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Thread: Chest voices

  1. #16
    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    Except for what he said about La Stupenda ( couldn't watch) I find a lot of his arguments compelling. Those chest voices in the past were so amazing and singing that way never damaged the voice of the singers like you always hear from other singers so often who won't use chest voice.
    I dunno, I've skipped through a couple of these videos and found them incredibly dumb. They just cherry pick mediocre singers from "now" (apparently meaning anytime between 1980s to now) and compare them to great singers of "the past" (apparently meaning any time in recorded history, as long as it's at least a decade before Exhibit A). Evidently the existence of great singers from the recent past or the existence of terrible singers in the more distant past must be ignored or expunged from our awareness.

  2. #17
    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    I dunno, I've skipped through a couple of these videos and found them incredibly dumb. They just cherry pick mediocre singers from "now" (apparently meaning anytime between 1980s to now) and compare them to great singers of "the past" (apparently meaning any time in recorded history, as long as it's at least a decade before Exhibit A). Evidently the existence of great singers from the recent past or the existence of terrible singers in the more distant past must be ignored or expunged from our awareness.
    but almost no modern singers sing the way his past examples do (even if there are many I still like).

  3. #18
    Senior Member Tuoksu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    I dunno, I've skipped through a couple of these videos and found them incredibly dumb. They just cherry pick mediocre singers from "now" (apparently meaning anytime between 1980s to now) and compare them to great singers of "the past" (apparently meaning any time in recorded history, as long as it's at least a decade before Exhibit A). Evidently the existence of great singers from the recent past or the existence of terrible singers in the more distant past must be ignored or expunged from our awareness.
    I don't think they are picking obscure mediocre singers from "now". The examples are mostly the superstars of today vs the "superstars" of the past. While the former only have the popstar-like thing going for them, the latter's singing is still unmatched today. Actually the channel is comparing what's considered the best singing on earth today (Riccardo Muti went as far as saying that much about Rashvishvili) to some relative nobodies (I had never even heard of Petrella or Thomas LoMonaco before that channel).
    They are simply comparing what's prevalent, what's popular and acceptable by the public standard these days vs 100 years ago. Singers like today wouldn't be even singing comprimario roles back in the day. That doesn't mean mediocre singing didn't exist back then. But the public's standards today dictate than Anna Netrebko, who is very inferior to even second-tier singers of the past, is the greatest soprano alive. Are there some talented singers out there who sound like Ponselle and Caruso from whom we've never heard? Possible, but whatever reason is keeping them from the spotlight it is what's wrong with Opera today and what the channel is trying to bring people's attention to.

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  5. #19
    Member JoeSaunders's Avatar
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    I think one of the basic points they like to make, the one about certain kinds of chest voice not existing today, is actually fairly plausible. I think the modern/old comparisons are great at bringing out certain desirable aspects of opera singing. The problem is their treatment and diagnosis of the issue amounts to sloppy click-bait ranting about the current generation of singers and their technique.

    I think there are many possibly unexplained gaps in the current state of singing that we might reasonably lament, like the comparative lack of solid dramatic voices, for example, but if anyone seriously wants to find out the causes of this they'd do much better by avoiding the channel at all costs. Defaulting to 'it's modern singing technique!' on the basis of a few clips, without actually knowing how any of the involved singers' voices would react to the channel-maker's recommendations, nor any other singers, is plop.

    If the channel were simply a showcase of old versus new without any commentary they'd be fine by me, but the entire channel, as it stands, is an argument they're putting forward about why singing isn't like it used to be. This is opera! Not That! And it's this thesis which isn't treated with any degree of seriousness or rigour.

