Learning advanced singing for free


Recently, I traced my singing lineage back to Niccola Antonia Porpora who lived from 1686-1766. The lineage goes like this. One of Porpora’s students was Giovanni Ansani. Ansani taught Manuel Garcia I. Garcia I taught Pauline Viardot. Viardot taught Anna Schoen-René. Schoen-René taught Lucie Manén. Manén taught my teacher, Beatrice Webster. Beatrice Webster also taught Isabel Cunningham who took me through my masters.

Fortunately, many singing teachers from this lineage have written singing books or memoirs. These writings are available for free on the internet. (I am not sure if Ansani wrote singing books but Domenico Corri and Isaac Nathan fill that gap wonderfully).

These writings are assisting me to rebuild/advance my singing technique in order to sing coloratura arias from the 19th Century. Coloratura arias from the 19th Century are a great way to rebuild technique, advance technique and refresh the voice. Most of this repertoire is available for free. 

Early Gramophone recordings also incredible teachers, also available on the internet for free. Imitation is an excellent way to learn advanced opera singing techniques but only if one is trained in music, only if one is imitating an excellent performer and only if one realises that anybody can sing that way. In other words, the voice is not the problem. The technique is.

My focus currently is on top notes. I want to work my way up to a top F at 440HZ. Effortless top notes can only be achieved by the study of the Old Italian School. Amelita Galli-Curci is possibly my favourite soprano for top notes along with the wonderful Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. I also adore La Stupenda. I love watching her sing and am trying to imitate her ‘ventriloquist’ style of singing. (Dame Kiri is perfect at this too and I have no doubt Galli-Curci would have demonstrated this if we had a video of her today!). Watching La Stupenda on You Tube is free.

Below is an example of the progress I am making on Una Voce Poco Fa – all made by using free resources. The top notes are appearing in the head voice without comprising a rich middle and the chest voices on the low notes. Sometimes they are a little too tentative (better that than shrieking) and sometimes I miss them. The reason? The approaching notes are out of tune. Top notes can only be achieved if every note before is perfectly in tune. Galli-Curci sings, on the recordings, perfectly in tune.

It is painstaking work to record oneself on the iPhone and then listen back to work out where the problem was but, on the bright side, making a recording of ourselves is another great teacher available to us – and it is free. Every note I utter now is recorded and critiqued. An advantage of recording everything and listening back in 3 minute sessions is to provide constant micro-rest throughout a day’s practice. Another advantage is these recordings can be sent to a colleague for peer review. This is also free. We should all help each other. Lilli Lehmann recommended this in her book ‘How to Sing’.

Another great teacher is the subconscious. My plan is to learn Una Voce Poco Fa and then put it down for a month. Recently, I picked up ‘O luce di quest’anima’ after a month’s rest. It had improved by allowing time for the subconscious to work. It is now ready for me to add more difficult cadenzas and to try to imitate Tettrazini’s show off top notes in the repeat passage (a little un-musical but very showy). The subconscious is free.

This brings me to the point of today’s blog. The best singing teachers for an advanced operatic singer are free.

Recording made on iPhone of progress on top notes.
Recording made on iPhone of progress on top notes.

Published by Deborah Wai Kapohe

I am a classical singer and guitarist. I have created a project called 'The Lilli Lehmann Project'. The project, lasting from 2020 until 2023, aims to refresh my voice and prepare me to be a singing teacher. The scope of the project is that I am studying Lilli Lehmann's singing book, bibliography, recordings and her reviews, as well as other historical vocal pedagogy. I have chosen this platform in order to blog about my discoveries, demonstrate techniques and exercises, and perform pieces of music. I have done so because I wish to be transparent. I think that if a student is prepared to learn from me then I should stand up to public scrutiny.

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