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J.B. Steane

When a syllable is sung to more than one note, some singers are in the habit of inserting a light aspirate, as in ‘Cele-heste Aida’. In Italy, Spain and Latin America this appears not to be considered a major stylistic fault (if one at all), but in Britain and, on the whole, the USA and Germany the practice is generally condemned. Gramophone records suggest that in standard operatic work the habit grew during the first half of the century, and that criticism has subsequently had some effect: Domingo and Pavarotti, for instance, are not habitual aspiraters, unlike their predecessors such as Gigli and Pertile. More insidious are the means used to ‘separate’ notes in the florid music of Baroque composers, where on the one hand they are defended as ensuring greater clarity, and on the other attacked as the makeshift devices of a defective technique....

Article

John Rosselli

As applied to a singer, the term crept into opera bills and contracts with the general inflation of titles that set in towards the end of the 18th century. In theory it meant ‘unique’: a particular singer was the only member of the company engaged for a season entitled to be called prima donna (or ...

Article

J.B. Steane

A term used to characterize a particular type of Baritone voice. It owes its origin to (Nicolas-)Jean-Blaise Martin (1768–1837), a baritone with a remarkably extensive upper range, sufficiently famous and distinctive for his name to continue in use long after his death to denote a high, lyric baritone, almost a tenor, usually bright of timbre and light of weight, but with a free, unthroaty production characteristic of the French school. Jean Périer, the first Pelléas, was probably typical, with Gabriel Soulacroix a distinguished predecessor and Camille Maurane (...

Article

Bass  

Owen Jander, Lionel Sawkins, J.B. Steane and Elizabeth Forbes

The lowest male voice, normally written for within the range F to e′, which may be extended at either end.

Italian composers in the late 16th century often wrote highly ornate parts for the bass voice, and this continued into the first three decades of the 17th. In opera, however, where bass roles were few and generally unimportant, ornate writing was relatively rare; the emphasis lay rather on dramatic portrayal. In the surviving operas of Monteverdi the bass already appears in some of what were to be its most important historical role types: as a god (particularly a god of the underworld: Pluto in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

A term that is used in two connections (leaving aside the anatomical conditions under which the chest voice functions): the lower part of the female vocal range and the upper part of the male. In both instances it applies to a certain type of voice production and its resulting sound, which is quite distinct from that of the head voice (...

Article

J.B. Steane

Although ‘open’ and ‘covered’ would seem to be layman’s terms and their manifestations in singing easy to recognize, the technique of ‘covering’ and the need for it are probably understood properly only by singers themselves. As voices ascend in the scale, reaching the higher notes of the singer’s range, the method of voice production is gradually modified, partly so as to ensure a musically pleasing sound rather than a shout, partly to protect the voice, and also to secure a greater concentration of tone. This may involve modifications of the vowel sound, shading the brighter vowels towards those that are ‘darker’ and less open. It will also be a difficult exercise, during the course of which the singer seems to him or herself to be producing thinner, less powerful and excitingly resonant sounds in the upper notes than would otherwise have been possible. A further difficulty lies in the areas of the voice called the ...

Article

John Koegel

(b San Antonio, TX, May 16, 1883; d New York, NY, Dec 12, 1943). American operatic tenor and recitalist of Mexican and German heritage. He was the most prominent Mexican American opera singer of his day, although perhaps to advance his career he used the Italian-sounding first name “Rafaelo,” and press reports sometimes identified him as Spanish instead of Mexican American or Mexican. Díaz attended the German-English School and the West Texas Military Academy (now Texas Military Institute) in San Antonio. He studied piano with Amalia Hander, a local music teacher, and at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. After vocal studies with Vincenzo Sabatini in Milan, he returned to the United States and in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

A type of soprano voice. The term admits a wide variety of repertory and voice type. Any claimant to it must possess a powerful voice and a style capable of energetic emphasis; yet at one end of the spectrum is the singer whose best roles may be, for example, the respective Leonoras of ...

Article

Falcon  

J.B. Steane

Term for a type of voice, presumed to have been exemplified by Cornélie Falcon , the dramatic soprano who sang Rachel in the première of La Juive (1835) and Valentine in that of Les Huguenots (1836). Her voice was exceptionally powerful, dramatic in quality and ample in the middle register. Mainly in France, or in association with the French repertory, ‘falcon’ has survived as a word which denotes a soprano of this type. Félia Litvinne and her pupil Germaine Lubin, both of whom sang Wagnerian roles such as Isolde and Kundry, would come under this heading. As Falcon herself sang last in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

A term widely used to denote quiet (‘soft’) singing in the upper range, or register, of the voice. The singer aims the sound high in the face (or ‘mask’) and may experience it as in the head itself, the opposite of the Chest voice . In practice, what seems like a simple piece of nomenclature can describe very different things, particularly in tenors and baritones, where reference to an ‘exquisite head voice’ may mean nothing more than a pleasant ...