January 31, 2018

I Heard a Tenor Last Night

I heard a tenor last night while chatting with a friend online. What did I think of this fellow? Have your heard him? No, I hadn't. So I rummaged through Youtube to find something to listen too, and happened upon two recordings, one from a decade ago, the other made this past year. The younger version? The voice showed great promise and vocal beauty. The more recent one? All beauty was gone, having been replaced by stentorian bellowing. And there you have it, I thought. Another one bites the dust. 

Did I mention that this tenor has a body? Abs and all that. You know what I'm talking about. I am not denigrating abs—I should note. Bodies are beautiful. But in the realm of accomplishments—and we're talking about opera here—the voice should come first. And if the voice isn't beautiful, who cares if you have abs?

So you have a young man in this 30's screaming his head off, trying to sound like something he is not, and getting great encouragement—and likely coaching—to do so. 

Bye, bye, bel canto! 

His head voice—the voice I heard in an earlier recording—was nowhere in evidence. Gone. The attempt at messa di voce? Harsh. 

I suppose he'll go along until they find another kid who shows some promise, but that kid, too, will likely be eaten up by managers, would-be star makers, and admins in a hurry to fill seats with bodies that workout at Barrys. That's the the future, right? 

Done in by the desire to please others. To say yes to things that don't really feel good. And how can bellowing and strain feel good? 

The idea that one should put up with this kind of vocal production because the muscles will get stronger and things will get easier is flat out wrong. The old Italian school thought differently. The voice was built up from correct production from the get-go. It had to sound right and feel right from the beginning—at least on one pitch in the voice.

Yes, a voice like the one I heard last night can recover. But it takes a lot of work. 

Returning to a place of vocal beauty—one which includes real head voice—means opening up to feelings of vulnerability. That's hard when you are primed to impress. 

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