Tips for Cherubino’s aria “Voi che sapete”

Here is the process I have followed today to locate a shiny sound for Cherubino’s aria. I would like Cherubino to sound youthful. Accordingly, I am looking for that old fashioned bright Italian sound. I will add to this post over the next month or so until the aria is complete.

The word ‘piu’ is a handy word for finding the sound needed for this aria. The ‘p’ keeps the placement light and the mouth small. The ‘i’ adds in the width (brightness) while the ‘u’ adds in the depth (mellowness and access of head voice)
Sing the voice consonants on pitch, fully resonant and with a relaxed expression
Line up the vowels so they all resonate within the ‘u’ sound. (Sing ‘piu’ again if you get stuck)
Sing sharp. This develops the tendency to approach from ‘above’ rather than scooping up to the note.
Put it all together, phrase by phrase.

Tuning the semitones. Semitones are different ‘sizes’. Some are ‘bigger’ than others.
Here is a nasal close in slow motion. You do this on a double vowel. First consonant is nasal then the next consonant is full resonance. This is the word ‘donne’. You can read more in Lilli Lehmann’s book ‘How to Sing’ and also I posted on this in my blog.
I put this phrase together but I am not happy because the ‘d’ is not on pitch. There is a scoop upwards. I am also not happy because the voice is too full. I want a youthful Cherubino and this Cherubino is beginning to sound like a Granny.
Now the ‘d’ is on pitch but the phrase is beginning to sound laboured so lets move onto the next phrase for now…
Here is the word ‘quello’ sung very slowly. The q and w should be sung before the beat. The u lands on the beat. The u vowel gives us a beautiful mellow sound so don’t move too far away from that to sing the e. The double l gives us another nasal close. First l is nasal and the second is full resonance. This allows the word to be heard better.
This phrase needs a springboard from the pro of provo. The pro should have imposto and a little messa di voce to create a springboard. I make a terrible scoop on the v. Don’t do that!
Here you can hear another scoop on the last note and even worse, I am closing my mouth slightly on the last o which distorts it. This should NOT be done!
I have fixed the last o but not the scooping… the scooping has to be fixed…but lets move on…
Need to make a springboard out of the ca of capir by adding a touch of imposto and messa di voce
Here is an example of no legato. No tying of one note to the other.
The way to help achieve a legato is to practice a vibrazione on every note.
Here I am adding in a more lyric quality to darken the ‘gelo’ and also, yay, I add in the chest. All of those days trying to be Beyonce didn’t go completely to waste…
We are now up to the middle of the piece. Now we can have fun. Here is the use of the two voice characters to colour the phrases. First the light quality and then the lyric.
I sing this slowly and then faster so show the series of nasal close. The difficulty of this passage is the series of nasal close, not the crossing of the two registers. If the nasal close are right the registers will naturally fall into place. Remember, with the nasal close the first of the double consonants is nasal & the second is with full resonance. Because you are crossing different pitches put the nasal on the pitch prior and the full resonant consonant on the new pitch. This passage must be sung slowly before attempted at speed.
Think of the top notes here so that you don’t droop. If you droop onto the lower notes they will go flat and it will be darn difficult to climb out!
Here I have exaggerated the rolled r. This should be practiced in isolation to make sure it is rolled on pitch or you will sing off key! Also, the roll makes sure the singing is on the breath support. In fact, the voiced consonants are terrific for making sure you are singing with the breath support. Breath support is gentle. It is not forcing the air through but it is not floppy either so if you have a lovely resonant consonant you are off to a great start!
Here the first two breaths I took are correct. They are silent. The second two are incorrect because you can hear them.
Here is the end of the piece. Try to vary it from the first time it was sung. Can you sing it softer? Louder? With a different tone colour?
Now here is the entire piece. This time we are looking for shapes. Looking for shapes usually takes a performance or two. Remember to put on your metronome!

