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Thread: The Met's Music Director, Vocal "Expert"

  1. #76
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    I must confess I'm amazed that people are actually defending these guys who make these videos anonymously without giving their names or any reference to their credentials. Sorry but this is not the way criticism should work. I just feel the whole series is flawed by a basic dishonesty.
    Last edited by DavidA; Sep-25-2019 at 16:33.

  2. #77
    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    I think the most basic point to make about this topic is that...just because someone is kind of a CUNextTuesday doesn't mean they don't have a point.

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  4. #78
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    The problem is they just deal in negatives. Why I have a feeling they are 'has beens' or 'never was' people who are just trying to get their voice heard having never made it themselves. I'd sooner they identified themselves as actual practitioners. Else they are pseuds in my book. Like certain of the the lecturers at teacher training college - claiming to tell everyone else how to teach yet not being able in the life of them to hold the attention of a class of students themselves.
    You're hardly the one to complain about anyone "dealing in negatives." One of your favorite activities on this forum is to sneer at things other people respect and enjoy and tell us all what we should and shouldn't take "seriously."

    Anyone can criticize aspects of the substance and presentation of the video at hand, but It seems pretty obvious that the main assignment for anyone wanting to advance an opinion about the accomplishments of singers of the past and present is to give us a reasonable number of examples of artists they consider representative of various time periods. The limitations of early recording technologies have to be taken into account, but if we're aware of that and careful in our choices we ought to be able to reach some conclusions. "This is Opera" tries to do this, and they have a great many videos featuring a great many singers, including, it seems to me (though I haven't seen all their videos to tally this up) a large percentage of the biggest operatic names from the past 120 years, enough to clear them of any charge of "cherry-picking."

    The objection that we shouldn't listen to what the "This is Opera" people say because they haven't shown us their "credentials" is ridiculous. Would you be capable of judging their expertise if they trotted out a string of university degrees? If they claimed to be voice teachers? If they had written books on vocal pedagogy? Could you judge their competence based on those claims? Are you unaware that there are incompetents, cranks and frauds in every field? Are you expert enough to know who is an expert in what?

    Whether or not we agree with everything they SAY, what "This is Opera" SHOWS us is the singing itself - a lot of it - and it's our privilege to judge it using our own ears. But this is obviously not good enough for you. You admit that you can't appreciate recordings from earlier eras and that your ears fail to convey to you the evidence of what made, for example, "golden age" baritones Giuseppe Kaschmann, Antonio Magini-Coletti, Giuseppe Pacini, Giuseppe Campanari, Mattia Battistini, Pasquale Amato, Mario Ancona, Giuseppe Bellantoni, Mario Sammarco, Titta Ruffo, Riccardo Stracciari, and Lawrence Tibbett extraordinary, every one of them possibly better than any baritone now alive. So it's legitimate for us to ask: what are YOUR qualifications for holding in contempt the statements of people who DO give evidence of understanding what they're hearing in the singing of such people as these? What do YOU know about the technique of singing? I've seen no evidence, ever, from anything that you've said, that you know anything about it at all.

    Coming here merely to announce (repeatedly) your chronic skepticism about something you admit to having no substantial knowledge of seems pretty pointless, and the very essence of "dealing in negatives."
    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-25-2019 at 17:34.

  5. #79
    Member JoeSaunders's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    The objection that we shouldn't listen to what the "This is Opera" people say because they haven't shown us their "credentials" is ridiculous. Would you be capable of judging their expertise if they trotted out a string of university degrees? If they claimed to be voice teachers? If they had written books on vocal pedagogy? Could you judge their competence based on those claims? Are you unaware that there are incompetents, cranks and frauds in every field? Are you expert enough to know who is an expert in what?
    I agree with much of what you've said in your post, but I think credentials definitely are relevant for the sorts of videos the channel makes. They frequently make technical claims about singing and technique to explain the differences observed in the clips they discuss. As someone who does not have much technical knowledge of my own, it's hard for me to discern whether their statements are correct. Whilst your right to say that quacks exists in all fields, it's nonetheless true that the fact of some purported expert being a vocal coach should raise our credence in the claims they make. We'll not get to 100% reliability, but knowing that these people have some track record in the field is definitely relevant. Even better if they have pupils who follow their advice and can demonstrate the value of their claims. Furthermore, anonymity, in this context, means we can't figure out if the reverse is true, i.e. that they're not noted quacks who've destroyed singing students' careers with shoddy advice.
    Last edited by JoeSaunders; Sep-25-2019 at 18:35.

