Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I am getting to the end of Divas and Scholars and wish to comment on the instrumntal chapter. I should soon be able to return to something more trivial to write about.

My question has to do with the weight of the orchestra. The gorilla in the corner wanted a thicker, darker, heavier sound coming from the orchestra which changed its weight radically from what it had been in the bel canto.

Professor Gossett does not discuss the gradual change in orchestral weight that occurred throughout the nineteenth century from the point of view of its effect on singing. Verdi (along with Wagner, of course) is known as the killer of voices. All those loud brasses and drums force the singers to sing louder and louder, resulting in a very heavy style of singing that is only now beginning to go out of style.

I am interested in this issue. The Cecilia Bartoli effect continues. Opera continues to shift its focus toward the Baroque and lighter, more florid singing. Would a lighter, early instruments concept help to reduce the excess noise coming from orchestras in Verdi operas and allow a more legato approach to singing them?

It is interesting to me that Verdi thought Macbeth was his best opera. It isn't our favorite because it contains one of his worst screamer parts, Lady Macbeth, and results in the worst examples I have heard of soprano bellowing and vocal strain. One wishes never to hear again Gwyneth Jones wobbling her way through the role and tends as a result to avoid the opera altogether.

Is somewhat lighter Verdi possible? Would people tolerate it?

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