Voi Che Sapete – further blog post

I am continuing this post in a separate blog post because I notice the information is too much for one page. Please look at my more recent post to see a comparison of different versions…

Peter Dawson

Peter Dawson, (31 January 1882 – 27 September 1961), Australian Baritone.

Australia produces fine singers. Today’s blog post features the singing of, Australian Baritone, Peter Dawson. It is obvious, by listening, that Peter Dawson, born in Adelaide in 1882, was trained in the Old Italian Method of Singing to produce Bel Canto. Dawson’s sound quality is dark. His attack is clean, intonation secure, legato pure, agility without fault and diction faultless.

We are so lucky to have access to Dawson’s singing which could be used by teachers of singing as the ‘goal post’ for singing in general, and, specifically, singing in English. In this respect, I am very glad to have discovered Dawson’s recordings for both my students and improvement of myself.

Here is a playlist of Peter Dawson’s singing and, below, an example of his teacher’s singing.

Peter Dawson studied with, Englishman, Sir Charles Santley. Sir Charles recorded only a few songs and arias at the end of his career. However, his voice remained fresh – one of the tell-tale signs of good technique! Here is an example of his singing. Examples such as this could be used by teachers of singing as a ‘reminder’ of the Old Italian School of Singing. The power of this example may be enhanced by reading Sir Charles Santley’s books on singing and his memoirs.

Una Voce Poco Fa…

Gioachino Rossini 1792 – 1868

Everyone knows it, and most lovers of the old school of Italian singing adore it. Yet how few, even of the cleverest vocalists of to-day, can sing it really well!

Herman Klein, Herman Klein and the Gramophone, The recording of Una Voce, page 66

Listening to the finest examples of Bel Canto and learning how to critically engage with the examples is essential for developing one’s ear for the Old Italian School. In the Spotify Playlist below are four of five examples that Klein compares in his article ‘The Recording of Una Voce‘. Klein’s critique gives us insight into the performance of this aria. I suggest you listen to the four recordings and then read pages 66 – 68 of Herman Klein and the gramophone : being a series of essays on the Bel canto (1923), the Gramophone and the Singer (1924-1934), and reviews of new classical vocal recordings (1925-1934), and other writings from the Gramophone. (You can locate this book on Internet Archive to borrow).

Equalization of the scale downwards

Let it here be noted that Lilli Lehmann’s was one of those voices known as a “soprano sfogato,” having in the head register a thin yet ethereal quality which she used to bring down into the medium as well, until it dropped naturally and often suddenly into the chest tone. This equalization of the scale downwards explained her ability to sing for long periods without fatigue and also to undertake the heaviest as well as the lighter soprano roles. Thus her coloratura was exceptionally smooth and brilliant, whilst at the same time she could declaim to perfection the most dramatic of Mozart’s recitatives. She was thus directly in the line of Jenny Lind, Tietjens and Ilma di Murska, and happily equipped to illustrate in an enduring form the art which they practised so superbly…

Herman Klein, The Liili Lehmann Records (Herman Klein and the Gramophone).

Today’s post is about the importance of training daily to bring your head voice downwards. This was the way I was trained by Beatrice Webster and Isabel Cunningham. Beatrice was as a student of Lucie Manen. Accordingly, we are talking here, via via, about the same school.

The daily technique I have demonstrated on the technique page of this website should be understood in this paradigm. I was not taught to shove the breath through and focus on the middle voice. No. I was taught to caress the glottis, stream the air efficiently and focus on bringing the head voice downwards. This is why my voice has not been destroyed by my broad repertoire in the past and years of not singing at all because I was reading law! My gratitude goes to my teachers.

When I sing a single tone I can give it much more power, much more palatal or nasal resonance, than I could give in a series of ascending tones. In a musical figure I must attack the lowest note in such a way that I can easily reach the highest. I must, therefore, give it much more head tone than the single tone requires.

