Monday, June 2, 2008


It's been awhile since I've had both the time and inclination to write -- what a semester! But the next series of posts should hopefully bring everything back into relief.

I had started writing this blog to chronicle the sorts of things I encountered in switching into vocal performance. At the outset, I had consciously thought of the possibility of what to do once I did get into school and started attending. Looking back, I don't remember what I felt about my chances of actually getting into places that I applied. Of course I had my dreams, but that's not exactly something that's very rational.

In the same vein of preparing notes and keeping track of progress while applying (and getting ready for auditions), I had imagined my blogging activity would be a benchmark for my progress, development, and breakthroughs while attending school. I've been kind of remiss in keeping track of that, so hopefully this post will also be the beginning of a return to this approach (rather than simply the sharing of awesome found things on the internets..though that won't disappear. You're welcome or sorry depending on your stance).


This first one is a two-parter. I've always had trouble with the [i] vowel -- all sorts of tightness and tension. The first breakthrough came when one of John's former students was in town on a production and came by to say hi. It just so happened that I was performing in the voice department recital and had a lesson afterwards. Ryan asked if I minded if he sat in on my lesson and helped with tongue-placement for the [i] vowel. Namely, making sure the tip of the tongue stays forward (almost even moving it forward to counteract the tendency to pull back on it) in order to encourage the base of the tongue to not clog the throat. Breakthrough 1. The next one came when I was doing exercises with my summer teacher, Ruth, just recently. The other component of stress came from the soft palate collapsing down as the back of the tongue comes up to form the vowel in some sort of sympathetic motion. Once I noticed this was happening, I could think about separating the two parts of my body to do different things at the same time. It's not perfect yet (obviously) but it's a much better, looser sound. The third breakthrough will happen when I can finally embrace the fact that the sound will just have to carry. It'll never be a "beefy" sound on [i].

Truth be told, the big sort of breakthrough of this semester has been developing a finer control of the soft palate so it doesn't just collapse all the time or jerk up or whatnot. This combined with a better connective, deeper support of last semester has smoothed my singing out immensely. Breakthroughs still in the wings include figuring out how "really" to sing up through the passaggio and into the high notes that I'm pretty sure I'll have one day. But they're just tantalizingly (annoyingly) out of reach at the moment. Bah!

Books Read:
Sort of filling out my other obsession, I picked up Julie & Julia in anticipation of waiting around in doctors' offices.

It's a fairly decent read, though the hyperbolic comparison of living in NYC to being in a Khmer Rouge camp (and similar comparisons of her middle-class life to truly desperate conditions) I find in pretty bad taste.

I also picked up volume of Joseph Kerman's criticism written for the New York Review of Books, which I am adoring, despite his polemics in Opera as Drama. I find his reviews to be much more balanced. Though maybe it's just that I've grown up a bit, read a bit more. I'll have to revisit Opera as Drama and see what I think.

And as a lagniappe, I've (re?)discovered Brigitte Fassbaender! I don't know why I always had it in my head that it was a brusque, uneven voice.

Check out these youtubes for some awesome:


Una voce poco fa


Betsy said...

Loved the Suicidio. Mixed feelings about Una voce poco fa, but it may be because I find it such a quirky aria. I can't believe how light her top is, how agile, when her middle/bottom is so meaty and nearly masculine.

P.S. What the hell is with that staging?! Awful.

alex said...

I have no ideas as how to stage Una voce poco fa as a separate, stand-alone scene, since the damned thing makes bizarre sense on its own.

But it's so weird how the staging sets it up so Rosina seems at times ignorant of the camera and then addressing it directly. Like that piano business? What?

I mean, how do you motivate any of this shit?