Pappano’s Classical Voices: Soprano  20768


  • 00:00:00 Voice as unique, built-in expression of ourselves
  • 00:01:00 Different voice types
  • 00:04:00 Finding something new. What makes a performer special, when some aren’t.
  • 00:06:00 Callas; finding more in a piece than perhaps the composer imagined. Fame beyond opera house. Willard White: her clarity of what she wanted. Commanding on stage, a bundle of nerves off it. Sir John Tooley: She needed support all the time; bruises on arms of her dresser. Callas: All you have to do is really listen to the music; you will find every gesture there.
  • 00:13:45 “Let’s go back in time”. Different tradition in the church since the early middle ages. Young boys singing soprano; angelic, pure, free of extraneous vibrato. Woman banned from singing in church because of St Paul. Late C16 bona fide professional female singers started to emerge. Dowland love song; distinctive female voice to colour the emotions. Use of both vibrato and non-vibrato to express emotions. “What does colouring mean?”
  • 00:18:00 Time of Handel: bravura arias to display distinctive ‘feminine traits’ such as vanity. Coloratura. Entry of “prima donna” into language.
  • 00:19:45 Joan Sutherland departing from Australia for Covent Garden. Archive interviews. Failure in auditions. Inability to move easily. Large size. Finding role in roles with a large amount of ornamentation. Bonynge: all singers should learn the classics, bel canto.
  • 00:22:30 Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti – purety of tone and agility, replete with mad scenes. Enormous demands of singer in this repertoire. Singer will use imagination to ornament the melody. Sutherland – born shortly after Callas but very different in character. “La Stupenda”.
  • 00:25:30 Singing in opera house without a microphone; requires training like an Olympic athlete. Anna Siminiska warm-up; vocal and physical. Strong chest and stomach muscles needed, but what makes the singer worth listening to is in the throat.
  • 00:26:40 Siminiska singing while in MRI scanner. Muscles in larynx involved in producing sound are smallest in body; vocal cords c 15mm in length. Mechanics of vocal cords, and camera down throat, as well as MRI footage. 20 muscles used in larynx alone. Many others used, too.
  • 00:29:00 Bigger voice / personality required for Wagner. Birgit Nilsson. Required to milk cows. Sang before she could walk. Always asked to sing at parties – sometimes singing 7/8 hours a day; instead of ruining vocal cords, it made them strong. Turandot section. Formidable on stage and off. Backstage footage. Dislikes conductors / stage directors who bring their ego; person who can’t forget themself is no artist. Contending with 100 piece orchestra for Wagner.
  • 00:36:00 Light lyric soprano; lovely, down to earth, witty, loquacious. Damrau: smaller orchestra. More exposed, can’t relax yourself on top of full orchestra sound where you can. All technique and flexibility needed, but with control Mozart’s music can take you anywhere.
  • 00:39:50 Leontyne Price interview about racial obstacles. Spiritual and Barber with piano. Seamlessness of legato. Creamy, silken texture; able to express vulnerability, but also majesty and regal nature of performances.
  • 00:46:25 Barbara Hannigan: vocal techniques for contemporary music are the same. Hannigan: intimidated by convention and tradition; contemporary was freeing. Pappano: lots of staccato. Hannigan: it’s not from the throat; gives analogy to making an electrical circuit, or a line with little stars on it. Comparison with Joan Sutherland using exactly the same technique. Pappano: going from very low to very high. Soprano needs to use resonances of different parts of the body; from head voice to chest voice. Hannigan: as you make the transition into higher register, you can’t carry chest voice up, but we try to make it beautiful, “otherwise we’d be yodelling [yodels].” The transition is something we try to make very smooth “it’s like making a salad dressing; you don’t want the oil and vinegar to be separate, you want it to emulsify.”
  • 00:49:40 Renata Tebaldi. Became rival of Callas, but “voices and choices quite different.”
  • 00:52:45 Popular perception of opera as stuck in the past / opera houses as museums. Rubbish. Has ability to reinvent itself and move with the times. Contemporary operas doing what opera has always done – laying bare our prejudices, assumptions and hypocrisies.
  • 00:53:00 Interview with Eva-Maria Westbroek on physicality of a role like Anna Nicole.
  • 00:58:00 Recap.


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