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Subject: Re: Caballe (my evil thoughts), was 1973 Norma
From: Kenneth Bleeth <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kenneth Bleeth <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 26 Jul 2017 19:19:13 -0400

text/plain (176 lines)

Not a waste of time, Albert. I can't think of any singer whom I'd classify
as truly great who didn't attend carefully to the text. In a well-known
interview (1950), Flagstad recalls that, when she first sang at Bayreuth in
the early 1930s, she was told that she'd need to work on her German
diction. The wonderful result can be heard in the *Walk├╝re *excerpt (her
standard warm-up passage, she explains) that starts at 8:15.

On Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 3:13 PM, albert innaurato <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Singing is the balance of word and tone. It is hard to do. Great
> singers always walk a tight rope between a clear, accurate and
> meaningful enunciation of the text and as lovely or effective a tone
> as they can manage. Many people on this list don't know any languages,
> even their English is sketchy. But operas are sung in a range of
> languages. It isn't an excuse that the singer may not be a native
> speaker of a given language. He/she must articulate words so that they
> can be understood, but that must be done without getting in the way of
> a vocal production.
> The color in the sound, its emotional effect owes everything to this
> balance. The last generation of Italian singers, people you must have
> heard of and maybe even have heard, Pavarotti, Freni, would tell you
> that their lessons began with working on pronouncing Italian clearly
> and beautifully as a basis for producing an expressive sung tone.
> There are videos of Taddei and Simionato (you've never heard
> demonstrating how the correct pronunciation aids in the projection of
> the sound as well as achieving the right emotional color in the music.
> Tebaldi and Bergonzi were masters of beautiful pronunciation and also
> believed fully that their vocal beauty was rooted in the way they
> formed words.
> The same is true in all others languages (including English). Fifty
> years of great French singers from 1900-1950 PRONOUNCE and the color
> and clarity of their words is a huge charm in itself. That is a very
> difficult language to sing "serious music" in and in that era, French
> teachers and coaches had worked out a way to deal with French vowels
> and consonants so the tone was not choked off. After 1950 this
> somewhat "flowery" French was identified with the Nazi collaborating
> Vichy government and discouraged, and more recent French singers have
> become more guttural (with exceptions). In that case, there has been a
> preference for verbal clarity over tonal beauty.
> To listen to Hans Hotter in German, or Frida Leider or Flagstad (not a
> native speaker) pronounce their words with beauty, clarity, and
> understanding is a big part of the pleasure of listening to them.
> The problem Caballe had was that she had a beautiful tone for
> especially the first part of her career but she tended to produce tone
> only on one or two vowels that were comfortable for her. From the
> beginning, she tended to drop consonants and change vowels to suit the
> sound. Her words at first weren't always vague but could be, later she
> was sloppy and lazy about it. In the Faust I mention (she was not a
> native speaker), she had no words in the verbally important last
> scene. It seemed to me she had forgotten them -- or perhaps not
> learned them carefully. This is different from dropping the words to
> make a vocal effect.
> Later on, she tended to pronounce only what was comfortable for her --
> leaving words out, dropping consonants, changing vowels, as a way of
> getting her sound out.
> There are people for whom the "vocalize" (a wordless crooning) is enough
> for them if they like the sound. But composers work very hard to set
> words so that they are understandable and expect singers to project
> them clearly and with understanding. And even as a "neophyte", you
> must have heard somewhere that opera is the combination of word and
> music to a dramatic effect.
> Now, there is a balance to be achieved. Anyone who has studied singing
> or has worked with young singers knows that it's always easier to
> produce sound on one or two vowels than it is to pronounce an entire
> word. When the tone on those vowels is pretty their tendency is to
> stay on those vowels or accommodate all other vowels to them. So if
> the singer finds their tone is more focused and under better control
> on the long E vowel, all other vowels are shaded to that long E,
> the result is that the words become generalized.
> It is also very difficult to cope with consonants in singing. They
> need to be clear but pronounced in a way that doesn't pull the voice
> back into the throat so the tone becomes harsh, or "chop" the vowels
> which produce the sound. In difficult music, there is the temptation
> not to pronounce them at all -- the audience won't know, goes the
> reasoning, they are too dumb.
> A preoccupation with words can be a problem. An extreme result of that
> can be something called "the Bayreuth Bark". That was
> a result of Cosima Wagner's emphasis on her husband's words after his
> death. The result was harsh and croaking sound, unmusical and
> disagreeable. But to ignore consonants altogether is wrong.
> In my opinion, above, Caballe was a very gifted but very lazy singer,
> who once she had achieved great fame coasted. I saw many concerts with
> piano where she hadn't learned the words in the "serious" music she'd
> start off with, she sometimes hadn't learned the music either. But
> people found that endearing. I remember the audience delight when she
> and her accompanist Miguel Zanetti made up an aria from "Sancia di
> Castiglia" about which she was clueless. The process induced a fit of
> the giggles in her. Adorable but not professional.
> "Crooning" another word I use means taking the voice off the breath
> and floating it out. Words are gone, so is a sense of connection to
> the actual voice. In some cases crooning the top is the only way a
> singer can get those notes. In her case she had a pop singer like
> prettiness to the croon, so she did it all the time, as she aged. It's
> a phony effect that cheats the musical and dramatic intent of a
> passage.
> AI
> On Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 6:12 AM, Henry <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > albert innaurato <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> >> the last scene, she sang with feeling and great sweetness of
> sound.
> >> However, she forgot all the words (AS OPPOSED TO REFUSING TO
> >> SING THEM) and the great John Alexander (Faust) was left at something
> of a
> >> loss.
> >
> >
> >
> >> ... She began to croon and leave music out. She ABANDONED
> >> WORDS, sometimes because she forgot them or hadn't learned them,
> >
> >
> >
> > Please excuse this neophyte's confusion but what are you talking about?
> >
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