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  7. #20
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    The channel makes its points in a strident manner to generate attention, but many of them are worth considering. I think the thesis is that singing declined because over time subjective imagery such as "singing in the mask" and the aforementioned antics of DiDonato won out over the old method of the teacher listening for the correct sound and developing it, in combination with the elimination of training the chest register (now considered dangerous by many) and a change in the way that people are trained from a kind of apprenticeship model to a degree model. If one doesn't insist that every word they say is gospel, it's a reasonable intepretation of what to me is a very clear decline in the standard of singing across the board. There was a study published on Princeton's website, I don't know where the authors work, that found that this decline has been noted by opera "conoisseurs" almost universally, especially with respect to Wagner, Verdi, and Puccini singing. The study makes an attempt to correct for nostalgia and other biases. Their study does partially clash with This Is Opera in that the latter thinks baroque and classical era singing has declined rather than improved. Still, I think it's evident that there is simply nobody who can sing, for example, Wagner at the level that pre-war audiences were used to. They had singers like Kirsten Flagstad, Helen Traubel, Melchior, and people not as well known today, like Florence Easton, who was the first Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi but also recorded parts Siegfried with Melchior, who were far beyond the level of anyone singing that music today. (Try recording Siegfried with today's Laurettas.) Who could sing Minnie like Eleanor Steber or Dorothy Kirsten, lyric sopranos from 50s?
    Of course, it's possibly that This Is Opera just reinforces my biases in taste, since many of the singers they don't like (Sutherland, Kaufmann, Netrebko, Horne) were voices that I never liked. On the other hand, I didn't care much for del Monaco until I was encouraged by the channel to give him a proper listen. Now I admire his singing greatly. They still haven't converted me to liking Callas's timbre, however much I grant that she was an artist who moved many.
    The other thing I really like about the channel is their focus on singers in the early days of the recording industry. They have exposed me to a number of singers I'd never heard of, such as Dusolina Giannini, Fernand Ansseau, Galliano Masini, and others. These singers were extraordinary, and the opera world today would be set on fire by a singer near their calibre.

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  9. #21
    Member JoeSaunders's Avatar
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    ^Good that you mention the Princeton study, I'd urge others to read through it. Although research in this area is probably limited, and in any case, it's an area where results are very hard to quantify, the paper's treament of the issue is quite good and certainly relevant to the topic at hand. I feel like you understate the degree to which their thesis clashes with this youtuber's, however! Pages 95-96 are quite damning I thought. But even ignoring their views on pedagological change (which admitedly are more of a supplement to their main point), the central idea that modern-day potential spintos/heldens are fighting a more difficult uphill battle before their voices mature properly is very interesting.

    As a counterpoint the author lists a "summary and critique of [his] argument by one of Germany's leading opera experts" on his website, which sounds very cool, but it's in german and the text is baked into the PDF so I can't run it through a translator! If anyone here knows German, enjoy!

    https://www.princeton.edu/~amoravcs/...202016%202.pdf

  10. #22
    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeSaunders View Post
    I think one of the basic points they like to make, the one about certain kinds of chest voice not existing today, is actually fairly plausible. I think the modern/old comparisons are great at bringing out certain desirable aspects of opera singing. The problem is their treatment and diagnosis of the issue amounts to sloppy click-bait ranting about the current generation of singers and their technique.

    I think there are many possibly unexplained gaps in the current state of singing that we might reasonably lament, like the comparative lack of solid dramatic voices, for example, but if anyone seriously wants to find out the causes of this they'd do much better by avoiding the channel at all costs. Defaulting to 'it's modern singing technique!' on the basis of a few clips, without actually knowing how any of the involved singers' voices would react to the channel-maker's recommendations, nor any other singers, is plop.

    If the channel were simply a showcase of old versus new without any commentary they'd be fine by me, but the entire channel, as it stands, is an argument they're putting forward about why singing isn't like it used to be. This is opera! Not That! And it's this thesis which isn't treated with any degree of seriousness or rigour.
    some of his videos are quite thorough in their descriptions though. just because he's kind of snarky doesn't mean all of his videos lack the ability to explain things.

  11. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeSaunders View Post
    ^Good that you mention the Princeton study, I'd urge others to read through it. Although research in this area is probably limited, and in any case, it's an area where results are very hard to quantify, the paper's treament of the issue is quite good and certainly relevant to the topic at hand. I feel like you understate the degree to which their thesis clashes with this youtuber's, however! Pages 95-96 are quite damning I thought. But even ignoring their views on pedagological change (which admitedly are more of a supplement to their main point), the central idea that modern-day potential spintos/heldens are fighting a more difficult uphill battle before their voices mature properly is very interesting.
    I suppose their rejection of the idea that vocal pedagogy has changed struck me as unsatisfying. For example, wrt/ decline of teaching they cite an argument that teachers now lack real world experience, but do not deal with the claims of This Is Opera about the content being taught. The idea that there has been a significant shift away from the development of chest voice and that has caused a large amount of the decline in vocal standards is not specifically addressed. Furthermore, if you reject the claims of the experts that Baroque/Classical singing has improved (as my ears tell me to do), then one need not worry about explaining the divergence of quality of singing for different eras. As for the idea that singing has improved overall, I find that ridiculous. Also, the idea that producing a large number of singers is somehow an example of the quality of pedagogy strikes me as very strange. I think the main usefulness of the paper is documenting the decline of Spinto and Dramatic voices.