Lilli Lehmann, How to Sing.

You need the head voice/ head tone for the equalization of your voice. It is your warmth. Projection. Longevity. Colour. Flexibility. Below is a demonstration of an exercise on ‘i’. It is difficult to hear the volume because my iPhone condenses everything but sing the exercise ‘pp’. Use this exercise to soar upwards with an ethereal quality then bring the ethereal quality downwards. In addition, do what Lilli Lehmann says to do in the quote above.

The ‘i’ exercise is excellent for bringing your head tones downwards. I also use the ‘ng’ exercise for this as well. These exercises are how I begin my daily practice. I sing pianissimo and start in the upper part of my voice. The chest will always be there. It is the head voice and all of its benefits that so easily vanishes!

Always think this way. The way Lilli Lehmann describes in the quote above. Every exercise, every phrase, every moment.

‘i’ exercise sung pp to bring your head voice / head tones downwards – Deborah Wai Kapohe
Ng is a great exercise to bring your head voice /head tones downwards – Deborah Wai Kapohe

The purpose of my project – what I have fondly named ‘The Lilli Lehmann Project’ – is to use Lilli Lehmann as a point of reference. I will not be solely referring to her, as you can probably guess from my other blog posts which refer to other Historical Vocal Pedagogy. Accordingly, I checked Hermann Klein’s book. Hermann Klein was a student of Manuel Garcia. On Page 37, Klein teaches the blending of the registers and equalization of tones. Klein says to do what Lilli Lehmann did and what I was shown by my teachers. He has this to say.

…the student is required as soon as possible to become familiar with head tone, and be able to attack it with ease and certainty. It should be sung lightly, not fortissimo, or even forte; with abundant breath support, with a somewhat open throat, and a distinct sensation of resonance upon the front teeth, the hard palate, and in the “forward” cavities of the masque.

Hermann Klein, The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method Based upon the Famous School of Manuel Garcia, page 37.

May I be clear that equalization is not only about blending the two registers until they sound as one. Equalization, just like on a music player, whether it be your iPhone, car stereo etc, is about playing around with tonal colours until your voice sounds balanced. Refer to my past post on voice characters where I demonstrate the light coloratura, lyric and dramatic qualities.

Here is an example. The light coloratura quality can easily sound hollow if there is not enough imposto.

Below is an example whereby my sound was lacking the imposto. I recorded it on my iPhone. It sounded hollow so I sang the F scale for half an hour trying to balance the sound. I began the scale at the top and sang downwards adding the imposto. Here is a before and after example. Even though my voice was tired for the last version, I think the sound is better equalized.

This version of La Serenata needs the imposto to balance the bright sound. My sound at the moment sounds hollow.
I sang a scale in the same key as the piece of music a few times to equalise the voice. Adding in the imposto.
Even though my voice was becoming tired, you can hear the added imposto balances the bright sound creating the Light Coloratura quality I was aiming at for La Serenata. Singing the F scale a few times helped me to equalize the voice. Scales are vital, they expose everything.

Consonants – Oskar Guttmann

The starting point to introduce the various techniques required for singing consonants today is to choose a Cancone Solfeggio phrase and refer to Oskar Guttmann’s ‘Gymnastics for the Voice’. The majority of the techniques I blog about are for the classical voice. However, this blog is for every style. Every singer should be aware of how they produce their consonants.

Here is a demonstration of the first note. First, it is demonstrated with scooping (bad unless done consciously for effect). Then the consonant ‘m’ is practiced in isolation to make sure it is directly on pitch and resonant (good). Then the first note is sung again. This time there is no scooping (good).

Demonstration of how consonants should be isolated and practiced – Deborah Wai Kapohe

The ‘words’ of this solfeggio phrase are ‘mi fa sol do si mi do sol’. Let’s take a look at Oskar Guttmann’s page on consonants from his book ‘Gymnastics of the Voice’. We see the voiced consonants are m, l and do. These must all be on pitch. There are other techniques for the unvoiced consonants but they are not my focus today (but just as important).

