Thursday, March 20, 2014

Kashu-do (歌手道): Lisa della Casa and Orelia Dominguez: Vocal Acoustics Par Excellence

The development of acoustic studies as related to the opera singer gained some steam through the consistency that can be observed in the tenor high voice.  If anything had been made clear is that most of the great tenors display a clear strategy between the dominance of the first formant (F1) in the lower range and the dominance of the second formant (F2) in the higher range and a near equal balance on notes that lie at the border between F1 and F2 dominance---the area we call the passaggio (Fundamental Frequency depends upon vowels--i.e. the passaggio begins earlier for low-F1 vowels like [u] and [i] and later for [E] and [a], [o], [O] and [e] fall in between extremes).  Beyond F1/F2 balance, the presence of the Singer's Formant (SF), attributed for the "ring" or "squillo" (that which makes the voice present in the listener's ears when the singer is accompanied with orchestral forces), is expected throughout the male range (not all singers achieve this.  Even the great Pavarotti had little SF in his voice).

F1: [a] (or what passes for [a] in context) = 750 Hz (+/- 100Hz); F2: [a] (or what passes for [a] in context) = 1200Hz (+/- 100Hz)

F1: [o] (or what passes for [a] in context) = 400 Hz (+/- 100Hz); F2: [o] (or what passes for [o] in context) = 1000Hz (+/- 100Hz)

F1: [u] (or what passes for [u] in context) = 260 Hz (+/- 100Hz); F2: [u] (or what passes for [u] in context) = 900Hz (+/- 100Hz)

F1: [E] (or what passes for [E] in context) = 350 Hz (+/- 100Hz); F2: [E] (or what passes for [E] in context) = 1450Hz (+/- 100Hz)

F1: [i] (or what passes for [i] in context) = 280 Hz (+/- 100Hz); F2: [i] (or what passes for [i] in context) = 2100Hz (+/- 100Hz)

SF= c. 3000 Hz for female voices (c. 2800 Hz for males).  The SF is broad ranging enough that it can catch harmonics as low as 2700 Hz in the female voice (as low as 2500 in lower males voices).

Female voices are much less analyzed for the simple reason that female voices show little consistency by the time that acoustic analysis became available to the average voice geek (pedagogy teachers and the like).  This is fascinating.  In a sense, the standards for male voices have remained consistent (though many professionals do not meet the standards).  For female voices the standards have pretty much fallen off.

The balance of F1 and F2 is just as important in the females voice as it is in the male voice.  The two formants determine accuracy of vowel shaping (modification) to fit the needs of the overtone series that is being produced on a given note.  However, this dynamic between source-tone and vocal-tract filtering can only have meaning when a strong source tone is produced.  This necessitates that the vocal folds close completely during close phase of phonation but that they are not "pressed" tightly together, for the propagation of air is what we hear as sound pressure.  Since the discovery of the F1 limits, it began to become clear why women have issues in the lower passaggio.  The range of F1 limits, from around c4 on the [i] vowel to f4# on the [a], is precisely the area of problem for female voices and not coincidentally, also for male voices.  The difference is that the event occurs from the middle into the high range for male voices, whereas it is the low into the middle for female voices.

Given that the majority of opera singers are obsessed with the development of their important top notes, the lower middle range of female voices in particular (true of high males voices too) is often under-developed and that is certainly the case with women in modern operatic times.  Instead of acknowledging the difficulties in the lower passaggio and work (as in the past) to even it out by developing substance and support, modern pedagogy "dictates" that the singer should go into some kind of "mixed" phonation in the passaggio.  This word "mixed" unfortunately means different things to different people.

If mixed meant working the substance of the chest voice with the stretch of the folds that facilitates high overtones and "head" sensation, all the while maintaining efficient closure (fully closed but not pressed) the results would be most satisfying.  Instead of working the two main muscle groups opposite each other to achieve a balance (taut and substantial vocal folds yield a much more efficient vibration.  See here), the easier but vocally inefficient option is to loosen the closure of the vocal folds resulting in a weak source tone that yields little power under acoustic analysis.

It should also be understood that the acoustics of the voice is a comparative exercise. Having a strong F2 dominance in the upper range means that vowel modification is correct but it says very little about carrying power.  In the best singers, appropriate F1 or F2 dominance is accompanied with an equal dominance in the SF (i.e. The strength of the SF should match that of the dominant lower formant [F1 or F2).

