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Subject: Serious Question II
From: Kiwi <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kiwi <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 24 Apr 2017 09:27:45 -0400

text/plain (40 lines)

I thank all of those who have responded, publicly and privately, to my question.  I have learned A LOT and have enjoyed reading each email.

So, here’s where I am:  I messed up completely on my use of the terms relative and absolute pitch.  I understand the proper usage now, and thanks all of those who took the time to explain.

I think I also learned the following, though I am open to the folks in the know telling me where I’ve messed up again.

  > Unlike interpretation and musicality, pitch is not opinion-based but fact-based.  

  > Perfect pitch may allow a listener to identify a specific note as is is sung but you do not need to have perfect pitch to know that a singer is not on the note. 

  > A singer is on pitch or off pitch and that fact can be ignored but not truly, honestly refuted.  

  > While pitch is an objective quality, it can become much more subjective (and less important) depending on the listener and that listener’s affinity for the singer. 

  > While it is possible to prove a singer is off pitch, there is a degree of willful ignorance at play among fans that will cause them to ignore / reject / downplay the proof.

  > You can hear off-pitch singing best when not being distracted by the staging / audience / etc., – visual stimulation may dilute aural awareness, for example.

On the other hand, there seems to be a certain ‘so what’ raised on the issue—maybe I’m misinterpreting that? For example (to stay with Netrebko only because it is a recent example), if someone finds she was “at her best” when having obvious pitch problem, then my next serious question has to be what vocal qualities (again, not talking about interpretive or musicality or even appearance of the singer) go into making a top-flight singer?  

I’m truly interested to hear from the list because time and again folks say that opera is all about the voice and everything else is secondary.  If pitch is fact but can be ignored, maybe it is not so important? 

I understand that appreciation of a singer is often subjective and there is no accounting (and shouldn’t be) for liking this or that singer, but what goes into a high-quality voice and are those factors mutable?  And if mutable, then can any argument be sustained that opera is primarily about voice and not about all the other elements of a singer?

Is this an impossible question to answer?

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