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Thread: Who is using microphones?

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    Senior Member Jobis's Avatar
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    Default Who is using microphones?

    You may or may not know it, but a large number of opera houses world-wide have been catering to smaller voiced singers with sophisticated microphones and sound systems. I wonder what other opera fans think of this?

    Personally even though I love the sound of peter mattei, for example, I wouldn't consider him a true opera singer since he lacks the projection needed to be heard in a big house.



    Yes its a beautiful voice, but look at 1:17, he clearly pulls out his mike, and this is don giovanni mind you, not Wagner or Verdi!

    I have my suspicions about other singers who seem to lack projection, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Angela Gheorghiu for example, and even Jonas Kaufmann (shock horror) but no I cannot prove it for certain.

    Franco Tenelli, a Dramatic Tenor and youtuber has posted some information on the subject.



    What do you think?

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    Senior Member deggial's Avatar
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    I'm uncomfortable with miking because I wouldn't want amplification to become the norm with operatic singing - although I like small but very beautiful voices. Projection is a skill that should be learned, it adds to the performance but if you've got a small voice there might be only so much you can do. On the other hand, opera houses have become larger over time and that's not necessary a good thing either. Maybe Mozart and Baroque should be performed in different (smaller) venues than Verdi, Wagner and so on. It is weird/confusing to notice that some singers perform miked whilst others in the same production don't.

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    If it's miked it ain't opera.
    And it needs to be made known to the audience.
    Figures though with the absence of great singers.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

    "Man does not live by bread alone......"

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    Senior Member Jobis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post
    If it's miked it ain't opera.
    And it needs to be made known to the audience.
    Figures though with the absence of great singers.
    Yes, I think the absence of great singers is largely caused by the fact that opinions on what is a good singing technique are so divided these days, and also that vocal students at universities and conservatories are taught just to sing beautifully and lyrically, and advised to avoid singing in a dramatic style so as to not damage their voices. Tenelli has quite a bit to say on the matter if you visit his channel.

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jobis View Post
    Yes, I think the absence of great singers is largely caused by the fact that opinions on what is a good singing technique are so divided these days, and also that vocal students at universities and conservatories are taught just to sing beautifully and lyrically, and advised to avoid singing in a dramatic style so as to not damage their voices. Tenelli has quite a bit to say on the matter if you visit his channel.
    As long as it's made known, fine.
    It's the dishonesty, the fooling of the audience, that really bothers me.
    Let it be known.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

    "Man does not live by bread alone......"

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    Senior Member Dongiovanni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jobis View Post
    You may or may not know it, but a large number of opera houses world-wide have been catering to smaller voiced singers with sophisticated microphones and sound systems. I wonder what other opera fans think of this?
    Can you give some examples of these opera houses ?

    In the example you post of Peter Mattei, have you considered this microphone (if there is one on him) is needed for the recording, and not for amplification ?

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Anything that is recorded for visual media is obviously going to be miked. How else are we going to hear them?
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Dongiovanni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    Anything that is recorded for visual media is obviously going to be miked. How else are we going to hear them?
    Indeed. In live opera recordings mics are usually not on the singers but are placed on the stage or in the auditorium.

    Opera is all about keeping the practice alive that was used at the time the opera was premiered. There are even groups who go so far as to use the exact instruments and playing practice that was used at that time (so called HIP).

    The way a voice can fill a theater can never be reached with amplification. Opera will use it's magic.

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    I don't know who might or might not be miked, and I can't honestly say that I've been to an opera performance that I suspected was miked, or even to one where I had a lot of trouble hearing the singers (it's usually more or less hard for the first few minutes of a performance, but gradually your ear gets accustomed to the acoustic). But I do have mixed feelings about a couple of the points made in this thread. First, I'd like to say that I agree with Jobis when he refers to the almost ridiculously prevelant fears that young opera singers will "ruin their voices" by (correctly) singing dramatically. You see it all the time on Youtube: "If so and so keeps on singing Verdi she will ruin her voice!" It's true enough that Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini are not for every singer...still, someone has to sing those composers' works. Just the other day I saw a recently made internet comment that Jonas Kaufmann should "wait until he's older before singing heavy roles." Well, he's 44! How much longer is he supposed to wait? Sometimes I think this overblown fear is a reflection of our modern habit of wanting to have everything available to us at all times. And we never want to see anything come to an end, least of all a favorite singer's career.