The average female voice shows very little in the way of balance between F1 and F2 in the lower and middle range up to e5 where both formants should still be consistently active.  Beyond f5 (the fundamental frequency, F2 presence depends on vowel.  F2 often falls between harmonics (overtones) on the [a] vowel and therefore F1 dominates until around b5 and then F2 of the [a] vowel takes over again.  More importantly, when the source tone is strong and formants are appropriately managed the SF is also very active in the female voice, even in the high range.  F1 and F2 of other vowels are unreliable as they fall most often between harmonics beyond f5.

When we listen to Lisa Della Casa and Orelia Dominguez, the result is precisely what is explained above.  Voices that have a lot of body (substance--fold contact area) and and a lot of brilliance, with the vocal folds adducted completely but not "pressed".  For modern ears used to hollow, darkened voices, these voices might sound overly bright on first hearing.  If however one can recalibrate the ear to become sensitive to the balance between low and high overtones, then one understands why these voices sound so visceral, powerfully present and neither shrill nor artificially darkened.

Lisa Della Casa, R. Strauss: Es gibt ein Reich (Ariadne auf Naxos)

Orelia Dominguez, Bizet: Card Aria (Carmen)

The balance that these women exhibit not only in the lower half of the voice but throughout their range is exceptional.  The Singer's Formant (around 3000 Hz for the female voice) is active to some degree throughout and both singers show strong F1/F2 balance throughout.  Above E5 F2 of the "so-called" back vowels [a], [o], [u], falls between overtones, so F1 stays dominant, F2 of front vowels [e], [i] and the like can be dominant on the second harmonic for [E] or third harmonic for [i].  This is observed here and in the voices of singers who maintain good closure in the high range.  Many women sing breathy in the top range and only show strength on the fundamental.  Since so many women sing what is tantamount to a falsetto in the high range, it has become not only accepted but preferred.  Singers like Tebaldi and Della Casa here exhibit very strong overtones in both F2 areas and on the SF.  Their voices were known to be very powerful in the opera house.

Some excellent female singers today, like Anja Harteros and Stephanie Blythe display very consistent activity in both F2 and SF.  Unfortunately a great majority of female singers develop with a totally different ideal in mind:  "Warm and pretty at all cost."  Warm unfortunately is translated into darkened, muffled vowels and pretty is understood to mean sing in a falsetto set-up.    The appropriate formant influences are the only standards we can point to in terms of acoustic norms.  How these formant values influence the rest of the sound spectrum is also interesting to comment on (next time).    

Singers today are also obsessed with the idea of having a unique vocal quality.  In such pursuits, they will sing sounds that are against the natural function of the instrument, whether extremely chesty or extremely fluty.  The fact is that every voice is indeed acoustically unique without reducing the voice to unnatural adjustments.  A singer is more likely to encounter the unique nature of the voice by allowing the voice to function based on acoustic norms.

Even in the past, female singers had difficulties balancing the muscular function that balances vocal substance (vocalis) and stretch (CT), as well as the acoustic issues that rise from such a muscular balance.  However, from analyzing voices of the past, I get a sense that singers back then were aiming for the same results, whether they achieved it or not.  Today, I get the sense that singers and pedagogues want to invent their own new norms that result in voices that have very little presence in the house when singing in the presence of orchestral forces.  The voices may sound immense in small rooms with piano accompaniment (that was my experience as a former baritone) but sound relatively weak in the house with orchestra.  

Acoustics does not necessarily give the singer a means to "feel" the voice (kinesthetic empathy), but it does give us clear feedback as to whether the voice is functioning correctly or not.  Indeed, if a singer has the ability to "feel the voice",  s/he nevertheless must know what it is s/he needs to feel.  Acoustics can guide one to those sensations. The norms observed in the singers of the past is quite consistent.  The values for at least some of the top singers today are also consistent with what we saw in the past.  But singers below the top level are considerably far from tradition.  If a singer can accomplish what today's best singers are doing, they may find some room at the top.

© 03/20/2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Kashu-do (歌手道): Top Ten Countries Reading Kashu-do! Thank you and much more!

First I would like to thank everyone who reads the blog.  Although I can write in 8 languages and hoped to translate the blog into as many languages as possible, time does not allow right now.  So with Google, we can do the next best thing.  I added a "Translate The Blog" gadget (to the write of the body of the post) so you can read the blog in your own language (Thank you Google!) Some of the most exciting developments with Kashu-do are happening this year, including our new Opera Seminar in Sweden this summer, offering lessons in more places in the world, developing Kashu-do Training Seminars for Voice Teachers, etc.  I just wanted to take the time to thank you all and just for fun list the top 10 countries reading the blog over it's existence.

