Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Dilemma of the BIG Voice

An article appeared today in the New York Times called "The End of the Great Big American Voice".  A well researched and thorough first-look at the what many have been saying has been happening for years...where have all the big voices gone?

American vocal training has long been bruited as the best in the world and is supposed to be better than ever. Yet there has been no commensurate rise in great new talents. One clear measure of the problem is the system's inability to deal effectively with large voices .... It seems to favor lighter, flexible voices that can perform a wide range of material accurately, rather than the powerful, thrilling, concert-hall-filling voices on which live opera ultimately relies for its survival.

The conservatory system where most students start out is self-perpetuating; many of its instructors went right from graduating to teaching without acquiring any stage experience. Many teachers are therefore less accustomed to the acoustics of a big opera house than to the intimacy of a voice studio, where sheer volume can sound alarming - not at all like the smaller-scaled, lighter voices on contemporary CD's (like Cecilia Bartoli's or, worse, Andrea Bocelli's). Big voices also take longer to mature, and by the time they do, those lucky enough to possess them may be considered too old to get a foot in the door. Many competitions, for example, are open only to those in their early 30's or younger.

If you are a singer, a teacher of singers or the head of a music program you must read the whole article. How can we accommodate the singer that might slip through the cracks of our late 20th C model of vocal training? How can we encourage unique artists that are not just singing technicians?


Lyne Fortin said...

Big voices at 20 years old are impossible to manage, but it is now the age medias are favoring and opera company are trying to get more subscritpions in telling their audiences that younger and new is the best thing. If people keep treating voices like disposable technologies (iphone 4 now is absolutly necessary to have a life), talents will indeed die before they have time to grow and bloom. Trained singer of great qualities will watch kids destroy themselves, twrirling their thumbs. AND, worst, their will be lots of unexperienced new teachers with no careers, and no clue.

Elizabeth McDonald said...

I would love to have you flesh out your ideas about the inexperienced new teachers because I believe your ideas have a point in our current culture!

Hilary Knox said...

Great post. Its something I talk about almost every day with singers facing a wall around this. Thanks for the conversation starter!

Elizabeth McDonald said...

Glad you read this...I was going to forward it to you anyway in light of our recent chat!

Any specific thoughts from a Canadian perspective?

From the voice of....