These past few months since Le nozze di Figaro have been mostly pretty quiet. I’ve completely switched back to tenor, and I’ve been obsessing over a few technical issues while learning the role of Cassio in Verdi’s Otello.
I’m performing Cassio and Roderigo this summer with Center Stage Opera. This is a local opera company here in Pennsylvania that performs ambitious operas with impressive local talent. I am extremely impressed with my fellow cast members, and in our few rehearsals together I feel as if I’ve learned a ton from them.
Technically, I’ve been working on the passaggio like mad. What is it? Why is it? How do I deal with it? How have great singers dealt with it? Part of my motivation is Cassio himself: like other high Verdi tenor roles, he sits high and has a lot of step-wise motion through the passaggio. It has to be solved in order to be sung well, and so I’ve obsessed.
One way I’ve approached the problem is through reading a lot. I’ve been reading and re-reading Great Singers on Great Singing to find clues to what they did. The language is inconsistent, but I have found some great tidbits.
I’ve also been using Donald Miller’s program VoceVista to analyze my voice as it moves through its range. Thanks to his book Resonance in Singing: Voice Building through Acoustic Feedback and its accompanying musical examples, I’ve been able to train myself to hear voices more clearly. His research states that great singers tend to use similar resonance strategies at relatively similar areas of their voices. Rather than make the whole voice louder, great singers find ways to make one or two overtones much louder than the others.
This is discovered by analyzing voices with the program VoceVista:
As you sing, you can see the harmonics and their relative strengths. Since it responds to my voice in real-time, I can get a strong sense of what strategies work and what don’t.
I’ll write more about this at another point, but this has changed the way I view singing. I’ve been working with it since November of last year, and I’ve even worked with students using these strategies. Good results can come very quickly once the ideas are learned.
So I’m excited! I’m really looking forward to the final product of Otello and everything I’ll learn from that, and I’m excited for whatever comes after.