USA:  Thank you
UK:  Thank you (imagine different accent)
Deutschland:  Danke schön
Canada:  Thank you, merci (Québécois)
Sweden: Tack så mycket
Brazil: Obrigado
Taiwan: 非常感谢
Norway: Tusen takk
France: merci
Australia:  Thanks mate! (totally different accent)

United States
United Kingdom

Ours is the first blog to deal with vocal technique (although other websites have been around long before us).  Because of your interaction, the blog has become very important to over 200,000 readers worldwide.  Blog readership actually grows even though I have written less frequently.  Our journey is entering a truly exciting phase as many of my students have become very successful teachers themselves and our philosophy of "technical inclusion" and hard work is spreading.  There will be more audio and video clips, more spectrograms, more refining techniques as well as opening up our techniques to many over the internet.  

I began writing the blog as a means of clarifying the often paradoxical nature of the science of the voice and it has transformed to a place of international interaction.   The blog reports we have 180 members, but our tracking information shows thousands of unique users.  So click here to become a member, so we have a truer reflection of our readership!

Looking forward to a more active blog in the next few months.

All the best and thank you in all languages for making this blog a success!



Friday, March 7, 2014

Kashu-do (歌手道): The State Of Our Opera Stars: Volume vs. Acoustics

As I did the laundry today, I passed the time doing some quick acoustic analysis of our top operatic stars.  I have often stated that the state of operatic singing is diminished as compared to former times.  I wanted some empirical proof of why I have been so disappointed in the theater so often.  The results are not what we might think, or perhaps precisely what we might think.

I have always stated that there are reasons why singers become famous and vocal skill is not the primary reason, but it must play a part.  Whether it is Dolora Zajick's carefully-crafted impersonations of Verdi's "Witches and Bitches" as the great mezzo roles are often referred to, or Bryn Terfel's singular charm or Jonas' Kaufmann and Anja Harteros' "südländische" good looks (as they play so well in the North), each singer who comes to stardom have something that sells beautifully on billboards and Youtube trailers.  The glimpse you get from these people in costume is defining.  But can they sing?

The acoustics tell us a resounding "YES"!  As it relates to acoustic balance, most of the top singers with rare exception exhibit that illusive chiaroscuro balance between appropriate low and high overtones.  Whether by natural coordination (unconsciously learned balance) or conscious training, the top singers indeed have the stuff of operatic gold.  Then what is the problem?

The problem is "Fach"!

Every singer today wants to sing every role in their vocal category right away.  And that is the core problem in operatic singing today.  Judging by the acoustics, we should have no problem hearing the best singers in the world, but we often do have problems hearing them.  They often get buried by the orchestral sound and it is not always the conductor's fault.

Let us take a "ridiculous" example!  

Juan Diego Florez has a leggiero tenor voice imbued with a very consistent Singer's Formant.  I never have problems hearing him at the Metropolitan Opera.  What if we asked Juan Diego Florez to sing Siegmund in Wagner's "Die Walküre"?  Naturally we will not hear him.  Is it because his acoustics would be different?  Certainly not!

Simply put, Diego Florez's voice is a leggiero voice and simply cannot handle the breath pressure necessary to produce Wagnerian-level sub-glottal pressure.  The orchestral environment is simply too loud for such a voice.  Furthermore, Florez's voice produces greater sound pressure above G4. We might hear the final A4 at the end of Act 1 of Walküre, but that would be the only note we would hear and it would not have the Wagnerian thrust we expect from a true Helden tenor.

The subtler version of this scenario is indeed "too subtle" for those who are hiring!  And if they had a choice between a veritable heldentenor who does not fit the physical tastes of the day, they would more happily go for the handsome young spinto with the dark good looks and billboard star-power.  
Unfortunately, the effect with the talented spinto is not too different than the effect with what it might be with a Florez singing Siegmund.  It does not make a satisfying impact because the voice is not yet capable of handling that kind of breath pressure.

The other question is, is there a veritable heldentenor ready to take on Siegmund at a house like the MET?  Efe Kislali comes to mind.  But by all accounts, the MET might wait until he is vetted (maybe after he has sung for 20 more years and his voice is not as fresh as before) before they give him a serious look.  In the meantime, they might find it easier to ride on the star-power of Jonas Kaufmann for a role that may not suit him ideally and after too many performances may actually do him harm.

