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Subject: Re: Kaufman in Otello… NY Times:
From: John Rahbeck <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 6 Jul 2017 09:22:17 -0400

text/plain (212 lines)

This is actually an interesting subject, and I'm hoping to discuss the  
subject matter without getting sucked into reactions over disagreements or  
 Competent teachers recognize those formants in a well trained  operatic 
voice, and singers learn to listen to them and to shape their vocal  tracts 
accordingly to achieve them. They may not know the names of these  formants, 
but they know when they are present. They can actually  be picked up and 
recorded on a graph. Broadway singers in general tap  into fewer formants 
because one, they generally sing in a more narrow range  closer to their speaking 
voices, and two, they don't need as much volume or can  use a microphone. 
There are always a few exceptions to this. Technically, a  sound without these 
upper formants does not cut as well through heavy  orchestration. 
Artistically, different art forms have different vocal  requirements and is a matter 
of taste. 
 There are five formants used by singers, F1, F2, F3, F4 and F5.   In 
addition to utilizing F1 and F2, opera singers must coordinate F3, F4,  and F5. 
this 3,4,5 cluster is known as the singer's formant, and this is  what 
creates a voice able to fill an opera house without a microphone and cut  through 
heavy orchestration.  
 However there is not a one size fits all for opera singers, and  different 
singers are able to tune their formants differently. There is a  wonderful 
book called Resonance in Singing by Donald Miller that includes  softwear 
that you can use to read your own formants on a graph on your lap top.  The 
book explains how Pavarotti and Domingo tuned their formants differently,  and 
even have graphs that have recorded the differences, and you can see the  
graphs compared in the book.
 An opera singer learns to listen for these resonances, They have many  
names, upper and lower resonance, squillo, forward focus, mid focus, singing in 
 the masque, nasal resonance, chiaroscuro, head vibration, chest vibration, 
 head resonance, chest resonance, The different names teachers use are  
endless, but the results are the same, and are detected by the ear, and the  
ear guides the mechanics. In short, they listen to the various resonances,  
bring out the ones that worked best for them, and figure out what they were  
doing to achieve them. Teachers with strong skills are able to use  exercises 
that create these resonances more easily. Teachers with lesser skills,  but 
have a good ear are at least able to say, yes that's it, no that isn't,  
and the student is able to remember and figure out on their own how they  are 
producing them. Many singers have achieved this intuitively without  knowing 
the names of the formants or how they work scientifically. They just  make 
the sound more resonant, and know when it is and when it isn't. If the  
singer is unable to recognize the formants by ear, all the mechanics  and  vocal 
instruction in the world will not help them.
 John Rahbeck 
In a message dated 7/4/2017 7:36:12 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
[log in to unmask] writes:
I have  asked Mr. Hanson, twice now, to provide specific incidents of 
directors and  
producers who ask and prefer such things of their casts. He has not. He  
most likely 
cannot, because he is confusing his personal dislike for the  sound with 
some sort of 
juvenile fantasy about what is being asked for by  seasoned professionals 
he doesn't 
know and doesn't respect.  

Producers who know their protocol don't give notes to actors. Those of  
them working on 
Broadway largely know that protocol, or learn it very  quickly. 

I would not think much of a professional director whose notes  were among 
the "for 
heaven's sake, don't sing" variety." The implied  attitude is 
unprofessional and it shows 
that Mr. Hanson most likely has  never observed a professional rehearsal or 
Aside from the fact  that "don't sing" has other meanings (more on that in 
a second), I 
can't  think of any respected/respectful Broadway director who would 
actually be  asking 
his actors to yell through their music. Ridiculous. Given that  Broadway 
normally have to do their shows 8 times a week  (something unheard of in 
the opera 
world), they must take extra care of  their voices. Like opera singers, 
Broadway singers 
work with qualified  teachers and coaches, and the ones that are serious 
about their 
careers  know how to sing healthily. And any conscientious director is of 
course aware  of 
this - the last thing anyone wants to see happen is to have a singer  out 
of the show due 
to serious vocal issues. Or worse, for any performer  to develop permanent 
vocal injury.
(Though, just as in opera, it happens.)  To imply that Broadway 
professionals actively 
*encourage* unhealthy  singing is ludicrous, naive, and a damaging 
indictment to the 

In terms of "don't sing" - that's most often shop talk for LESS  vocalism, 
not some sort of 
yelling. It's really a request for more  text-based delivery - usually less 
of a rounded 
"legit" tone in favor of a  more conversational, "spoken on pitch" kind of 
Singing the  WORDS, not just the music, as I often say to my own students. 
It's not  
yelling. It's in fact a style of singing that I believe opera singers  
often find harder to do 
when singing non-classical rep, which is why true  and satisfying 
"crossover" singers 
seem relatively rare. More text, more  consonants, much less vibrato 
(especially in 
pop/rock style music), more  natural (less rounded) vowels, etc. But not 
yelling. Please. 

When the  Theatre du Chatelet did a production of Into The Woods a few 
seasons ago, the  
opening of the show, with the basic theme of "I wish" being contrapuntally  
passed from 
character to character, is a great example of the disparity.  The members 
of the cast 
wirth musical theatre experience were able to  simply sing the word "wish" 
as we hear it 
in conversational English. The  opera singers in the cast could only 
generally vocalize 
"weeeeeeesh." Too  round, no nod to the crispness of the music, and no 
sense of the  
difference in musical style. And most likely no thought into the actual  
meaning of the 
text. Just vocalizing. But what the musical theatre singers  were doing was 
no less 
healthy, or even hard to listen to. It was just  right for the musical 
style of the piece. 

I'm thrilled to say that  what the Chatelet did Passion last year, with 
Natalie Dessay 
taking on the  VERY different role, for her, of Fosca, she did a truly 
admirable job. She  
was truly "speaking on pitch" when the score called for it, and it worked.  
And it was no 
less rewarding to hear than her usual rep. And in the  moments when the 
score could 
allow for a more "traditional" legit legato  sound, she delivered. (And 
here's a role where 
the character literally has  to yell and scream at times, as part of her 
mental disarray. But 
of course  operas have that too.)

Anyway, I digress. If Mr. Hanson hates what he  hears in the contemporary 
sound, that's fine. But for him to  preach from his bully voice teacher 
pulpit to tell us 
something he doesn't  know - namely, how Broadway professionals do their 
work - that's 
slander  as far as I'm concerned. And I either ask him to give us specific 
examples of  
directors and producers who are literally asking their singers to yell  
their music, and 
what professionals are saying things like "for heaven's  sake, don't SING," 
or I ask him to 
back off that statement. Such  misinformed slander doesn't belong out here. 
Please, feel 
free, Mr.  Hanson, to talk about singer's formant until you're blue in the 
face - but  please 
don't slander other professionals because you don't like the music  they 
sing. Which is the 
blatant attitude I read coming off of your  statement. 

That said, I wish everyone in the states today a happy 4th  - though I also 
have to admit 
I feel we don't really have a lot to  celebrate this year. Let us hope 
things improve, and 

On Tue, 4 Jul 2017 00:10:22 +0000, Lloyd William Hanson  
<[log in to unmask]> 

>The tenor must change his  formant tuning above the lowest note of his 
passaggio which 
could be  anywhere from D4to F#4. Before entering the lowest note of his 
passaggio he  
formant tunes to the 2nd harmonic of his sung pitch. Above this he is  
tuning the formant 
to the 3rd harmonic. If he does not do this his high  tone become more like 
a yell.  This is 
the common practice of men  singing in present day Broadway style.  It 
meets the 
preference of  the producers, directors etc for Broadway shows (“For 
heavens sake, don’t  

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