Friday, June 13, 2008

Blogging about technique

From my inbox: "Your comments on the technical flaws in certain singers are interesting. Can't we be a little indulgent about these flaws? As everybody knows, Callas was a far from perfect singer technically, but that did not stop her from being one of the most charismatic singers ever.

"And what good is technical perfection without being a communicative
artist? The famous English music critic Ernest Newman once described the
legendary Nellie Melba thusly: Uninterestingly perfect, and perfectly uninteresting."

If you know very many voice teachers, then you know that they each have a single way they teach everyone. There may be people who don't do this, but I have never met them. I am the single exception to this rule. I honestly don't think there is only one way to sing and everyone should be shoehorned into this. I like a lot of variety. Hell, I like David Cook.

My son thinks I don't blog about technique enough, that these are the things that I do best. But then, he's my son.

Usually when I comment about someones technique it is because I think they are doing something that will cause them harm. Modern professional singing careers are difficult to maintain technically, and lots of people get into trouble along the way.

The most common way to get into trouble is to sing with too much weight in the voice, to try to sing repertoire that is heavier than your particular voice can tolerate. Beverly Sills was the most common example of this, but I think perhaps she went into it with her eyes open. She knew she was going beyond her talents and accepted the results. I accept it on that bases.

I do not accept it when RV is told he sounds like PD (fill in the names yourself) and should step into his repertoire, when obviously that is not possible. I feel obligated to point this out.

In advising BH when he was having difficulties I said, "I can tell you what I heard in James Morris’ Wotan [in his debut in the role at the SF Opera]—he stuck faithfully to his gorgeous legato, did not try to push his voice beyond its capacity, and kept everything comfortably within his grasp with no over-reaching." If you remember this, if you just let your voice do what it can without forcing it, you can get away with a lot. Sills was almost always pushing it while Morris goes on and on.

JK is an example in the opposite direction. He was keeping it constricted when he could have been letting it fly. It is our luck that someone told him this.

I criticized ND because it is not good for the voice when a singer is out of breath all the time. The voice lives and dies by control of the air.

But I never criticize someone technically because I like this one better than that one. The objective is art, not perfection. Let a hundred flowers bloom.

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