That is just an example.  Dolora Zajick is successful because she remains true to her Fach.  There are not many we can say that about.  The argument bears out.  

It is not in Opera's long-term interest to hire singers for roles that their voices are simply not suited.  It only serves the short-term convenience of opera houses at the expense of the art and of the singers themselves.  It would be great to hear a full-bodied lyric soprano sing Contessa Almaviva again as opposed to the average lyric-coloratura that seem to take over the role these days.

I submit the audience will not boo when a singer sings beautifully in a part suited to their talent.  Yet it may politely and quietly scorn hearing a voice that is not present in the house attempt to carry a more dramatic part than it is suited for.

© 03/07/2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Kashu-do (歌手道): The Vocal Athlete 2: Plateau

Most of us go into singing because we exhibited certain attributes that others found superior to the norm.  Was it great intonation?  Was it a seamless range? Top notes? Charisma? Emotional commitment?

In every field there is a point at which difficulty presents itself.  In my youth, I found Math very easy.  I remember an instance in high school geometry when I was visibly disappointed when I got a 99/100 in a geometry test.  My classmates thought I was being silly.  It was that easy for me.  Then I had Pre-calculus and it began to be difficult.  I persevered and kept my grades up, but Calculus was definitely a new level.

Now that I am looking at the possibility of getting my Black Belt in Kung Fu next year, I am faced with a new level.  Suddenly I can no longer accept a horse-stand that is not deep enough.  If I am to really become a Black Sash I have to become more flexible.  If I am to become more effective in sparring I have to improve the speed and form of my kicks, I must improve balance, etc.  For a 48-year old guy, I do pretty well.  I can keep up with the teenagers at the Kung Fu school, but it is not about keeping up. It is about measurable skills that are part of an overall skill-set and to accomplish a certain level, one become conscious of why all serious martial artists have certain specific abilities, whether a full-split or flexible fast kicks, or very quick hands.  It all requires dedicated practice.  So I must ask myself:  "Is this as far as I go in terms of true skills?"  "Do I just get by to Black Sash?"  Of course the answer is a resounding: "NO!"

Kung Fu reminds me that every level requires rededication.  I am excited to to see what lies beyond a full-split and form-perfect stances.  As my teacher says:  "Black Sash is the beginning of real work! Everything up to that point is fundamentals!"  So it is for me with singing.   One tenor colleague told me recently not to be so obsessed about a high C and get singing.  In a way he is correct.  But for me, it is not just about singing and getting through something.  Whether my repertoire never require an important high C, it is important to know you have trained like a tenor and that note is yours.

Bohème High C

It was earned.  It means to me, I developed a very specific coordination.  It also made me realize that accomplishing that feat is just the beginning of being a tenor.  Now there are refinements in coordination, building stamina, repeating this feat so many times it is no longer even a challenge and then going to the next thing:  Coloratura, trills, dynamics, crescendo-diminuendo, notes beyond high C, etc.  Then skills in context:  Vocal stability vs. emotions.  How does all that relate to voice leading, phrase structure, linguistic articulation, etc.

How much better can I really get?

It has nothing to do with keeping up with the teenagers.  What if I can go further than them? Or not as far?

There is only one way to find out.  I can only concentrate on how far I can go.

In Tai-Chi Walking, there is a part when it seems one is leaning backwards, yet judging by the feet, no distance has been lost.  The move is only a preparation for going forward to the next step.  Without that leaning back, the next step is not possible.  This is the "Plateau Phase!"  This is the period that prepares the body, the voice for the next skill, for the next leap forward.  Judging by the thousands of singers I have encountered in the last 33 years of conscious studying, I would bet that 90% are not willing to endure the Plateau Phase.  That is usually the time they find another coach, another teacher, another school, or another country.  Running away from the problem does not fix it.  It keeps coming back in different guises until it is truly addressed.

I would go as far as saying that the defining characteristic of success is the ability to go beyond the Plateau Phase.

© 03/03/2014

Kashu-do (歌手道): The Vocal Athlete 1: Fundamentals

This week I graduated to Brown Sash in Kung Fu, which means that perhaps next year I may go through the preparation for the Black Sash test called "Cycle."  I should be excited!  I am and I am not.  I have decided I will not go through cycle until I have accomplished certain skills.  I must be able to do a "full split" and I must be able to sustain all my stances in ideal form for more than 5 minutes.  If I have to wait years before that, I will.  The Black Sash holds a certain special significance for me.   The strength and flexibility as well as the importance of stances in martial application are absolutely fundamental.  There should be a Sash System for operatic singing!

