Return to site

| in C |
An Attempt to Explain the Impossible

Sang the best hi C of my career today. So easy. 

Singing in this recent Spoleto USA season gave me an amazing insight on how to put together what a few mentors have been teaching me over the past few years. Efficiency of sound. 

It really clicked-in a few days ago, but I was still nervous to take it public. Regardless I had no choice. 

It was time to audition for West Bay Opera. This morning's warm-up began the same old way I had -for years and years- begun my singing regimen... Some light OOO's, a few Mi-mi-Miiis and lip trills.

--where one sings a scale, but keeps the mouth closed and sustains the B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b with the lips like one would blowing bubbles-- 

See, I haven't really warmed up using the new Super-Tuscan technique, but for a couple times. It really has been a learn by doing thing. I had a coaching with the director Andrea Cigni, who gave some very quick diction coaching to me as we rehearsed "Pia de Tolomei." His suggestion was to brighten and firm up my Italian vowels.  This was also put to me by one of my coaches in LA, Catherine Miller, so it wasn't new territory...


The point they make is that American singers have flat vowels. Not bright enough. The word "Della" for instance with Americans is usually sung Dehla, like Ella for fella. In the Super-Tuscan ( I like to call it) pronunciation it's more Deella(?) Seriously, I don't know how to write it. There's definitely an "E" in there, but it's super-bright. 


...AAnnnyway, this 45minute coaching really was a game changer for me. I practiced my new diction before I went on stage during performances. In such a short role I didn't know that it would have such an impact on my technique going forward until I began singing through my rep for this audition. 


I really focused on those long energetic bright vowels. Edgardo's "Fra Poco" was a fun sing. Not really a challenging aria for me until the very end B, which I can always hit, but it had never been that exciting for me. This day... it was like "Whoah!" 


I sang "Che gelida" from La Bohème and after singing this standard for more years than many of you would like to know (Arias = single track events), I was puzzled at how truly easy it was. Easy. Like... easy. This aria and that word have never been in my dialogue as referring to the same subject. Like "Wow, Che gelida is easy." Never. 


"Maybe", I thought, "I ended up in the wrong key."  Sure enough, wrong key. "AHA!" 

Sang it again. My voice was scratchy from having laryngitis the month before, bu not tired. I hadn't really sung full-out operatically in quite some time, so I could allow for some growing pains. Still... Singing the piece again...


Song and High note? 







*The only other time I sing and feel like I'm basically indestructible is when I am going to get sick the next day. It's an established fact in my life. There are times when I sing and nothing can stop me, but like a clock, the next day I am sick and my voice is toast*

So... I stopped, hoping that what was going on, at least my voice wouldn't be overtired while I sang with the inevitable cold what surely was coming..


Next day... No cold. Still with my voice getting scratchy I took the day and did vocal rest. 


We travelled up to the audition, hooking up in a nice, inexpensive hotel near the new Apple Campus.

Slept like crap last night, but what else is new? 


Traveling over the the West Bay Opera building was a 20 minute drive. I left early enough to be able to warm up a bit in the car and have a little time to finish while there, wherever there was a space. 

As I wrote above, I began warming up in the same old way... But it really wasn't doing the trick. What the HELL!? I shut up for five minutes and restarted. 

I felt like the efficiency with the new adjustment was better. But how did I get to it from a cold start? I restarted my warm up focusing on the Super-Tuscan brightness and not pushing out much volume. ..there it was. And oddly... it was hella-loud. I could feel so much more sound emanating from me, while basically singing I don't know... half-ish? 


I really cannot write that everything was perfect in the audition. But the Che gelida... It was something. It was easy. The economy singing those singing bold bright Italian vowels brings makes my voice work less and gives me a good deal more endurance. My legato line is more fluid and the lyrics can be more supple in their delivery. 


Also Importantly I'm not tired. The end of the aria, once just a nice thing, is now a different animal, with the high C being a real zenith. 


I think. 

I think this is how it's supposed to work. And If it is truly the case. I am truly hopeful the work could keep coming, and in a way that is sustainable. Time will tell.