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Subject: Re: Singers and asthma or allergies/Vocal categories/Tell/Iago
From: "PeteGrimes (Philip van Lidth de Jeude)" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 6 Mar 1997 07:21:47 -0500

text/plain (118 lines)

Dear Margo and List,

Actually, I know of a couple of singers (not necessarily well-known) who have
struggled with asthma or allergies.  One Heldenbaritone I know developed an
asthma so bad that he had to retire from singing at all at the end of last
season.  He is now teaching singing.  Another couple of singers I know have
hay fever and struggle through that season of the year trying not to get
sick.  Yet other singers I know have allergies to dust which can create
problems onstage, as it is practically impossible to create a dust-free
environment there.

I personally have problems with the smoke often used to create fog onstage.
 If I breathe it in too much, my chords swell up and I can kiss the rest of
the performance good-by.  As a result, the stage directors try to make sure
that this stuff is well dissipated before I have to make my entrance.

Asthma and allergies are a fact of life.  You notice that I give no names.
 This is because most of these singers try not to publicize their problems,
believing (correctly, INHO) that it is only their business as long as their
performances aren't compromised.
For Richard,

A dramatic soprano is one with a voice that cuts through dramatic orchestral
climaxes that would overwhelm other sopranos, to put it in a nutshell.  Yes,
Wagnerian roles like Isolde, Bruennhilde, Venus, Senta and Gutrune are
considered dramatic soprano roles, and the Germans tend to use a special term
for this kind of voice, namely Hochdramatischer Sopran (High-dramatic
Soprano), which category (or Fach) also comprises such roles as Leonore in
FIDELIO, Ellen Orford in PETER GRIMES, Kostelnicka in JENUFA, Marina in BORIS
GODUNOV, Salome, Elektra, Marschallin, Ariadne, Dyer's wife, Arabella and
Rezia (OBERON, also sung by dramatic coloraturas).  Notice that some of these
roles can also be sung by dramatic mezzos.  However, many Wagnerian soprano
roles (ie. Elisabeth, Elsa, Eva, Freia, Sieglinde) are considered the
property of the Jugendlich-dramatischer Sopran (comparable to the lyrico
spinto), which is a basically lyric voice capable of creating dramatic
climaxes.  Other roles in this category are Marie in WOZZECK, Rachel in LA
JUIVE, Jenufa, Kata Kabanova, Marietta/Marie in DIE TOTE STADT, Tatiana in
EUGEN ONEGIN, Agathe in Freischuetz and Chrysothemis in ELEKTRA.  Obviously,
the more dramatic voices often sing all of the Wagnerian roles with great
success.  The opposite is not always so true.

In the Italian repertoire, the truly dramatic roles are considered to be Lady
Macbeth, Amelia in BALLO, Leonore in FORZA, Elisabetta in DON CARLOS, Aida,
Santuzza, Tosca, Turandot and Minnie.  In the next category come such roles
as Adriana Lecouvreur, Gioconda, Mimi, Butterfly, Elvira in ERNANI,
Amelia/Maria in SIMONE BOCCANEGRA and Desdemona.  Roles such as Abigail in
Violetta, although often sung by this kind of soprano, are actually
considered dramatic coloratura roles in Germany.

Your list of past sopranos basically corresponds to the dramatic category,
although Ponselle's singing of Violetta is something of a feat for a real
dramatic and Rethberg tended to be a little more lyric in  quality (she would
probably be considered Jugendlich-dramatisch in Germany, her point of
origin).  I know that Price started out in more lyric repertoire and moved
into the dramatic stuff as she matured; in her prime and after I would
consider her a true dramatic, if not hochdramatisch.  Milanov started with
the lyric-dramatic repertoire (ie. Leonora in TROVATORE) and went on from

Of the crop you mention from more recent years, I have always felt that
Scotto was a lyrico spinto who allowed herself to be pushed into a category
above her real resources.  Tebaldi certainly could sing the dramatic
repertoire, but I sometimes wonder if that may not have contributed to some
extent to what (at age 51 in 1973) amounts to an early demise for her voice
category.  Dimitrova is definitely a dramatic, IMO.

Hope this helps.

Speaking of vocal types, a lot of the confusion about the word "coloratura"
derives from its multiple use to describe the kind of flexible decorative
singing that is properly called "fioratura" as well as the kind of voice
capable of doing this kind of singing.  Generally speaking, I have come
across the following vocal categories for coloratura voices:

lyric coloratura soprano -- the kind of voice that sings Gilda or Zerbinetta.

dramatic coloratura soprano -- the kind of voice (like Dame Joan) that would
sing Norma, the Queen of the Night, Konstanze in ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO,
Donna Anna or Donna Elvira in DON GIOVANNI, Fiordiligi, Manon in MANON
LESCAUT and some of the other roles noted above.

mezzo coloratura -- the kind of voice that would sing Angelica in CENERENTOLA
or Rosina in BARBIERE.

Although I know of tenors, baritones and basses who can all sing
fioratura/coloratura, I have never come across any category in male voices
that says coloratura.  The closest is the leggiero tenor, or tenorino, who
generally sings such roles as Almaviva in BARBIERE or Belmonte, but these
roles are also sung by more regular lyric tenors.
One of the reasons that GUILLAUME TELL is so seldom performed has to be its
length.  There is a famous story about that.  It seems that the Opera in
Paris had taken to presenting this opera in one-act pieces.  One day, the
director of the Opera met Rossini on the street and told him that the Opera
was presenting GUILLAUME TELL that evening.  Without missing a beat, Rossini
replied, "Which act?"

If it is apocryphal, it is so good that it *should* be true!
It seems to me to be quite possible that Boito created the Credo in order to
reestablish Iago as pure evil for audiences that had gone beyond this kind of
character from the old morality or "vice" plays.
Philip van Lidth de Jeude

"In dreams I've built myself some kindlier home,
Warm in my heart and in a golden calm..."

                                  PETER GRIMES (Montagu Slater)

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