is Maria Callas the only singer in the history of music who  ever truly 
understood this point?  
    Nilsson never had coloratura, and every stab she  made at it failed 
miserably.  A clear example is in her commerically  recorded "Oberon," where a 
truly noble, MIGHTY "Ozean, du Ungeheuer!" is  preceded by a florid first 
act "entrance aria" that she simply cannot  negotiate.  And whatever in the 
world made her accept a contract to record  Donna Anna?   The color of 
Nilsson's voice was always totally wrong in  both vocal color and temperament for 
the role of the empress in "Die  Frau."  Why in the world would she have ever 
wanted to sing it, when she  was such a superb Farberin?  
    I once read somewhere--I THINK it was in a  biography of Marilyn Horne, 
but am no longer positive--that Horne learned to  trill the same way that 
instrumentalists learn runs and passagework:   simply produce one note after 
another at however slow a tempo is necessary to  get the notes right.  
Practice and practice and practice, gradually  increasing the speed as you are 
able to and keep it right.  And once you  can actually negotiate a good trill, 
you keep practicing them slowly so as to  always keep the facility to do 
them up to tempo.  (I remember three  weeks of practicing that exact process 
to get the clarinet runs in the  third movement of "Sheherizade" just right.) 
 
    Best, 
    Dennis Ryan 
 
 
 In a message dated 3/24/2017 7:01:37 P.M. Central Daylight Time,  
[log in to unmask] writes:
 

I think that aria is deceptively difficult. I've heard numerous  sopranos 
talk about how, on paper, it seems like no big deal but then turns out  to be 
surprisingly hard to sing well. Much of it sits in that upper break where  
sopranos can be challenged with breath support and intonation and it's 
extremely  exposed. Any slight unsteadiness or tendency to flat is ruthlessly 
laid  bare.  A good Countess also manages to infuse it with elegance and a  
melancholy nobility. 

I'm sure Steber worked very hard and absorbed what  teaching and coaching 
she got, but she had an innate profound musicality. Same  with Flagstad. A 
sense for shape and balance of phrase and the taste to know  what's enough to 
give but not too much. There really isn't a precedent for her  powerfully 
shaped performances of the Berlioz "Nuits d'Été" cycle - earlier  recordings 
by Teyte, etc. are very different from her approach.

I've  heard singers and pedagogues argue about whether elements of florid 
singing and  ornamentation can be taught or if they're just part of the natu
ral voice and  talent. I think there's an element of motivation involved. 
Some singers really  dig in and enjoy executing challenging fioritura. Others 
seem to do it only when  they absolutely have to.

I recall Nilsson saying that one reason she  never sang Strauss' Empress 
was her opening scene with the coloratura and high  D. She commented "I hate 
coloratura." Flagstad, with at least as weighty and big  a voice, loved it 
and regretted she didn't have more opportunities. She was very  sad to drop 
the role of Rodelinda. Definitely, in those faster moving sections  I've heard 
of Nilsson singing Mozart's Elettra or Donna Anna, she gave the  impression 
that she was doing it because she "had to."

I do know, from  personal experience, that a trill can be learned. It can 
take a great deal of  practice and, when right, can sound very strange to the 
singer performing it,  but it can be learned.

Max Paley

Sent from my iPhone

>  On Mar 24, 2017, at 15:59, Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>  wrote:
> 
> Technical trouble aside, how does a routine decoration  on a note stop 
the flow of the aria? 
> Especially when it's not a part of  an out-of-time cadenza, nor in any 
other way changes the 
> beat or  tempo?
> 
> That trill is, to my ears, part of a very common  cadential progression 
in Mozart and in 
> other music of his time. In  fact, as a pianist, it tends to make me 
instantly think of a very 
>  similar moment in that most (in)famous of his C major piano sonatas 
(i.e. the  one 
> everyone knows instantly by its first few bars, and one of those  pieces 
that certainly every 
> young piano student is assigned early on.)  
> 
> Hear the phrase leading to the trill and cadence around the  0:45 mark 
and (for the trill on 
> the same notes as in the aria) the 2;45  mark, as beautifully rendered by 
Daniel 
> Barenboim. 
> 
>  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vDxlnJVvW8
> 
> 
> Oh - I do  sincerely apologize for suggesting that classical piano music 
(clearly  off-topic) 
> should ever be discussed on an opera listserv such as this  one. How dare 
I even think such 
> a thing. I'll never do it again...until  the next time. ;-)
> 
> 
> 
> 
>> On Wed, 22  Mar 2017 22:42:19 +0000, Takis Pavl. <[log in to unmask]>  
wrote:
>> 
>> I've always found that final trill on "ingrato"  a bit weird. I feel it 
stops the flow of the aria 
> and causes a lot of  trouble to most sopranos who otherwise excel (or 
not) in Nozze di 
>  Figaro and this particular aria. 
> 
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