Monday, October 10, 2005


I had a voice teacher say this to me last week. I've been hearing that a lot lately.
I heard it as well in college over twenty five years ago. I even heard Maria Callas say it to a terrified young soprano in her Juilliard master classes thirty years ago. For the record, it was the only time I heard Callas be anything besides kind and supportive.

You can't sing with your mouth closed. It is possible to open up wide and have the back of your throat sealed up tight. That's what I've been doing. Thus the sound is breathy, unsupported and has no vibrato. It might be pitched speaking but singing it ain't. And I'll say it again...Dichterliebe is-nearly literally-a ball buster.
The physical mechanisms have to be in first class shape to get through this. So today, after a weekend of practicing the "beginning of the yawn" without gagging, I went to rehearsal with Ben and opened my throat, and for about five minutes the sound was big, rich, focused and terrific. After five minutes it was breathy, constricted, tight and horrible. But hell, I got those five minutes I never had before. The great tenor Mario del Monaco used to shove a spoon down his pupil's throats getting to the 'gola aperto'. Gives whole new meaning to "Gag me with a spoon".

Many artists consider 'Ich grolle nicht' to be the emotional heart of the cycle

I won't complain
Even if my heart is breaking
Love lost forever, I won't complain

Even though you gleam with the glory of diamonds
(Wie du auch strahlst in Diamantenspracht, say THAT three times fast!)
No gleam falls into the night of your heart.

I can't sing this. I know the notes, the words and the mood with it's too low, it's too high, it's a killer and I'm all over the place. It is song 7, with 9 to go.
I can't really sing song 6 either, ain't that a kick? The exhortation of the Rhine, "with its great Cathedral of the holy city of Cologne' so far requires more support and gut strength than I can muster without passing gas. But I'm working on it. The singing, I mean.

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