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Subject: Re: Caballe (my evil thoughts), was 1973 Norma
From: David Geary <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:David Geary <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 27 Jul 2017 10:30:09 +0200
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The wholte "Prima le parole, dopo la musica" and or vice-versa is a
silly discussion. The fact is that in vocal music, the words and the
music are the same thing. You can't have one without the other.  As I
always tell my students, the difference between instrumental and vocal
music is the words. The words are part of the music, and if you ignore
them and/or don't pronounce them, you aren't performing the music. It is
ironic that most opera fans insist that operas should be sung in the
original language, but then don't mind if the singers don't bother to
get the words across.
Up until the 60s or so singers could generally be understood much better
than singers today. And I'm sure that this happened when Italy, Germany,
France and England, less so North America, stopped performing everything
in the language of the country, and singers stopped singing primarily in
their own language. Now singers spend a lot of time singing in languages
they don't speak, and even if you learn the meaning of every word (which
a lot don't) it isn't the same as speaking it. So the temptation is just
to make pretty (hopefully at least!) noises and a general sort of
expression. Besides, why concentrate on enunciating clearly when
everyone is reading the surtitles anyway?
On the subject of gestures BTW, it was Maria Callas who said "Never make
a gesture unless you follow it with your heart and your mind."
Back to Caballé. She considered those Orange Norma performances the best
of anything she ever gave. Two weeks afterwards, she says, she received
a small package in the mail. It was from Callas, and contained the
earrings she had worn of stage as Norma. Passing on the torch.

David

As long as I'm at it, I'll go to another bugbear of mine, the dialogues
in Carmen. If you are performing the opera in France, and/or with french
singers, by all means the dialogues are to be prefered. But if you
performing it ouside of France without a french singer in sight, use the
recitatives, for heaven's sake! I don't think there is anything quite as
ridiculous as a bunch of singers (who generally don't do dialogue very
well anyway) spouting pages of dialogue in a language they don't speak
to an audience that doesn't understand it!

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