  6. #80
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeSaunders View Post
    I agree with much of what you've said in your post, but I think credentials definitely are relevant for the sorts of videos the channel makes. They frequently make technical claims about singing and technique to explain the differences observed in the clips they discuss. As someone who does not have much technical knowledge of my own, it's hard for me to discern whether their statements are correct. Whilst your right to say that quacks exists in all fields, it's nonetheless true that the fact of some purported expert being a vocal coach should raise our credence in the claims they make. We'll not get to 100% reliability, but knowing that these people have some track record in the field is definitely relevant. Even better if they have pupils who follow their advice and can demonstrate the value of their claims. Furthermore, anonymity, in this context, means we can't figure out if the reverse is true, i.e. that they're not noted quacks who've destroyed singing students' careers with shoddy advice.
    I agree that it's always nice, and often useful, to know something about the backgrounds and experience of people who offer opinions, but in a field as rife with controversy and incompetence as vocal pedagogy statements of credentials rarely tell us much. Any number of famous singers have stories to tell about this or that reputable vocal instructor who started them off on the wrong track and gave them destructive advice which they had to overcome, either by following their own instincts or by finding a better teacher. This very video shows a person whose credentials we might assume to be impeccable giving a singer some pretty ill-founded advice.

    I think it's safe to assume that the "This is Opera" people are not vocal teachers or coaches of long experience and dazzling reputations; if they were, they would undoubtedly tell us as much. But they do illustrate everything they say with copious examples of singing - good, bad, and average. Ultimately we have to decide for ourselves whether their assertions make sense, and there simply isn't any way of doing that except to listen long and hard to singers of every type and era, and perhaps do a little independent research by reading and talking with singers themselves.

    No one has to take these videos as gospel, and if people want to make videos expressing alternative views they're free to do so.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-25-2019 at 19:31.

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  8. #81
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    'The objection that we shouldn't listen to what the "This is Opera" people say because they haven't shown us their "credentials" is ridiculous.'

    Of course we should see people's credentials if they are claiming some expertise in a field. If I go to the doctor I want to make sure he is qualified. If I go on board an airliner I want to know the pilot is qualified. When I practiced as a teacher I had to be qualified and show my credentials. Same in the other professions I practiced. Of course there are cranks in every field and these folks may be some of them, which is why there is an alarming lack of credentials. Why I would sooner listen to what Pappano says about things than these guys as he has some credentials as director of a major opera house to show for it. If these guys are acting in good faith what are they afraid of? If these guys are professing to be 'experts' then show us their credentials and prove it. Else who is to say they are not charlatans?
    Last edited by DavidA; Sep-25-2019 at 19:49.

  9. #82
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Of course we should see people's credentials if they are claiming some expertise in a field. If I go to the doctor I want to make sure he is qualified. If I go on board an airliner I want to know the pilot is qualified. When I practiced as a teacher I had to be qualified and show my credentials. Same in the other professions I practiced. Of course there are cranks in every field and these folks may be some of them, which is why there is an alarming lack of credentials. If they are acting in good faith what are they afraid of? If these guys are professing to be 'experts' then show its their credentials.
    The "This is Opera" folks aren't flying you to Japan or performing brain surgery on you, for Chrissakes! They're showing you singers and explaining some of the technical reasons why those singers sound the way they do. If you don't want to listen, think about what you hear, and form any basis for judging the substance of what's being offered, why rattle on endlessly about how much you disapprove? What a ****ing waste of everyone's time.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Sep-25-2019 at 19:58.

  10. #83
    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    One point I'd make is that, having seen other videos with Pappano, not least his Classical Voices - four programmes given over to soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone and bass - he understands singing and great singers very well. I felt that in the excerpt we were shown, he was working with what he had. In other words, having noticed that the singer didn't have a powerful lower voice, he suggests another way she might portray the scene. He is a conductor, but he is not a voice teacher and rather than get the singer to force her voice, he suggests a possible alternative.

    I didn't get the same feeling from Yannick Nézet-Séguin. What he was saying about Come scogio seemed like a load of twaddle to me.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Sep-25-2019 at 22:29.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    The argument that TIO haven't given us any of their credentials is another example of how the people criticizing them so virulently haven't taken the time to actually study what they say. They are extremely up front about who they are: they are singers and voice students of a man named Jeremy Silver, who was a student of Thomas Lo Monaco, whose most famous student was Jerry Hadley. Silver and Hadley apparently knew each other. The TIO content creators are therefore are not voice teachers, but they are learning how to sing according to Mr. Silver's methods adopted from Lo Monaco. Only their specific identities are withheld. If you want to see how Silver's students sound, he has a YouTube page. SilverSingingMethod, where he posts before/after clips of his students. Particularly impressive is his student Bror Magnus Todenes, who was taught to lighten his voice before coming to Silver:


    Second, the notion that someone's credentials are related to the truth of their argument is false. Having a math PhD doesn't make your answer to a problem correct, the math does. A fourth grader who remembers to carry over is right and the PhD who forgets is wrong, full stop. One should judge what TIO says on the merits: does it make sense? Is it fair? etc. not on who is saying it. That is irrelevant.
    Last edited by vivalagentenuova; Sep-25-2019 at 22:56.

