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Subject: Re: Jonathan Tetelman WOW!!!
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 26 Jul 2017 23:31:08 -0400
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In your comments about Sills, you actually answered your own question. Indeed, many 
singers would feel the absolute need to extend their arms in a grandiose way on the last 
phrase, because of the grand feel of the big high note cadence. But the simple words 
"when all the things you are are mine" don't really need such a melodramatic gesture. 
There might indeed be an appropriate gesture for that phrase, but not necessarily the 
kind of "big arms" gesture you'd expect a singer to do at that moment. And in fact, as 
Sills shows, she can fight that impulse to do a MUSICALLY-related gesture, and simply 
express the text. 

The process I work with in classes (in tandem with an acting teacher, who by the way is 
a huge  opera fan) is to discover the natural gestures one makes in conversation (or in 
general, the body language most natural to any individual actor), and to really use them 
as an extension of the text being sung, and to the REactions (acting, after all, is reacting) 
that provoke such gestures. Just about all students we work with start off with 
mechanical and meaningless (and most often symmetrical) gestures that tend to go with 
the feeling of the musical phrase, but aren't at all connected *specifically* to the 
meaning of what's being sung. Yes, of course, you're right that words and music work in 
tandem, but a gesture that's truly related to what's being *communicated* (i.e. text-
wise) really can be very different (and much more specific) than the kind of stereotypical 
circular arm motion stuff that singers do by default. Most of us do, of course, mostly 
subconsciously, gesture and use our bodies in very specific ways when we talk and react 
- rarely are those gestures the kind of generic ones that singers fall back on. The trick is 
finding those impulsive, subconscious movements we do in real life, amplifying them a 
bit so that they match the size of the dramatic moment (theatre/opera is indeed "larger 
than life" lol), but keeping them organic and not habitual, so that they really are an 
expression of the specific moment, not just a way to suggest a generic sense of "big 
emotion." 

If you watch an amateur actor reciting Shakespeare, they will probably do a lot of the 
same empty gesturing as we see singers do. Something in the "loftiness" of the poetic 
language seems to invite those grand but melodramatic gestures. They are expressing 
the "importance" they feel in the sounds of the words, much as a singer will use their 
arms to express the heightened scale of the musical line they are singing. An actor 
comfortable with the directness of Shakespeare's language will find there is no need for 
such lofty gesture - the words do that work already, and the body works in tandem as it 
does in normal speech. The same can apply to opera - grand gestures are generic, not 
specific, and are a result of feeling a general "bigness" rather than a true connection to 
specifically what is being sung in the text. The gestures are for the size of the music, not 
the impact of the words. 

Also, most of us don't gesture symmetrically in real life. We don't often rely on both 
hands to make mirrored gestures - maybe sometimes, but not a lot - but so much of the 
time "opera' gesturing means both hands doing the same thing in mirror image. (Mr. 
Tetelman does a lot of that.) Meaningless. Also, in real life, gesturing isn't always 
symmetrical with speech - we might make a gesture before or after a word (the gesture 
punctuating the thought, for instance, or vice versa) - but so often singers go the 
mechanical route of moving right with the word, which looks planned and 
"choreographed" instead of natural and human. Again, opera singers do this all the time. 
And I tend to think it has less to do with the text than with an impetus in the music. And 
that's fine for Olympia, lol, but not for most other characters. ;-)

I know, I know. You don't buy it. I can already feel you saying that, and I haven't even 
hit "send" yet lol. But I've been working with this stuff long enough to notice the 
difference. And I also have to say that it's very very hard to explain this well in a post 
online - you'd probably have to really see this to fully understand. But I still maintain 
that a good deal of the generic arm-waving bullshit that singers do when they don't have 
specifics to work with are really an extension of the sound of the music, not text-related 
at all. (And I think a lot of it also comes from stuff learned in voice lessons, where 
singers are rightly often encouraged to move their bodies in certain fluid ways to free 
themselves up and help "image" their vocal technique, etc. Fine in voice lessons, 
absolutely. But we're not wanting to see voice lessons onstage...)


