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Thread: Myths about Vocal Technique and/or opera singing

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Default Myths about Vocal Technique and/or opera singing

    a few I've run into over the years

    Myth 1: "your natural voice type is where you feel the most comfortable"
    Reality: your natural voice type is where your produces the most excitement, resonance and intensity. yes, you should be able to sing in a given range without strain, but that doesn't mean it's supposed to be "comfortable". good singing is a workout and requires pushing the voice to intense climaxes throughout a performance. a good example is how it's often quite common for dramatic soprani to sing as mezzos for over a decade. given many of them have access to low Es and even low Ds, it's not surprising that they would survive in this range quite comfortably, but it isn't until developing into the soprano territory that the voice truly climaxes.

    Myth 2: "singers used to sing with a hootier, more head voice-dominated sound"
    Reality: um...no, they didn't. Look at Helen Traubel, Chloe Elmo, Rosa Ponselle. they all had MASSIVE chest voices. Same for male voices like Ramon Vinay, Set Svanholm, Nicolae Herlea and pretty much any halfway decent bass in history. Even Luisa Tetrazinni, a coloratura soprano...initially thought that she was a contralto when she started out

    Myth 3: "the most important part of singing is balancing the registers"
    Reality: balance is important yes, but you balance the registers AFTER you develop them. if balance if your top priority, it's very easy to balance two registers which are thin and underdeveloped. it's also easy to pull back and become woofy to avoid navigating difficult areas of the voice. balancing a developed, forceful chest register with a clear, spinning upper register? THAT is something else entirely

    Myth 4: "but...but...it's Rossini. it's supposed to sound more lyric and less intense"
    Reality: Isabella Colbran, Rossini's wife for whom he wrote many works, was referred to as dramatic soprano in her time. He also wrote extensively for bass and contralto, and with bass and contralto, there is no such thing as a "light" voice. You have dramatic bass/contralto, and MORE dramatic bass/contralto. Americans in particular have a tendency to think Rossini is a "small voice" composer because they associate him with Barber of Seville or maybe L'Italiania in Algeri, but Semiramide is not a "small voice" opera, neither is Armida, and neither are less performed works like Maometto Secondo or Mose in Egitto.

    Myth 5: "we shouldn't expect bigger voices to sing coloratura"
    Reality: Verrett, Callas, Sutherland, Dimitrova, Stignani, Raisa and many other singers had huge voices, yet ample ability to sing respectable coloratura. sure, we shouldn't expect them (or anyone else for that matter) to have coloratura like Sills, but we do a disservice to today's big voices by neglecting to teach them the flexibility which will help keep the voice fresh.

    Myth 6: "it's not about range"
    Reality: nonsense. roles for any voice type require a solid, performable 2 octaves. if you want those notes to be reliable and consistent, you need several semitones on either side, especially on the lower end. from that point, it is a matter of opinion, but imo, a good rule is that you should have an additional whole step on top and a solid third lower than you will have to sing (ex: if you are a tenor and have to sing from C3-C5 in a piece, you should ideally at least a range from A2-D5).

    Myth 7: "the middle register is the core of the voice. all that dangerous weight in the chest voice will damage the voice"
    Reality: the chest register is the core of the voice. developing the hell out of your chest voice, whether you're a bass, a mezzo or a coloratura soprano, is always a good thing. in some ways, it pains me to say this as a Sutherland fan boy...but it's true.

    Myth 8: "dynamic contrast is of paramount importance"
    Reality: no, it isn't. granted, yes, it's always better to be able to sing with greater variation in dynamics....but insofar that you can actually do it correctly. lots of singers think they are being "musical" or creating "contrast" by crushing the voice, murmuring or singing in a breathy, unsupported manner. no matter what dynamic you're singing at, there should always be resonance, full color and an absence of strain.

    also, in case anyone is wondering, the only one of these opinions I didn't hold before watching This Is Opera's channel is #3, though it's likely he's helped me article one or two of those points better.
    Last edited by BalalaikaBoy; Jun-18-2019 at 04:56.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    Myth 6: "it's not about range"
    Reality: nonsense. roles for any voice type require a solid, performable 2 octaves. .
    I guess that no one told Tito Schipa.