    I'm a bit puzzled by the opinions that opera singers today are not taught to project their voices. I've studied singing and have read a good deal about it, and it's my understanding that correct, classical voice training necessarily entails projection -- which is not about "getting your voice out there" so much as it is about creating your own resonance (by directing the voice into the hollow cavities of the face) so that you are, in a sense, "self-amplified." In other words, much of vocal study is about creating resonance, and it is this resonance that allows a voice to be heard over long distances and over an orchestra. To paraphrase Alfredo Kraus: volume means nothing; rather, by virtue of resonance the voice must travel to the ear of every listener in an auditorium. So, to sum up, if today's singers are not being taught to project their voices, it must be that they're not being taught to create resonance -- but that doesn't seem possible, since classical voice study is largely about creating resonance.

    I stick to my belief (first stated in my "No Big Voices Today" thread) that, more than the singers, the way we listen has changed drastically over time; we've progressively become conditioned to expect huge sounds. With each decade sound reproduction has become more life-like, and everyday life has become noisier. Consider what type of day-to-day noise there was in, say, the early career years of Nellie Melba: the clomping of horses' hooves, shops without background music, primitive gramophones. Today we're used to constant noise and everything in high definition, and I suspect that when many people go to the opera house they don't know how to listen: rather than really concentrating and listening through the orchestra, they expect the sound to come right out to them, as it does when listening to recorded music at home. I actually always make a habit of not turning my CD player up very loud at all, so that when I get to the opera theater I won't have unrealistic expectations for volume.

    If opera houses are using microphones, then I believe it's not so much the singers' fault as it is a symptom of a certain "noise pollution" in modern life.

    Edited to add: And I've long been suspicious of the "we today lack great singers" idea. Every era has thought the same thing -- even the era that produced Caruso.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Oct-07-2013 at 04:06. Reason: to add a final point

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    I don't know who might or might not be miked, and I can't honestly say that I've been to an opera performance that I suspected was miked, or even to one where I had a lot of trouble hearing the singers (it's usually more or less hard for the first few minutes of a performance, but gradually your ear gets accustomed to the acoustic). But I do have mixed feelings about a couple of the points made in this thread. First, I'd like to say that I agree with Jobis when he refers to the almost ridiculously prevelant fears that young opera singers will "ruin their voices" by (correctly) singing dramatically. You see it all the time on Youtube: "If so and so keeps on singing Verdi she will ruin her voice!" It's true enough that Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini are not for every singer...still, someone has to sing those composers' works. Just the other day I saw a recently made internet comment that Jonas Kaufmann should "wait until he's older before singing heavy roles." Well, he's 44! How much longer is he supposed to wait? Sometimes I think this overblown fear is a reflection of our modern habit of wanting to have everything available to us at all times. And we never want to see anything come to an end, least of all a favorite singer's career.

    I'm a bit puzzled by the opinions that opera singers today are not taught to project their voices. I've studied singing and have read a good deal about it, and it's my understanding that correct, classical voice training necessarily entails projection -- which is not about "getting your voice out there" so much as it is about creating your own resonance (by directing the voice into the hollow cavities of the face) so that you are, in a sense, "self-amplified." In other words, much of vocal study is about creating resonance, and it is this resonance that allows a voice to be heard over long distances and over an orchestra. To paraphrase Alfredo Kraus: volume means nothing; rather, by virtue of resonance the voice must travel to the ear of every listener in an auditorium. So, to sum up, if today's singers are not being taught to project their voices, it must be that they're not being taught to create resonance -- but that doesn't seem possible, since classical voice study is largely about creating resonance.

    I stick to my belief (first stated in my "No Big Voices Today" thread) that, more than the singers, the way we listen has changed drastically over time; we've progressively become conditioned to expect huge sounds. With each decade sound reproduction has become more life-like, and everyday life has become noisier. Consider what type of day-to-day noise there was in, say, the early career years of Nellie Melba: the clomping of horses' hooves, shops without background music, primitive gramophones. Today we're used to constant noise and everything in high definition, and I suspect that when many people go to the opera house they don't know how to listen: rather than really concentrating and listening through the orchestra, they expect the sound to come right out to them, as it does when listening to recorded music at home. I actually always make a habit of not turning my CD player up very loud at all, so that when I get to the opera theater I won't have unrealistic expectations for volume.

    If opera houses are using microphones, then I believe it's not so much the singers' fault as it is a symptom of a certain "noise pollution" in modern life.

    Edited to add: And I've long been suspicious of the "we today lack great singers" idea. Every era has thought the same thing -- even the era that produced Caruso.
    Agree with everything - particularly the "We lack great singers singers today". I think we have a lot of fantastic singers these days, and thank goodness or opera would just turn up its toes and die.

    Just a couple of points - Modern orchestras are tuning higher and higher to get a brighter sound and this puts a great strain on modern singers - read more here.