Oskar Guttmann’s book ‘Gymnastics for the Voice’

Following on from my previous posts about voice characters, I decided to have some fun. Here is the Cancone phrase, first in the light coloratura quality and then the lyric and dramatic qualities. Interestingly, I didn’t treat the consonants the same way every time, something I will ponder upon in upcoming posts!

Light Coloratura version of Cancone – Deborah Wai Kapohe
Lyric version of Cancone – Deborah Wai Kapohe
Dramatic version of Cancone – Deborah Wai Kapohe

Finally, here is some music. This is the first phrase of ‘Regnava nel silenzio’. Referring again to Oskar Guttmann’s page above. The voiced consonants are r, the nasal n, v, n and l.

Opening phrase of Regnava nel Silenzio – Deborah Wai Kapohe

The Lilli Lehmann Project* – Light Coloratura

In a previous post, I demonstrated three voice characters: light coloratura quality, lyric quality and dramatic quality by referring to the lessons in Lucie Manen’s book ‘The Art of Singing’. Manen describes how to achieve the voice characters. She also wrote that Lilli Lehmann performed all three roles in The Tales of Hoffmann. In other words, Lehmann knew how to access the three voice characters.

Today, I focussed on applying the light coloratura quality to Donizetti’s ‘O luce di quest’anima’. Here are the opening phrases recorded on my iPhone. My guitar is tuned to 432HZ. Listening back, I can lighten up the quality a little more, add a touch more imposto on the middle range and address the occasional note that does not have the correct onset (the caress of the glottis I blogged about in an earlier post).

O luce di quest/anima sung in light coloratura quality – Deborah Wai Kapohe

Finally, here is a Spotify link to Donizetti’s ‘Ah, tardai troppo…o luce di quest’anima’ sung by Dame Joan Sutherland. Dame Joan, like Lilli Lehmann, was a Wagnerian Soprano. I love hearing Dame Joan’s voice light coloratura quality in this wonderful recording.

*These blogs are part of a three year project (2020-2023) to refresh my voice and prepare myself for teaching. I have called the three year project ‘The Lilli Lehmann Project’ because I am using Lilli Lehmann’s teachings, recordings and others’ writings about Lehmann as a point of reference.

Nasal Close

Lilli Lehmann writes “[t]he nasal close of itself brings a new color into the singing…the word is much more clearly intelligible…”.

Below is a demonstration of a Cancone solfeggio phrase. The first ‘sol la’ is sung without a nasal close and the second is with a nasal close.

Nasal Close on second ‘sol la’ Deborah Wai Kapohe

Can you hear the second ‘sol la’ is more colourful and also more intelligible?

Below is a further demonstration of the nasal close on the word ‘cammino’. The first is sung without a nasal close and the second with.

Cammino sung without nasal close and then with nasal close – Deborah Wai Kapohe

Did you hear that when I performed the nasal close I coloured the ‘i’ by adding a shade of ‘u’?

Now let us listen to me applying the nasal close to the word ‘cammino’ from a phrase in Liu’s aria.

Applying nasal close in Liu’s aria – Deborah Wai Kapohe

Can you hear the nasal close in the word ‘cammino’? And can you hear the colouring of the ‘i’ vowel? This adds pathos to the word.

Lilli Lehmann lamented she was the last to practice the nasal close, saying the nasal close is “a thing that no one teaches any longer, or knows or is able to do”. Sadly, this is almost the case. However, a beautiful example of the nasal close is by Montserrat Caballe when she sings Liu’s aria. Here is the Spotify Link. If you subscribe to Spotify you can hear her sing the entire aria. Nasal close after nasal close. Beautiful! But, even if you only play this little snippet below, listen carefully. Can you hear one?