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    Myth 2: "singers used to sing with a hootier, more head voice-dominated sound"
    Reality: um...no, they didn't. Look at Helen Traubel, Chloe Elmo, Rosa Ponselle. they all had MASSIVE chest voices. Same for male voices like Ramon Vinay, Set Svanholm, Nicolae Herlea and pretty much any halfway decent bass in history. Even Luisa Tetrazinni, a coloratura soprano...initially thought that she was a contralto when she started out.
    Those who hang on to this particular "myth" are generally not talking about singers that recent - they're talking about singers of the early to mid 1800's. And of course, we have no idea what they sounded like, although it's likely that tenors used a lot more head voice. And while I don't think that the myth holds much water as a generalization, I think that it is true that certain singers with lighter voices were considered more acceptable in certain roles than they would be today - tenors like Bonci, de Lucia, Sobinov, Luigi Fort, David Devries, and a raft of other French tenors.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    another one
    Myth: "squillo and coloratura ability are signs of a certain voice type
    Reality: provided one is singing appropriate repertoire (and this is a big if) EVERY voice is capable of some degree of
    - squillo
    - developed chest register
    - respectable coloratura
    - vocal power

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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    another one
    Myth: "squillo and coloratura ability are signs of a certain voice type
    Reality: provided one is singing appropriate repertoire (and this is a big if) EVERY voice is capable of some degree of
    - squillo
    - developed chest register
    - respectable coloratura
    - vocal power
    Yes! Yes! And YES!

    N.

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    Senior Member SalieriIsInnocent's Avatar
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    Chest voice seems discouraged in modern opera performance. All these "great" stars of the stage, and one can barely hear them. Sopranos whisper with the thickest forced vibrato, Tenors sound faint. Baritones sound thin. Basses sound like baritones who want to swim in the deep end. Where are the young, big voices?

    I hate to sound like a complete snob, but I just feel like opera is being infiltrated by people who know nothing of the voice. Singers that have wonderful, powerful voices, discouraged from being heard. We could have another Callas, Caruso, or Gobbi, if these new "vocal teachers" weren't giving them the wrong information. And conductors are even starting to do it. Yannick Nezet Seguin puts on some nice productions with great costumes, but what is he doing with his casting choices? Villazon as Papageno?

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    Senior Member Sieglinde's Avatar
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    This! So many mezzos just don't have that raw power the old ones used to. Unleash that chest register, ladies! Obliterate everything! Azucena and Amneris isn't about sounding like you are doing Lieder. Sure, they have some softer bits, but when power is needed, it should be all stops pulled out.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sieglinde View Post
    This! So many mezzos just don't have that raw power the old ones used to. Unleash that chest register, ladies! Obliterate everything! Azucena and Amneris isn't about sounding like you are doing Lieder. Sure, they have some softer bits, but when power is needed, it should be all stops pulled out.
    Azucena is 90% of what I love about Trovatore. Leonora and Manrico are boring in comparison

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    THIS is Azucena!


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    Senior Member Sieglinde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    Azucena is 90% of what I love about Trovatore. Leonora and Manrico are boring in comparison
    Also Leonora needs glasses, I mean, come on. Who would pick a whiny tenor over a hot baritone?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sieglinde View Post
    Also Leonora needs glasses, I mean, come on. Who would pick a whiny tenor over a hot baritone?
    A whiny tenor like this?

    Corelli.jpg

    Can't think what she sees in him...

    N.

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    Senior Member Sieglinde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    A whiny tenor like this?

    Corelli.jpg

    Can't think what she sees in him...

    N.


    He gets a pass But when you have a tenor who can barely sing the role and looks like an Oblivion NPC, vs. a baritone who has perfect legato and looks Very Nice...

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sieglinde View Post
    a baritone who has perfect legato
    When did the last one of those retire? 1945?

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    When did the last one of those retire? 1945?
    You may like the Ukrainian baritone Mykola Kondratyuk. He retired far later than that (I realize you were joking, but all the same, he seems up your alley). Peter Glossop comes to mind immediately as another shining example.

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