March 17, 2013

The Singer's Face: René Pape

I can't think of a singer onstage today that I admire more. René Pape's voice is rich, full, free, clear and intensely vibrant. You hear every word the man utters; you see his concentration; you are aware at every moment that he embodies what every singer strives to obtain. No, not a big voice, though he has that certainly, but rather—artistry

Watch the man's face. See how he listens. It's all there; the concentration, innervation, and open face. What are the tell-tale signs? The upper lip is wide, and the whole facial mask extending behind the ears—the nose being the center—is busy lifting.

Now, should you screw up your face and sing? Of course not. The subtle yet powerful changes in the musculature of the face are, for the most part, unconscious. They become evident when the singer divines the essential properties of each vowel—/i/, /e/. /a/, /o/ and /u/—and when the ear is fully open. 

Operatic bass René Pape and pianist Brian Zeger perform Franz Schubert's "Schwanengesang: Aufenthalt," D. 957 (Resting Place), Richard Strauss's "Zueignung," Op. 10/1 (Devotion) and "Some Enchanted Evening" by Oscar Hammerstein II. Recorded live in the Jerome L. Greene space on April 30th 2009.

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