Voice Characters

In previous blogs, I have demonstrated starting the note from the larynx mechanism, the pharynx, the nasal and the imposto. Here is a chance to put these ideas together to create three different voice characters. To achieve this, I have followed Lucie Manen’s book ‘The Art of Singing’ and recalled the teachings of the late Beatrice Webster.

Lucie Manen writes that Lilli Lehmann was able to sing all three characters in The Tales of Hoffmann! Accordingly, I will explore this in my studies too. Today, I am beginning with the three qualities – the Light Coloratura, the Lyric and the Dramatic – sung on ‘a’.

Light Coloratura quality demonstrated by Deborah Wai Kapohe
Lyric quality demonstrated by Deborah Wai Kapohe
Dramatic quality demonstrated by Deborah Wai Kapohe

Below is an example of ‘Una Voce Poco Fa’. What is remarkable in this example is that the Great Singer, Amelita Galli-Curci, could sing also lyric and dramatic soprano. Here she is demonstrating her incredible ability as a coloratura soprano.

The extreme attractiveness of Mme. Galli-Curci’s Una Voce…lies in its all-round merit. The rich, satisfying timbre, the essentially Italian quality of the voice, easily produced and managed with rare, unfailing skill, strikes the listener at once.

Herman Klein, Herman Klein and the Gramophone, Page 68.

Another example of voice characters. This example of Dame Joan Sutherland singing ‘Ah, tardai troppo…O luce di quest’anima’ captures the youth of the character so beautifully.

Here is my first attempt at singing Donizetti’s aria. I call this a work in progress because my voice is still too heavy (not light coloratura quality). Accordingly, combined with a loss of support near the end leading to the dreaded press and loss of head voice, caused a crash onto the top D. Never mind. We know the cause. Now fix it!

The loss of support here near the end caused the dreaded press which in turn led to a loss of head voice on the Cadenza and a woeful end to the piece!

Lucie Manen exercises demonstrated

Here are some demonstrations of techniques from pages 26 until 31 of Lucie Manen’s book ‘The Art of Singing’. On a previous blog, I demonstrated the onset of the note using the larynx mechanism. Here is a demonstration of the onset using both the larynx mechanism and, the main resonator, the pharynx mechanism.

Starting the note using the pharynx – Deborah Wai Kapohe

Manen writes ‘[a’n essential component of the Bel Canto technique is the exploitation of the upper respiratory tract. Manen writes ‘…the Imposto mechanism cannot by itself generate tone production..the larynx can produce a note without involving the Imposto…but, once the Imposto mechanism is initiated it will function simultaneously with the mechanism of the larynx in tone-production.’

Here is a demonstration of the start of the note from the Imposto.

Starting the note from the imposto – Deborah Wai Kapohe

Manen writes ‘the naso-pharynx, are used as resonators for the Imposto, the secondary mechanism of tone production. Here is a demonstration of some exercises to develop nasal resonance. By developing nasal resonance you can then access the Imposto. I have added the word ‘sing’ in at the end because ‘ng’ is difficult for some people to grasp.

H before m, n and ng to avoid larynx becoming dominant

Below is an example of what you don’t want – humming started from the larynx – and what you do want – humming started from the imposto. By now you will say. But hey. You just said that to develop the imposto need to develop nasal but now you say you have to start the nasal from the imposto. Yes. That is correct. Singing is round and round in circles. Another example of going round and round in circles is when your teacher tells you “you need to breathe well to sing well and then turns around and says you need to sing well to breathe well”.

To help you develop your humming starting from the imposto have another go at the exercise above. Use ‘h’ before the nasal consonant. Below are two examples, one wrong and one right.

Example of what you don’t want – humming started from the larynx – Deborah Wai Kapohe
Example of what you do want – humming started from the imposto – Deborah Wai Kapohe

FInally, Manen discusses head resonance. Head voice – or head resonance – is a brilliant sound. It gives warmth and beauty. Here is one of many exercises to develop the head voice. My poor old iPhone doesn’t cope too well with these recordings but you may hear there is a brilliance to the sound. Head voice gives the voice carrying power. You don’t need to push the voice if you can access the head voice. You will also last a lot longer in the singing business than singers who push and shove.

