You are looking at  1-19 of 19 articles  for:

Clear All

Article

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

(It.: ‘absolute’)

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 primo tenore, primo basso etc.), and she or he could refuse parts that did not fit the description. In practice, nearly every leading singer now wished to be called ‘absolute’, however illogically; in Naples the impresario Domenico Barbaia, backed up by Rossini, was still resisting the trend in the 1820s, but in vain. By 1877 the tenor-impresario Italo Campanini could write of parti assolute, meaning simply leading parts; these included Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots, one of two leading women’s parts in that work (letter of 29 July 1877, I-Ms Coll. Casati 233). Thus devalued into meaninglessness, the term seems to have vanished from opera by the early 20th century. It is still occasionally used– in its original sense–of an outstanding ballerina....

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

(Fr. basse; Ger. Bass; It. basso)

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 Orfeo, 1607, Neptune in Il ritorno d’Ulisse, 1640), or as a sepulchral figure (Charon in Orfeo). In Orfeo Monteverdi called for special instrumentation (the regal, a trombone choir) which was itself to become a tradition in much operatic scoring associated with the bass voice. A further impressive use of the voice is for the role of Seneca in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

(Fr. voix de poitrine; Ger. Bruststimme; It. voce di petto)

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 (voce di testa).

A male singer can extend his upward range by using the head voice or the Falsetto (opera) (opera), which may be strengthened and developed as a mixed tone so that the falsetto element is to a greater or lesser extent disguised. Alternatively he may use the chest voice, which produces the ringing high notes of the characteristic modern operatic voice. The tenor roles in operas by composers such as Bellini have high notes which are sometimes so frequent and beyond normal reach of the non-falsetto male voice that it seems likely that they would have been sung originally with the head voice. Tenors would not then have extended their chest voice much beyond ...

Article

J.B. Steane

(Fr. voix sombrée; Ger. gedeckte Ton; It. voce cuperta)

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

[Francisco Rafael ]

(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 1911 began appearing in small roles with the Boston Grand Opera Company, quickly moving up to more prominent assignments. He accompanied the soprano Luisa Tetrazzini on a tour in 1913 and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Massenet’s ...

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 Il trovatore and La forza del destino, and at the other is the singer who encompasses the heaviest of the Wagnerian soprano parts, Brünnhilde and Isolde. The first type may be described as lyric-dramatic and the second as heroic. The more narrowly defined dramatic soprano would then look for parts such as Aida, Lady Macbeth and Abigaille in Verdi, Senta, Elisabeth and Kundry in Wagner, Leonore in Fidelio, and the title roles in Medea and possibly Turandot (the last of these raises a problem for many dramatic sopranos on account of the high tessitura; it is beyond the reasonable ambitions of those who have an admixture of mezzo-soprano in the voice). Contrasted voices which might still come within the general category of dramatic soprano are, for instance, those of Jessye Norman (an exceptionally full-bodied sound, shaded towards the mezzo and nearer to the lyric-dramatic) and, in an earlier generation, Eva Turner, whose voice was pure soprano but of such penetrative power that the heaviest Wagnerian roles came within its scope and with such brilliance in the upper register that it was ideal for Turandot....

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

(Fr. voix de tête; Ger. Kopfstimme; It. voce di testa)

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 ...

Article

J.B. Steane

(Fr.)

Term for an old man’s role sung by a high tenor. In the later part of his career as an haute-contre, Jean-Louis Laruette of the Opéra-Comique specialized in comic roles for elderly gentlemen, which came to be known as ‘laruettes’. As early as Mozart and Rossini old men’s roles were generally for a bass rather than a high tenor, but the tradition survived in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

(Fr. soprano léger; It. soprano leggiero)

Typical roles for the light soprano are Despina, Susanna, Norina and Nannetta, as well as Sophie (both Der Rosenkavalier and Werther). The lightness in volume of such a voice is usually matched by a brightly produced, freely carrying tone, which in the Italian and French schools tends to be of a more sharply edged, forward quality than with the Germans or British. The term Soubrette (opera) is sometimes used in connection with such roles and voices; its original meaning of ‘coy’ or ‘shrewd’ and its later use, as a noun, to denote a lady’s maid suggest the character of the roles assigned to the soubrette in opera. Light sopranos admired in the 20th century have included Elisabeth Schumann and the Americans Kathleen Battle and Barbara Hendricks. Many sopranos, such as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Mirella Freni, have begun their career in this category and have developed into singers of the lyric or lyric-dramatic type....

Article

Lirico  

J.B. Steane

(It.)

The term, meaning ‘lyric’, is used in English writing generally to describe a singer whose voice is lighter than that required for more dramatic roles and which suits a smooth, melodic style rather than a more declamatory form of utterance. In Italy, the tenore lirico is distinguished from the tenore leggiero...