    Also physical demands on modern singers are infinitely greater - moving, dancing, crawling, lying, even hanging upside down. It must be so much harder to concentrate on singing technique at all times.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Natalie: That's a good point about the modern orchestras. When you consider that, it's a wonder modern singers are heard as well as they are.

    Regarding the physical positions modern singers are often asked to assume: in a way it's easier to sing lying down, because then you have the diaphragmatic muscle at its lowest point and the voice is emitted more easily. On the other hand, I think it's harder to "support the voice" while lying down.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Oct-07-2013 at 16:10. Reason: spelling

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    It seems nobody is able to tell which opera houses do it and which don't. The "problem" seems to be ideological and not pragmatic.

    Obviously pop music-style amplification is wrong for opera. But I do wonder what could be achieved by "tasteful" amplification using state-of-the-art technology and acoustical science.
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellinilover View Post
    I'm a bit puzzled by the opinions that opera singers today are not taught to project their voices. I've studied singing and have read a good deal about it, and it's my understanding that correct, classical voice training necessarily entails projection -- which is not about "getting your voice out there" so much as it is about creating your own resonance (by directing the voice into the hollow cavities of the face) so that you are, in a sense, "self-amplified."
    fair enough, I defer to your knowledge, however, in my live opera experience there have been times when quite obviously some singers could be heard less than others. In fact, when I went to see Hippolyte et Aricie this August past, the only one whom I could constantly hear without any issues was Sarah Connolly. I wonder, why is that? (allowing for some staging obstacles, such as when some singers were inside a fridge). I will grant to you that I still have to adjust to the general MUCH lower decibel levels of orchestra playing and opera singing after years of rock concerts
    Last edited by deggial; Oct-07-2013 at 18:42.

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    This was a big incident at Teatro Real, a few years ago, during a performance of Andrea Chenier, when the audience stop the performance shouting "shame!", "you are killing Opera", because there was amplification of the voices.


    Fiorenza Cedolins tried to save the day, and finally they started the performance again, without amplification. The official explanation was basically that there was a mistake and the microphones were connected to the house amplification system, instead of just used for recording. However, Marcelo Alvarez, that was singing Chenier with audible problems in his voice, retired at the intermission and was replaced by his cover.


    I was at the theater that day, and many people were really, really angry. Personally, I do think this was a honest mistake, and nothing else, but the incident gives you an example of what some audiences think about amplification in 19th century opera performance. However, operas like Ainadamar were staged at Teatro Real, with amplification, and nobody paid notice, as it was something done with the composer's agreement.



    Personally, I think operatic singing is a treasure of Western Civilization, a cherished part of our musical heritage, and must be preserved at all costs. Sure, it's difficult to transmit your voice over an Straussian orchestra of 110 instruments, especially if the conductor doesn't take care of blending the right way the instruments and the vocals, but this is the singer's trade. If you are an opera singer, this is what you need to do. If you can't, it's time to look for another job. Or for another type of pieces. You can have the right voice size and projection abilities for singing Handel at Halle, but maybe not for singing Strauss at the MET.

    On the other hand, I have listened to a lot of 20th and 21st century opera, and for sure some of these pieces use the amplified voice. And I'm perfectly happy with this. Just evolution of the genre: some composers will use only operatic voice, others only amplified voice, others sometimes operatic, sometimes amplified.

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    Senior Member Bellinilover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deggial View Post
    fair enough, I defer to your knowledge, however, in my live opera experience there have been times when quite obviously some singers could be heard less than others. In fact, when I went to see Hippolyte et Aricie this August past, the only one whom I could constantly hear without any issues was Sarah Connolly. I wonder, why is that? (allowing for some staging obstacles, such as when some singers were inside a fridge). I will grant to you that I still have to adjust to the general MUCH lower decibel levels of orchestra playing and opera singing after years of rock concerts
    It would be hard for me to say, not having heard the performance. It might have been the seat you were sitting in. Or Sarah Connolly could have an unusually big voice for that repertoire (I'm not familiar with her at all). I don't deny that some singers have voices that are better heard "close to," while others have voices that seem to go right out to you. I've never heard Dmitri Hvorostovsky live, but I'd venture to say he's in the first category; it's a warm and rounded sound but not a "pointed," or "cutting" one. Theoretically, he could probably get a bigger sound by putting his voice more "forward in the mask" -- but then, there could be physiological reasons why he can't do this and why it's better for him to sing the way he does. Every singer's physical make-up is different; a vocal placement that makes sense for one singer might not be comfortable for another.
    Last edited by Bellinilover; Oct-08-2013 at 02:15.

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