What are vocal fundamentals?  What are the standards?  Acoustic Analysis of the greatest singers show us certain trends.  Not all the great singers were great because of their vocalism.  Some were great because they were great musicians; others were great actors; and others had charisma, etc.  If we were to use acoustic analysis, we might agree only on how tenor high notes should be sung.  Ever since tenors became the most marketable voice type (since Caruso's landmark recordings), interest in tenors have moved scientists to study them and the top notes that define them.  We go as far as to "recommend" that tenors "should" aspire to F2 (second formant) dominance at F4# and above.  Yet many successful tenors do not.  Instead of observing the perfect acoustics of Jussi Björling's voice that epitomizes chiaroscuro (bright/dark) balance with even balance between F1 (first formant) and SF (singer's formant) in the area below the passaggio the same kind of balance between F2 and SF above the passaggio.  At the passaggio area, Björling displays a difficult-to-sustain balance between F1, F2 and the SF.  Those features are logical and confirm a laryngeal oscillation (source) that is in sync with the adjustments of the vocal tract (filter).  If we insisted on this alone, we might have a wealth of tenors coming up who have the goods to deal with orchestral acoustics in big houses.  Indeed, that ability above all else gets an audience's attention.  A pretty face and charisma and good stage deportment can keep the audience's attention, but first it must be captured.

Acoustic norms are also possible for women.  But that information is even harder to come by because the scientists observe and make conclusions from what exists, rather than theorize other possibilities.  The common misunderstanding that allows female singers to sing in a relative falsetto in the middle range stems from a premise that efficiency of phonation must be sacrificed to satisfy the tendency for women to be uncoordinated in the lower passaggio.  Teachers of the past took it for granted that the hardest part of the female voice to develop was indeed the lower passaggio into the middle range, just as the difficulty for men lies in the upper passaggio.  But since men are also allowed to call themselves Rossini tenors by going into "falsettone" on top, so has it become normalized that women should sing in falsetto in the middle range if the lower passaggio is not naturally coordinated.

Is it any wonder that many coloratura sopranos are mistaken for mezzos when they have a well-coordinated strong middle voice?

Some would argue that following a standardized acoustic prescription would make all voice's sound alike.  It is in fact the opposite.  What distinguishes great tenors is precisely the prescription above.  To accomplish what Björling did, a singer must develop the source tone to such an extinct that overtones throughout the spectrum would be viable for formant influence.  The individual shape of the singer's vocal tract is revealed when ideal acoustic balance (like Björling's) is accomplished.  The strength in the lower side of the spectrum confirms a low larynx, as experienced in both the [i] and [u] vowels that rely on low formants.  The release of the jaw has a positive effect on middle partials as evident in the vowel [a].  Front vowels requiring higher formants are defined by a higher position of the tongue blade, preventing tongue retraction that would otherwise muffle the vocal tract by pushing down on the epiglottis.  Maintaining the availability of all partials requires a complex coordination of releasing the jaw near [a] levels, having the larynx low near [u] or [i] levels and having the tongue in a position that prevents retraction.  However, because one singer with a very wide vocal tract is able to achieve appropriate formant tracking without the standards prescribed above, many teachers will circumvent this necessary resonance adjustment using the exception as the rule.  So many singers sing with a constricted vocal tract that has limited choice relative to strong partials resulting from a tight jaw, high larynx and retracted tongue. It should also be reminded that this prescribed acoustic adjustment means very little if the source tone has not been developed.  A teacher may also circumvent this logical approach by pointing to a student with a poor source tone whose sound does not change very much with the prescribed adjustments.  Naturally, convincing classical vocalists of standards has become a lost cause.

As for breathing, the landscape has been too polluted by compensatory measures suggested by successful singers with great source tones and weak respiration.  The diaphragm is the most innervated muscle in the body and responds to desire to produce specific actions (including speaking and singing) and not to direct manipulation.  In fact every muscle in the body responds that way.  Undesirable muscular tensions occur when unnecessary muscles compensate for necessary muscles that have remained under-developed for the task at hand.

Indeed whether for breathing, phonation or resonance, if all muscles related to singing were developed for singing purposes, a singer would simply have to imagine a sound and the many muscles would respond in balance to produce that very sound.

Question: How long would it take a singer to train all the muscles necessary for singing?

