Theatre & Opera Magazine

The Art of Singing (for Tenors) Part 2

Posted on the 29 June 2011 by Pinkall @pinkall
Aria #2 - Pour mon ame

So, this trio wouldn't be complete without Pour mon ame - famed for its 9 high C's.  Here is a clip of one of the most famous singers in the world today, Juan Diego's a short aria; you should listen to it all.
Besides the obvious high notes, this is a great show of technique.  There is actually a large community of opera fans that do not care for Juan Diego's voice.  He lacks depth and is considered to have somewhat of a small voice compared to most tenors.  But I would argue that he has probably the greatest technique of most any singer alive today.
There's not much we can do to change our voice.  We can cover and mask it with muscles in our mouth and throat and change its timbre (how it sounds), but that all causes tension and stress.  And to sing 9 high C's, you cannot have much tension.  Actually, to sing 9 high C's well, you cannot have much tension.  The less tension/physical stress you make, the better your vocal health is, and most importantly, the better you are at maximizing the potential of your voice.
There have been great singers however that use a lot of tension - most any pop singer you can think of.  That is what makes it sound like pop music and the same thing goes with all the other styles of singing.  However, that is not how we approach the highest art of the voice.  Anyone can sing with tension and bad habits; it is mightily impressive when someone can take that away and sing free.  But with that said, let's see how others fare.

Andrea Bocelli - He certainly has potential in his voice, however he has significant trouble with this aria.  The biggest reason for this has little to do with his high notes, but rather his vowels fall way back (not resonant) as he is manipulating his sound to appear more mature - he ends up pumping his way through and probably was a little hoarse after singing it.  That's never a good thing.  Also, he always covers his neck, but I bet if we could see it, the veins would be popping out and you would be able to tell that he stretches his chin out, literally stretching his vocal chords to make a high sound.  That's quite a lot of tension.

Rockwell Blake - This recording will make most opera singers throw up.  A good kind of throw up.  No one can argue that this is a very impressive example of this aria.  Blake is known for his power and perhaps that got the best of him in his career.  It ended sooner than most, probably because of the years of powering through things like this.  He will say in his masterclasses that most of his power came from his abs, pumping the air through his very gifted vocal instrument.  He kept the throat relaxed and used his air to support the sound. This technique is called appoggio - and most of the greatest tenors practiced it.
Appoggio literally means "to lean" in Italian - to me, I think of it as if someone's fist is pushing my gut in.  I resist their fist when I inhale as my body fills with air from the bottom of my rib cage.  An easy way to think about it is when you see a bunch of dancers finish a routine and you see them in their final pose smiling with jazz hands, but their chest is radically moving up and down because they're out of breath - this is a bad example of appoggio breathing.  Instead, it is the idea that most will find when you lay on your back on your bed and watch your belly move up and down as you breathe.  It is not necessary to force your belly out like your pregnant with a food baby, it should be more natural than that.
If you can get that down, you will have a great chance at letting yourself sing with significantly less stress - and don't forget the proper resonance either - and you will surely be on your way to being a great tenor!
If you are in the mood to watch a Normal Joe have his luck at this aria, let's hear what Lithuania's Got Talent, has to offer...
That's not all...this brings us to the last aria.  More to come tomorrow...

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