Article

J.B. Steane

(Fr. soprano lyrique; Ger. lyrische Sopran; It. soprano lirico)

This is the central, ‘standard’ type of soprano voice, one whose range covers the two octaves from c′ to c ‴ with something over at either end, whose power and fullness are sufficient to take her out of the class of Light soprano while not extending to the demands of heavy roles open to the Dramatic soprano , and whose appeal lies not so much in the agility of her florid singing as in the beauty of tone she is able to bring to her singing of the melodic line. Typical roles for the lyric soprano are Countess Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Agathe (Der Freischütz), Marguerite (Faust), Tatyana (Yevgeny Onegin) and Mimì (La bohème). Examples of the lyric soprano in the 20th century are Geraldine Farrar, Ninon Vallin and Kiri Te Kanawa. Many have extended their repertory so as to include roles which are better defined as lyric-dramatic, such as Amelia (...

Article

J.B. Steane

(Fr. ténor lyrique; Ger. lirischer Tenor; It. tenore lirico)

Tenors of the lighter sort will not be required to contend with heavy orchestration or to raise their voices in strenuous declamation, and therefore (the theory goes) can concentrate on the production of beautiful tone and evenness of line. In this way they will bring grace to the composer’s melodies: hence ‘lyric’. (The lighter kind of lyric tenor is also known as Tenore di grazia (opera) .) As the tenor became increasingly important in opera during the latter half of the 18th century, he found himself having two main dramatic functions to fulfil, those of hero and lover. Where the role was largely confined to the part of lover it fell essentially to the lyric tenor; so Ferrando and Don Ottavio (but not Idomeneus) in Mozart are taken by the lyric tenor, as also Almaviva, Lindoro and Don Ramiro (but not Arnold or Otello) in Rossini. Tenors who specialize in operas of this period and who include in their repertory parts such as Arturo in ...

Article

J.B. Steane

(It.: ‘passage’, ‘transit’)

The singing voice is generally recognized as comprising three ‘registers’, the high, middle and low; the ‘passaggio’ is the point at which two of them meet. It is often at the crucial point in the ‘passaggio’ that a singer may be most conscious of a dilemma concerning method of production. For the tenor, for instance, ...

Article

Kelley Rourke

(b Madison, WI, June 3, 1960). American soprano. She has done her most important work at the extremes of the opera timeline, winning acclaim for interpretations of both early and contemporary repertory. In 1988 she played the roles of Poppea, Fortune, and Minerva in Stephen Wadsworth’s Monteverdi cycle at Skylight Comic Opera. She went on to appear in works by Monteverdi, Cavalli, and Handel in venues around the world, including Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera (Cooperstown, NY), Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona, Spain), and the International Handel Festival (Göttingen, Germany). Saffer has collaborated frequently with the composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, beginning with performances of Hans Werner Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers in 1988 at Tanglewood. She has been celebrated for her interpretation of Marie in Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten, a role she has performed at Opéra Bastille, New York City Opera, and the English National Opera. As the title character in Alban Berg’s ...

Article

John Rosselli

In 18th-century opera seria the seconda donna sang (as a rule) one of two female parts, less prominent than the Prima donna but still substantial; examples are Celia in Mozart’s Lucio Silla and Servilia in his La clemenza di Tito. With the late 18th-century inflation of titles denoting status she came to be known by the euphemism altra [‘other’] prima donna; perhaps because the Rome courts in 1835 chose to interpret this term literally, at the impresario’s expense, a secondary but substantial woman’s part (such as Fenena in Verdi’s Nabucco, 1842) was later known as comprimaria. The term seconda donna was now applied to small parts, typically those of confidantes or nurses. A Genoa court confirmed in 1866 that seconda parts were inferior in status to comprimarie.

G. Valle: Cenni teorico-pratici sulle aziende teatrali (Milan, 1823), 35–45 P. Ascoli: Della giurisprudenza teatrale (Florence, 1871), 101–2 E. Rosmini: La legislazione e la giurisprudenza dei teatri...

Article

The list that follows contains a variety of materials on singing technique, voice production, ornamentation, registers, national and historical styles, interpretation, diction and pronunciation. The great majority of the items listed are concerned with the kind of singing associated with opera, but a number of more general works have been included for their relevance to vocal art; among these are several texts from the first half of the 17th century and a few works on accompaniment and the interpretation of song. Excluded for the purposes of this bibliography are vocalise, solfeggio, sight-singing and ear-training manuals, as well as publications relating primarily to choral and sacred music and music in schools. Dates of first and last editions are given where known, and important title changes are noted. Facsimiles, reprints and modern editions are given for early works, and the translations cited are all to English unless otherwise stated. Journals relating specifically to opera are listed in Periodicals; some of these, such as the ...