The importance of transparency in teaching singing

Luisa Tetrazzini

The country is overrun with inferior teachers in singing: men and women, who have failed to get before the public, turn to teaching without any practical experiences, ruining many good voices.

Luisa Tetrazzini, The Art of Singing, quoted in Denes Striny, Great Singers: An Endangered Species – How to get back to Mother Nature, page 13

This month marks the completion of the first year of my three year project called “The Lilli Lehmann Project’; the purpose of which is to prepare myself to teach singing.

One of the steps towards becoming a singing teacher, I believe, is to be ‘before the public’. In other words, to be transparent. Accordingly, today’s post is a critique of my performance in this SoundCloud of a 19th Century Arietta written by the great guitarist, Mauro Giuliani. In the 19th Century, thousands of songs were written for the combination of voice and guitar. This Arietta is number 3 of 6.

The guitar is a perfect accompaniment because the singer can focus on beauty of sound rather than volume. In other words, Bel Canto.

Here is the SoundCloud (you may need to go to my website to hear this, I don’t think SoundCloud plays in the post delivered to your email):

Here are my criticisms…

Good, Bad and Ugly…

Here are my criticisms…

GOOD: I like the use of ornamentation and use of messa di voce throughout.

BAD: I don’t like that the voice is a tad too heavy. The test would be whether or not I could sing the Sei Ariette in one sitting and feel nothing in the throat. I think I would feel tired at the end and, therefore, this is not correct singing. I may update this post once I have learnt the Sei Ariette and have had a chance to test my theory.

UGLY: I detest the presence of a few scooping/throaty attacks. This is not stylistic and not good for the voice.

How to fix this…

  1. Focus on a clean onset at all times.
  2. Tidy up the Italian, this will help to lighten the voice (i.e. introduce more upper harmonics).
  3. Sing once through with a pencil in my mouth to avoid opening my mouth too wide. This will achieve a lighter sound, as well as a sound that carries further with less effort.
  4. Remind myself that this is an early 19th Century arietta. In other words, treat the interpretation with a classical approach rather than a romantic approach.

Finally, I leave you with a playlist of Luisa Tetrazzini. Listen to her onsets! Perfection! And her Italian – bright and light! (Not the heavy and dark sound we are becoming accustomed to in modern singing).

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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