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  13. #85
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    One point I'd make is that, having seen other videos with Pappano, not least his Classical Voices - four programmes given over to soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone and bass - he understands singing and great singers very well. I felt that in the excerpt we were shown, he was working with what he had. In other words, having noticed that the singer didn't have a powerful lower voice, he suggests another way she might portray the scene. He is a conductor, but he is not a voice teacher and rather than get the singer to force her voice, he suggests a possible alternative.
    Indeed. I think their point with that example was that this kind of advice on a regular basis will keep singers' lower registers weak. In addition, they think, and I agree, that teh trend towards making things small and saying that it's increasing subtlety simply sucks the drama out of opera live in the theater.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    ^^^Thanks for the info about "This is Opera"'s credentials. It should allow a certain someone to sleep better.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    Indeed. I think their point with that example was that this kind of advice on a regular basis will keep singers' lower registers weak. In addition, they think, and I agree, that teh trend towards making things small and saying that it's increasing subtlety simply sucks the drama out of opera live in the theater.
    True, but it is not the job of the conductor to teach technique. If the singer they are working with doesn't have the necessary technique to carry out their wishes they have two options. a) Sack him/her and find someone who has or b) find a way round the problem. My father was a conductor, albeit of amateur operatic societies and he frequently had to work with singers with technical failings. He considered it his job to make them sound as good as he could which sometimes involved making compromises.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    True, but it is not the job of the conductor to teach technique. If the singer they are working with doesn't have the necessary technique to carry out their wishes they have two options. a) Sack him/her and find someone who has or b) find a way round the problem. My father was a conductor, albeit of amateur operatic societies and he frequently had to work with singers with technical failings. He considered it his job to make them sound as good as he could which sometimes involved making compromises.
    This is true - by the time the conductor is involved we are talking the last stages of rehearsal and by then it's too late.

    What should have kicked in much (much!) earlier are-

    The singer's awareness of their own voice.
    Whoever they are working with privately including their teacher(s) who provide advice and instruction.
    Whoever is casting the performance.
    The repetiteurs and vocal coaches rehearsing the performance.
    ...ages before it gets to the conductor and actual performance.

    Which does feed back into the question - are conductors the right people to host vocal masterclasses?

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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    The argument that TIO haven't given us any of their credentials is another example of how the people criticizing them so virulently haven't taken the time to actually study what they say. They are extremely up front about who they are: they are singers and voice students of a man named Jeremy Silver, who was a student of Thomas Lo Monaco, whose most famous student was Jerry Hadley. Silver and Hadley apparently knew each other. The TIO content creators are therefore are not voice teachers, but they are learning how to sing according to Mr. Silver's methods adopted from Lo Monaco. Only their specific identities are withheld. If you want to see how Silver's students sound, he has a YouTube page. SilverSingingMethod, where he posts before/after clips of his students. Particularly impressive is his student Bror Magnus Todenes, who was taught to lighten his voice before coming to Silver:


    Second, the notion that someone's credentials are related to the truth of their argument is false. Having a math PhD doesn't make your answer to a problem correct, the math does. A fourth grader who remembers to carry over is right and the PhD who forgets is wrong, full stop. One should judge what TIO says on the merits: does it make sense? Is it fair? etc. not on who is saying it. That is irrelevant.
    Lovely performance - thanks for sharing!

  21. #90
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vivalagentenuova View Post
    Second, the notion that someone's credentials are related to the truth of their argument is false. Having a math PhD doesn't make your answer to a problem correct, the math does. A fourth grader who remembers to carry over is right and the PhD who forgets is wrong, full stop. One should judge what TIO says on the merits: does it make sense? Is it fair? etc. not on who is saying it. That is irrelevant.
    This is exactly right. What I've found over the years, though, is that people who feel the need to invoke their "credentials" usually have weak arguments. People who are *real* experts feel no need to do so, because their arguments are sufficient by themselves, and they are able to express them convincingly.

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