  12. #24
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-23-2019 at 02:59.

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    She's embarrassing.

  14. #26
    Senior Member Op.123's Avatar
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    This channel makes a lot of good points. Especially in regards to how the Italian repertoire is sung. The problem modern opera faces is the cinematization of drama, it is not just music, it is drama and "big" stage drama, not focused closeups like we are so used to nowadays in popular entertainment. When you try and dial the voice back, trying to make it as 'artistic' as possible, you fail on the expressive front with opera. There are modern singers I occasionally like, such as Rene Fleming in Thais, but I feel like a lot of the time any sense of theatrical drama is missing. https://www.theguardian.com/music/20...istic-art-form "...opera is the form par excellence, not of argument like theatre, not of story like film, not of character like TV, but of emotion. Deep, unspeakable, ravenous emotion: the kind of emotion that can carry a character’s breaking out into song. Opera is not vanilla, opera is not beige, it is blood red and boiling. Opera is the artform of human catastrophe, the inheritor of the mantle of the darkest aspects of Greek tragedy." The current vocal school seems too worried about offending people's ears and dials it down to make it supposedly comfortable listening. This is not the point of opera and makes it into a rather ridiculous affair. And where the current trend of mushy voices with wide, slow vibrato, or little high voices that only sound suited to playing young girls comes from I have no idea. Even singers without those traits are usually lacking in some other capacities to successfully perform the operas of the past. I'm sure that some could be very successful in contemporary compositions if written with a specific singer and their capabilities in mind, and many modern operas are very effective, but when it comes to full-blooded romantic works these singers are often completely ineffective. I also happen to very much agree with his criticisms of Sutherland, no doubt very skilled, but as an operatic performer I rarely get a sense of anything more than her being mildly inconvenienced by the tragedies in the libretto.
    Last edited by Op.123; Dec-16-2019 at 23:39.
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  16. #27
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Op.123 View Post
    mildly inconvenienced by the tragedies in the libretto.
    Heh heh.


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  18. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Op.123 View Post
    This channel makes a lot of good points. Especially in regards to how the Italian repertoire is sung. The problem modern opera faces is the cinematization of drama, it is not just music, it is drama and "big" stage drama, not focused closeups like we are so used to nowadays in popular entertainment. When you try and dial the voice back, trying to make it as 'artistic' as possible, you fail on the expressive front with opera. There are modern singers I occasionally like, such as Rene Fleming in Thais, but I feel like a lot of the time any sense of theatrical drama is missing. https://www.theguardian.com/music/20...istic-art-form "...opera is the form par excellence, not of argument like theatre, not of story like film, not of character like TV, but of emotion. Deep, unspeakable, ravenous emotion: the kind of emotion that can carry a character’s breaking out into song. Opera is not vanilla, opera is not beige, it is blood red and boiling. Opera is the artform of human catastrophe, the inheritor of the mantle of the darkest aspects of Greek tragedy." The current vocal school seems too worried about offending people's ears and dials it down to make it supposedly comfortable listening. This is not the point of opera and makes it into a rather ridiculous affair. And where the current trend of mushy voices with wide, slow vibrato, or little high voices that only sound suited to playing young girls comes from I have no idea. Even singers without those traits are usually lacking in some other capacities to successfully perform the operas of the past. I'm sure that some could be very successful in contemporary compositions if written with a specific singer and their capabilities in mind, and many modern operas are very effective, but when it comes to full-blooded romantic works these singers are often completely ineffective. I also happen to very much agree with his criticisms of Sutherland, no doubt very skilled, but as an operatic performer I rarely get a sense of anything more than her being mildly inconvenienced by the tragedies in the libretto.
    I agree in part about Sutherland, but she could be dramatic (try her second studio Norma).

    As for the rest of your comment, yes, YES and hell YES!

    N.

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