On Wed, 26 Jul 2017 12:59:52 -0400, donald kane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>You wrote:  " . . . to unconsciously express the feeling of the MUSIC,
>rather
>than to respond and react to the words and thoughts being sung."
>
>But how can the music and words of a song or aria not express the same
>"feelings"?   I would assume that the composer must have been aiming for
>precisely that.. If not, it places a burden on the performers for which
>there
>can be no perfect body language.  You and I have disagreed before on the
>relative importance of music and word: I tend to place the one first, and
>you
>the other, but so be it.  CAPRICCIO!
>
>Whatever the case, I read your comments carefully to the end , and was
>thankfully rewarded with another look at that stunning Beverly Sills clip.
>Don't you love the way she has a little trouble keeping her hands in those
>pockets when she approaches the climactic high notes?
>
>And that brought me back to Jonathan Tetelman:  each time I watch him, I'm
>less bothered by his gesturing.  It now seems more natural and personal
>than it did at first encounter, especially in the excerpts from CARMEN and
>ONEGIN. He has the bearing and good looks that make any movement he
>chooses, work -
>reminding me at times of Franco Corelli. in that respect; no faint praise,
>IMO.  : )
>
>dtmk
>
>
>
>On Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 12:13 AM, Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>> Essentially agreeing with Donald on all counts - though I do wish young
>> singers were
>> taught more rigorous acting/body training. The basic habit of all kinds of
>> young singers
>> (not just opera) is to unconsciously express the feeling of the MUSIC,
>> rather than to
>> respond and react to the words and thoughts being sung. I agree that
>> Tetelman's empty
>> gesturing isn't as awful as many, though hopefully he will get better at
>> it. The only truly
>> ridiculous gesture IMO is that thing he keeps doing with his spread
>> fingers down by his
>> stomach, where he puts his fingers of both hands together to make a big
>> hole. Not sure
>> what the hell that's all about lol.
>>
>> I totally disagree with Mr. Geschke. Inasmuch as all singers need to make
>> sure their
>> techniques are solid and in proper working order, I have no desire to
>> watch a stage
>> performer "concentrate on maintaining the breath column." That's the
>> "homework" that
>> goes into becoming a technically reliable singer. That's not what a singer
>> should be
>> primarily thinking about when performing a stage role. As Donald implied,
>> a singer that is
>> doing nothing but replicating technique onstage is not worth watching. Not
>> on the opera
>> stage, not in recital, and not even in the concert hall.
>>
>> Singers should absolutely be able to gesture, move, and express onstage.
>> The question is
>> in finding the specificity of movement that is right for any given moment,
>> not just that
>> typical meaningless symmetrical stock gesture stuff. And there's also
>> nothing wrong with
>> not gesturing at all, as long as the body still seems free.
>>
>> Not long ago, someone posted this video of Beverly Sills. What's
>> particularly remarkable
>> about this performance is that she never feels that gratuitous need to
>> start gesticulating.
>> Not even on the high notes at the end. But, aware that she's in close-up
>> most of the
>> time, she knows how to express, tastefully and simply, with her face,
>> eyes,and head. But
>> it's never "overcooked" - it's beautifully simple and it seems intimate
>> and authentic
>> instead of overblown and melodramatic. Young singers should take notice of
>> performances like this - to see that you really don't need to do more than
>> express the
>> truth of the lyric, no flailing arms necessary. ;-)
>>
>> And yet, Mr. Geschke, I don't feel I'm watching her "maintaining her
>> breath column." I'm
>> sure she is doing that - but that's second nature from years of practice.
>> She's letting that
>> happen, but her primary task here is expressing the music and the words.
>> THAT'S what I
>> want to see. Not a breath column lol.
>>