An exercise to develop the head voice – Deborah Wai Kapohe

Finally, I finish with a picture of Lilli Lehmann because these blog posts are part of my three year project, called ‘The Lilli Lehmann Project’. The project goal is that I prepare myself for becoming a responsible singing teacher using her book ‘How to Sing’ as a point of reference.

Lilli Lehmann


Classical Singing is not just about being able to sing loud and soft. Classical Singing is about being able to sing with different tone colours and shades of intensity.

Here is the opening phrase of a Cancone solfeggio. Solfegii and vocalise are vital for training singers. I will be demonstrating a lot of solfegii and vocalise over the next three years.

Before you listen to my brief demo of the opening of a Cancone solfeggio below, please note that to learn to sing Bel Canto requires the mastery of the happy surprise breath. Lucie Manen in ‘The Art of Singing’ and Esther Salaman in ‘Unlocking Your Voice’ describe how to perform this breath. (I demo this breath in one of my earlier posts.) You must also master the start of the note. (Again, refer to the singing books of Manen and Salaman). Bel Canto requires the mastery of starting the note with the caress of the glottis. I have demonstrated this on an audio file in one of my earlier posts.

Listen to my demonstration below of Cancone and then read and listen to the different techniques I used.

Cancone solfeggio – Deborah Wai Kapohe demonstration

Vowels. Learning to sing vowels isn’t as difficult as one thinks. Teachers can over complicate things by referring to ‘pure vowels’. Lilli Lehmann states that there are no pure vowels.

Below is a demonstration of the three exclamation vowels contrasted with their counterparts, the articulation vowels. Exclamation vowels are simply that. Exclamations that are natural to us. I have fun by exclaiming ‘a’ like I have discovered something wonderful, then ‘i’ like I have discovered something weird and then ‘u’ like I discovered something unbelievable. I then sing these exclamation vowels. In contrast, articulation vowels are the vowels we learn to use in speech. They are wonderful and limitless because we are all different. The challenge in singing is learning to blend vowels. For example, now that I listen to the Cancone again, I think I should have blended slightly more ‘u’ into the second top note. Or perhaps even just thought ‘u’.

Exclamation vowels followed by phonation vowels – Deborah Wai Kapohe demonstration

Nasal. Below is ‘ng’ followed by the same vowels as above (a, i and u) but with nasality added. This nasality was used in the demonstration of the Cancone above on the second F#. I thought the nasality gave the second F# a nice change in tone colour as well as more volume (Cancone indicated more volume on the score).

Ng followed by adding that nasality to vowels – Deborah Wai Kapohe demonstration

Singing soft and loud and everything in between. Below is messa di voce. It is not a good example because the diminuendo does not match the crescendo and my support is lacking. However, I have included it so that you can hear because bad examples are as useful for learning as good examples. Messa di voce was used in the Cancone also because a singer should never sing in one dynamic, whether it be one note or a phrase. Even individual notes should have messa di voce.

Messa di voce – flawed demonstration

Emphasising certain notes as well as creating springboards to fly up to the top notes. FInally, here is vibrazione on u. I exclaimed ‘u’ first then sang the vibrazione onto the exclamation vowels to keep my lips from wanting to form an articulation vowel. There is a little tiny vibrazione just before the first F# sung in head voice.

Vibrazione on exclamation u vowel – Deborah Wai Kapohe

I don’t have time for consonants today and didn’t think about them at all in the Cancone example above. However, I will be putting a lot of time into consonants over the next three years. Lilli Lehmann’s teachings are a great resource for studying consonants and they can make or break a legato vocal line.

%d bloggers like this: