Pappano’s Classical Voices: Tenor  20799


  • 00:00:00 Opening as Episode 1.
  • 00:01:00 Meet the “Kings of the high C”. Talking/working with some of the great singers of today: how do they do it? how does the throat work? breathing? body? soul?
  • 00:02:00 Three Tenors in the 1990s at 3 World Cup finals. Back in mainstream for first time since the 1950s. Carreras on uniqueness of 3 tenors combination. Pappano: no other voice type that creates such an animal response from audiences. Something unnatural about it, highwire. Will the character he plays even make it to the end of the opera? Often gets the girl, but seldom leaves happily after. Montage of different tenor roles in this mould from Pagliacci to Peter Grimes.
  • 00:04:30 Pavarotti. Born in Modena, son of a baker. Sang in church choirs with his father. Sang at all opera houses, but superstar on record. Nessun dorma. Hyde Park concert. “I consider him like a Mohammed Ali of the opera”; in the 80s/90s symbol needed of opera as worthwhile/fabulous.
  • 00:09:45 Tenor most unforgiving of voices. Technique crucial. Voice lesson with Thomas Allen. Standing too rigidly. Pavarotti as very relaxed. Taking the breath, sitting on it, and then mechanism just kicked in, but not “with flowers and embroidery on it”. “Singing is just cultured shouting”. Shouts and turns the shout into a note.
  • 00:12:00 Put it together in front of 2,000 people. Florez: Must be technically prepared. Breathing must work at its utmost. Fine tuning of the breathing to make all the nuances and in order to finish a phrase.
  • 00:13:00 Tenor as we know it C20 invention. Enrico Caruso revolutionised singing as we know it, and made himself one of most famous people in the world who even starred in a silent movie, for which he was paid $100,000. Greatest singer of C20, without question. Born in Neapolitan poverty. Began singing for tips in waterfront bars. Puccini heard him sing La bohème and declared he was sent by God. Caruso perfect for new verismo opera calling for believable, manly, vocally fearless singers. Carreras: mannerism before Caruso. Early voice; light lyric, almost frivolous. Developed to rich, virile, almost menacing voice.
  • 00:17:00 1904: Caruso records first-ever 1,000,000-selling record. Trailblazer; what was a toy now became a must-have. Aural encyclopedia of technique on over 200 records; all tenors listen to this. New darkness and richness in lower and middle register.
  • 00:17:50 Comparison with baritone voice; only 3 or 4 notes different in range, but very different in colour. Tenor has squillo, or ring – plangent, thrilling, exciting, high sound that just wants to climb. Domingo: you have to have the high notes, low notes, the metal to pass over the orchestra, and the velvet. Pappano: metal is interesting; high and low, hard and soft, that sets tenor apart.
  • 00:21:30 Let’s go higher than Carreras in ‘Una furtiva lagrima’; high C can make or break career. High C defines tenor today. But technique to produce it is actually relatively recent arrival. High roles used to be performed by castrati. In one way masculine with tremendous lung power and huge chests. But a strange voice; turbo-charged falsetto. Something needed to happen. Clear incident in 1831 where revolution occured with Guillaume Tell and Gilbert Duprez. Before Duprez, tenors sang high-C in semi-falsetto. Duprez learned voix sombrée.
  • 00:26:30 Pavarotti: always afraid beforehand. Carreras: like trapeze without a net.
  • 00:27:20 By the time of Verdi, this new masculine approach had taken hold. Verdi was Italian opera in his time with series of tragic tenor heroes in romantic mould: dynamic, impulsive, fatally flawed. Franco Corelli as ideal. Trained as naval engineer before entering singing competition on a dare. Also became model.
  • 00:31:30 Problem emerged. Tenors two octaves C to C. Voice runs out in the middle; some kind of manipulation / bridge needed from lower voice through middle voice to high voice: passaggio. The voice is made slightly smaller around E or F, giving room to expand into the top register. Mastery of this essential to operatic career.
  • 00:33:20 Thomas Allen vocal coaching. For him it’s around Eb/E natural.
  • 00:34:30 Challenge is to cross frontier without audience being aware of it.
  • 00:37:00 Holy grail is diminuendo on high note.
  • 00:38:30 Lower dramatic voice through to lyric tenor, e.g. Tamino.
  • 00:42:00 Development of the Heldentenor with Wagner. Larger orchestras throughout C19. Mozart: 40. Verdi: 60. Wagner: 110. Lungpower and projection exponentially greater. Projection of resonance – cutting through orchestra with beam rather than a wash. Jon Vickers. Committed Christian, tried only to sing roles which he believed were spiritually uplifting. Vickers: studies role in objective way to analyse which facets of performance to bring forward, and which parts of him need to be enhanced or softened in order to do that (building parts from the inside out). Thomas Allan: like listening to a cathedral organ. Like sword-swallower, creating open column all the way done. Voice opened very wide at times, like an animal.
  • 00:49:00 Carreras: mainly about emotions; bring intuitions to the role.
  • 00:50:00 Peter Pears: Britten writing with his voice in mind. Tried them out on him; if he could sing it, he’d keep it in. If not, he “might be said to have vetted from his own point of view.” Revival of English opera tradition. Pappano: Pears’s best note was E natural. Pears shows us how to love the words; whether one posseses the best voice or not, communication is paramount.
  • 00:54:00 Personality behind these great voice communicates joy or singing, but also greater meaning behind an aria or note. Rare ability to make everything you sing personal to you, and unforgettable once heard.
  • 00:54:30 Mario Lanza: hardly set foot on opera stage, but performed opera on film. Great influence on the Three Tenors. Most famous tenor ever. Carreras: The Great Caruso; not very familiar with opera before.
  • 00:58:00 Next time: “witches, bitches and breeches” – mezzo soprano.


Locations in Harold's Library


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