>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yTeixRxPBg
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> On Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:49:20 -0400, donald kane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>
>> >The videos of Tetelman are of a gifted young singer
>> >still in the process of learning.  I wasn't at all bothered
>> >by his movements; they may only be the formative
>> >gestures studiously.copied from traditional concert
>> >practices.  He has plenty of time and, hopefully, the
>> >instinct to make them his own.  Piccaver, conversely,
>> >In the Preislied, is mature, technically flawless, but
>> >entirely expressionless, as he tosses off Wagner's
>> >masterpiece.  Compare it with the equally mature, but
>> >thrillingly understood performance by Lauritz Melchior,
>> >in the film TWO SISTERS FROM BOSTON:  though cut
>> >to ribbons, it still sounds, (and looks) as it should, like the
>> >greatest song ever written.
>> >
>> >dtmk
>> >
>> >On Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 3:54 AM, Russ Geschke <[log in to unmask]>
>> >wrote:
>> >
>> >> As usual, I failed to complete making my point, in my 23 July email
>> below,
>> >> which is that Piccaver unlike young Tetelman keeps his arms under
>> control:
>> >> his hands clasped in front of him as, completely self-possessed, he
>> >> concentrates on maintaining the breath column that supports his voice so
>> >> that the "Preislied" just so easily pours forth.  It's always a
>> pleasure to
>> >> hear from other Listers who are aware of and interested in the singers
>> of
>> >> the increasingly remote past.
>> >>
>> >> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Maxwell Paley" <[log in to unmask]>
>> >> To: "Russ Geschke" <[log in to unmask]>
>> >> Cc: <[log in to unmask]>
>> >> Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2017 5:11 PM
>> >> Subject: Re: Jonathan Tetelman WOW!!!
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> Interesting that you bring up Piccaver. Many other tenors have been
>> >> compared to Caruso, including Gigli (who, to me, sounds totally
>> different).
>> >> From that era, I can only judge from records but Piccaver, to my ear,
>> >> sometimes sounds remarkably similar to Caruso in terms of timbre and
>> >> overall sound. The comparison might not always be obvious because of
>> >> frequent differences in repertoire and language.
>> >>
>> >> Max Paley
>> >>
>> >> Sent from my iPhone
>> >>
>> >> On Jul 23, 2017, at 13:36, Russ Geschke <[log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>> >>>
>> >>> Supporting your proper reminder that "less is more" as concerns arms
>> >>> gestures and overall body movement, there is on YouTube a posting
>> ("Alfred
>> >>> Piccaver sings Wagner's Preislied") of a film from c. the early 1930s
>> of
>> >>> the Vienna Staatsoper star Alfred Piccaver singing, gloriously (power +
>> >>> tonal beauty), the Die Meistersinger "Preislied."  (This is being sent
>> >>> because quite a few Listers seem interested in singers of the past.)
>> >>>
>> >>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "G. Paul Padillo"
>> >>> <sharkmeister99@GMAILCOM>
>> >>>
>> >>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> >>> Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2017 12:22 PM
>> >>> Subject: Re: Jonathan Tetelman WOW!!!
>> >>>
>> >>>
>> >>> What a beautiful, often exciting voice - with a lot of power and "meat"
>> >>> to the sound.  I've
>> >>> watched him in most of his videos now and really love the voice.
>> >>>
>> >>> My only genuine criticism has nothing to do with his singing.  I hope
>> >>> someone teaches him to
>> >>> reign in the arm gestures and perpetual motion - the guy never stops
>> >>> moving his body from
>> >>> here to there, from there to here and frequently his arms look like
>> he's
>> >>> directing traffic or
>> >>> doing semaphore.  Less is more in this regard as all of that movement
>> >>> detracts from the most
>> >>> important elements of his performance.  He's young . . . hopefully
>> he'll
>> >>> learn
>> >>>
>> >>> p.
>> >>>
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