Monday, March 15, 2010

Opera Workshop Performance and Italian Recitative

I just finished my second big performance of the semester. This performance was an opera scenes program which consisted of different scenes from various operas. This semester there were only five scenes from four great operas: Don Pasquale, Le Nozze di Figaro, Dialogues of the Carmelites and Idomeneo. I got a chance to play Cherubino in a scene from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. The scene came from Act II and included the arias, "Voi Che Sapete" which I performed, and "Venite, inginocchiatevi!" sung by the soprano playing Susanna. The music between the two arias, on the other hand, consisted of recitative, or talk-singing.

The recitative in this scene was, by far, the most difficult to learn and perform. The first thing that we needed to master was the Italian. Italian recitative is especially difficult because words and phrases that end on a vowel need to be cut off right away, to avoid the 'American diphthong' and sound more Italian. I found that once I was aware of my holding out of phrase-ending notes I did the Italian cutoffs fine. The other difficult thing about learning the recitative was making it sound 'conversational'. This involved singing fast enough as natural spoken dialogue, which was bit difficult to get used to but simple once practiced. It also required the singer to be very aware of what is being said in Italian so interruptions and entrances implied by the dialogue are correct. Once my scene partners and I became aware of the correct way to sing Italian recitative we had the scene down in no time and were extremely prepared for the day of performance.

To wrap things up, it was an overall great performance by not only myself and my scene partners, but all the other performers as well. Bravi!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Illness and Protecting Your Voice

So these past few weeks beginning around my first performance of the semester, I have been fighting illness. At first it seemed like it could be strep throat, but some tests proved otherwise. Eventually I had a blood test that told me I have mononucleosis. Thankfully, it seems to be a mild strain and I'm slowly recovering. During my first performance I was on prescription steroids that the nurse said would take down the swelling in my tonsils so I could perform more easily. Various singers in school with me advised that steroids are very bad for a singer in that they take away the swelling, but not the problem itself. This is bad because that means you're in danger of damaging your voice even more when on them. However, I made it through the performance unscathed.

When a singer does feel like their voice is tired I know of a few vocal exercises one can do to help strengthen the voice. The most common vocal exercise of this type are tongue/lip trills. These involve singing a note of high pitch while vibrating the tongue or lips. According to the local voice clinic, these must be done as quietly as possible with the least amount of effort while singing the note as long as you can. This warms up and strengthens the voice without damaging it since it calls for little effort. Another exercise a singer can do to strengthen the voice is gliding. To do this one you must think 'choir boy oo' but then close your mouth around it and glide your voice from your lowest note to your highest, while making little effort. This exercise works the contraction in the voice.

There are many more vocal exercises one can do to keep the voice healthy and strong but those are the ones I find the most helpful. Now, to bed to rest my voice. Another busy week of singing!