May 11, 2013

The Old Italian School of Singing: A Theoretical and Practical Guide by Daniela Bloem-Hubatka

I stumbled upon a curious book while looking for something completely different this past week while doing a bit of research at the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center (that is the interesting thing about research: you never know what you are going to find). The title? The Old Italian School of Singing: A Theoretical and Practical Guide by Daniela Bloem-Hubatka (2012). Well, how could I pass that up? So click-o-presto at Amazon, and the book arrived in my mailbox two days later. It wasn't inexpensive at $61 bucks, but this amount takes on a different meaning when one considers that a private voice lesson in Gotham costs $100 and up. Of course, in the latter, you have someone addressing you directly and guiding your ear and action, whereas, with a book you are left to your own devices. So, you are asking yourself: is this book worth the price? Can you learn something from it? I believe so. 

Daniela Bloem-Hubatka's book is a throw-back to an earlier era, the kind of which you don't see being written these days, with current emphasis on anatomy, physiology, acoustics and its attendant terminology. What will the reader find therein? Essential teachings on "The Attack," "The Breathing," "The Resonance," "The Mouth Position and Articulation," "The Registers" and so forth, all taken from historical documents, Francesco Lamperti and Manuel García figuring prominently. Well-presented, written in clear language without modern terms like 'onset' or 'formant,' Bloem-Hubatka sticks to what she knows, which is considerable.

Bloem-Hubatka emphasizes the Coup de Glotte of Manuel García, which she credits as restoring her voice, her introduction to this controversial Old Italian School technique having come via a book written by Franklyn Kelsey (1891-1959) titled The Foundations of Singing (1950).  Kelsey, a English voice teacher, had a respectable career singing bass roles at Covent Garden in the 1920's before teaching voice at the University of College of South Wales. He also had an interesting vocal lineage, having studied with Marcel Journet, who studied with Louis-Henri Obin, the latter studying with Louis-Antoine Ponchard.

The author also emphasizes the 'smiling' position of the mouth, which is, of course, not the same thing as a grinning countenance (though, interestingly enough, once the correct mouth position is obtained, one can sing with a multitude of facial expression). This raises the point. Do students observe themselves in a looking glass when they practice? Nope, I am sorry to say most do not! But guess what? This is exactly what Old Italian School students were made to do. I've written about it on these pages, but it bears repeating: when you can open your mouth correctly, that is, toward a smile, look and listen simultaneously with interest and friendliness rather than a blank stare and judgment, you will have learned a great deal.

One can only hope that The Old Italian School of Singing (2012) finds a wider audience. 

4 comments:

  1. This is one of my most recent favorite books. I, too, hope it finds a much broader audience for its message!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Justin Petersen. I can't agree with you more.

      Delete
  2. I have just finished Chapter One and am fascinated and enthusiastic. It is very well-written, and I feel like I am much closer to understanding what the coup de glotte was all about, among many other things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to know you are enjoying this book, Geek Tenor!

      Delete

I welcome your comments.