Answer: Another question--How long would it take a voice teacher to learn about function in order to know how to target all the muscles concerned?

The voice teacher has little influence in the hierarchy of today's operatic politics.  A teacher has the best influence on a student who has gone through the current system and failed to advance.  That student has nothing to lose and everything to gain by learning a technique that is superior to that of his/her average competitor.  Being essentially behind, s/he better aspire for something superior.

The nature of the operatic field today is designed (perhaps as every other field) to help further those who have some "natural ability!"  Few of these natural talents last, in fact.  Those that last may have been among the naturally talented but at some point encountered problems that they were able to address and through that experience become truly competent, whether Jonas Kaufmann with Michael Rhodes or Piotr Beczala with Dale Fundling.

Question: What is "naturally talented?"

Answer: Unconscious nurture!

Whether Lanza copying recordings of Caruso or Carreras copying recordings of Lanza, basic muscular structure is often trained by young singers without any real knowledge involved.  However in cases where the natural voice type of the student matches that of the singer s/he is copying, the training may attain high levels depending on the aural sensitivity of the young singer.

Did Lanza do better than Carreras because the expectations of what was considered operatic in the forties and fifties were more rigid than the 70s? 

Lanza's singing is acoustically more in tune with "operatic norms."  Carreras' rarely made the resonance shift where F1 is supposed to cede dominance to F2.  Yet he was a charismatic, musical and passionate performer who looked like a movie star.

If the operatic field is improving in terms of Marketing, I submit it is regressing in terms of quality.

 How could it improve when we cannot agree on any standards?

In many cases, the singer gives priority to the opinions of the répétiteur.  The current culture of opera supports it.  The pianist-coach in opera tends to rise from a sub-conductor hierarchy.  In fact, many of them wish to go into conducting from coaching, not having had the traditional conductor training per se (this does not mean they are not capable.  Quite often coaches are more capable operatic conductors than their conductor colleagues because of the time they spend with singers).  Germaine to the conversation is the status that coaches acquire by being in essence, conductors in training.  The singer, either consciously or subconsciously, perceives the coach as an "in" into performances opportunities.  Furthermore, in a race against time (since so much is age-dependent), the singer is more likely to give priority to someone whose work is relatively finite in the moment (e.g. a coach with specific musical goals for a coaching session) rather than to a voice teacher whose technical work seems endless at times.  Coaches do not do vocal trench-work with singers.  They judge a singer on the ability to execute musical tasks, whether singing a high note or fulfilling a specific expectation relative to dynamics, whether very loud or very soft, for example.  Their judgement of the singer is totally based on the singer's ability to fulfill an immediate musical gratification. This is in keeping with the current culture and a singer will twist themselves into pretzels to be able to accomplish precisely that, given that the coach-pianist might lead them to the next performance opportunity.

A singer who is truly prepared vocally can accomplish these things without compromising a fundamental technique.  On that we can agree.  But who can really agree on what a fundamental technique really is?

At the heels of the Winter Olympics, I am reminded how clear it is to Figure Skaters what constitutes a Quad-Lutz or a specific spin or what defines athleticism vs. artistry and how the two are required in a complete Figure Skater.  I watched a retired-skater-turned-commentator explain how the lines on the ice define the quality of the landing of a jump and how the shape of those lines help the judges determine scoring.  A skater who is musical and artistically sensitive is one with the music but will not win unless s/he can also execute Quad Jumps with great height and grace.  Only a few years ago, it was Triple Jumps.  Skaters are able to take their sport/art to a higher athletic level without losing artistry.  Singers do not by and large.

The singer as athlete (as Pavarotti used to often comment) is a dinosaur!  Singers today rarely last beyond 40 with their voices intact.

Question: What are the physical/athletic/acoustic/objective requirements for a truly operatic voice?

Answer: They exist, but not having them gives free license to voice teachers to call themselves experts on their own terms.  It makes coaches de facto voice teachers without expertise and whoever wants to have an opinion based on their position in the food chain rather than based on real knowledge of vocal function.  

Despite this chaos lacking objective criteria, several great singers come through with great, resilient voices combined with great artistry.  But we should honestly ask:

Question: What percentage of singers pursuing an operatic career today become truly viable professionals as compared to even forty years ago?

Answer: There were more viable professional opera singers in the world when the number of aspirants was 1/100th of what it is today.  We are saturated and the vast majority are chaff, not wheat!  

Question:  Why is that?

Answer:  Because today, opera as a physical act has no agreed-upon standards!

© 03/03/2014