Culture Magazine

Fached Up - Opera in Chicago

By Pinkall @pinkall
I had a coaching with Maestro Joe Mechavich yesterday.  I was pretty excited and went in warmed up.  Confidently, I sang "Dies Bildniss" from Mozart's Magic Flute...in my slightly new technique.  It went well, there were some small mistakes, but I felt like it went fine.  Well, the maestro was not too impressed.  He normally is a very funny person, however very sarcastic - that's what makes him funny.  He noticed some pitch problems - something I have embarrassingly have had problems with.  It's not that I sang the wrong note, it's that I am singing the correct note slightly flat or sharp.  It is difficult for me to hear the differences since to me my voice, when it is full, sounds a lot different than what it appears to others in the audience.  I have had to rely on feeling, as do many opera singers.  Well, I just wasn't concentrating enough, and I should have been more careful.
We talked for a long time about careers in opera and what I should be doing and what I should be singing for auditions.  It was a welcome talk in that regard because he was saying things that I have been considering for awhile.  My voice right now with this technique fits into the leggiero fach, that is what I feel most comfortable with, and that is the type of stuff that I should be offering in my auditions - not the tenor favorites of Verdi and Puccini - even though I love them.  
A fach (rhymes with Bach) is a German word that describes the categories that opera singers use to classify their voices.  Even though I'm a tenor, there are many types of tenors, and opera roles are separated by these types.  Generally, opera companies will hire singers who fit that role.  Obviously it sounds funny in English - the plural of fach is Fächer (the umlaut a sounds like the e in bet).  In the opera world, when a singer is singing in the wrong fach (singing something too high or heavy for their voice) we say that they are "fached up".  Obviously making light of a common saying...but it's true - it can be the end of your career if you sing things that your body isn't intended to sing.
Besides looking funny here's the rundown on the types of tenor voice fächer, some characteristics, and an audio example - and by the way, all the audio examples are awesome!
TYPES O' TENORS
Leggiero Tenor - (Leh-djeh-ro) light voice, agile, capable of performing difficult acrobatic passages
Example: Count Almaviva from The Barber of Seville
Lyric Tenor - bright and full, but not heavy
Example: Rodolfo from La Boheme

Spinto Tenor - (speen-toh) full, rich, and bright, but allows the voice to be pushed louder in dramatic parts
Example: Cavaradossi from Tosca
Dramatic Tenor - powerful, ringing, and heroic with baritone-like qualities
Example: Canio from Pagliacci

Heldentenor - richest, darkest, most powerful voice needed to sing over a large orchestra
Example: Lohengrin from Lohengrin
I feel at times that my previous technical thoughts have been taking me toward a heavier fach - so I have been putting heavier arias in my audition package.  However, the maestro thought that was just crazy.  Especially moving towards a brighter sound, I should be only offering material that I could possible sing professionally.  For goodness sake, I will never be hired to sing a Wagner opera.
Of course over time, many voices will change fachs as their voice matures.  But for right now, I think I will just stay really close to Mozart and sing the light stuff.
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Anyway, as for the next couple of days, I will be singing the tenor favorite O Sole Mio tomorrow in a concert.  That should be a lot of fun!  Also, I know that I promised to write about the opera business this time, but as I am at the library, I forgot to bring my note pad that has a lot of the information that I was going to use.  So, I will save that for the next post...

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