• THINGS WE LOVE: ReDefine hosted by Tamara Lackey

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Cdrw » 20. Jul, 2014

. I learn a lot about singing, and a lot about srpoput while moving. She also had me tie my hands behind my back when singing super dramatic music. They weren’t tightly tied, but the tying held them near my body. Her goal was to remove from me that false sence of drama we have all seen on the opera stage eternal swimming motions. Even Wagner wrote about how he hated that empty nothing set of movements that singers do. I knew why singers did them; the idea that by moving the arms outward in those swimming motions they were reminding themselves of the need to expand their srpoput/appoggio muscles. But like my teacher pointed out: do that too often and it becomes a meaningless bunch of nothing. Just as standing on your tiptoes to read high notes is silly (and mostly done by tenors, I must add). I had to express emotions without the use of my hands, and without all those silly swimming motions. It was hard, for she would have me sing the exact same line of music (it could be anything but was often some coloratura music where singers usually don’t worry about emotions at all, just getting the notes). She played the accompaniment all different ways: happily, dramaticly, tragicly, with great seduction, etc. I had to match the emotion with my voice, and in music that on the surface has no emotion, let alone any real words (only one syllable of a word). Again, I would have bolted were I not sure that she would not misguide me in what I as doing. There was always a purpose behind what she was doing. Finally, I was allowed to sing a very dramatic piece, hands untied, and suddenly I KNEW what everything was about. I moved my arms, yes, but only when they had something to add to what I was singing. Movements became very selective. Emotions were in the voice. The violence of Abigaile’s outrage were easy, for I knew HOW to create them in the voice correctly, and where to add a movement to accentuate the words. During my career, I have had many opportunities to use what she taught me, and to use my srpoput well no matter what I was doing on stage. I learned that when singing Mimi (La Boheme) in the dying scene, you are laying down. You have to sing some super emotional music, and at times, raise yourself only a little off your bed (the crunches certainly came in handy here). Without correct srpoput, you cannot do what is required. Also, you must emote all sorts of emotions, and the fact you are dying, without any real movement. It all has to come from within. Very early in my career, I sang Hansel a lot, and one is required to dance while singing (the opening scene with Gretel), pretend you are making brooms, pick strawberries, etc. Gretel has to do the same and also make a wreath of flowers while laying on her stomach singing her little ditty about the mankin all dressed on brown. The running around the stage we see now really only cheapens the drama because too much is happening, and on a stage, one is too far from the audience to make all those fake acting movements seem true. They may work on TV, but not in theatre. Later I would sing the witch, and loved the role, and a few times actually had to FLY about the stage and over the audience on my broom. Often all that flying would start just prior to the place in the music where it would seem natural to start it, but dramatically it worked better to have the witch rise up to the roof, take her broom, and begin to circle the house while singing her little song. My training certainly came in handy here. In Macbeth, my teacher (who never sang the role herself on stage, but knew it well) had me pay attention to the movements I did in other scenes. We really worked with what the director had me doing when reading the letter, when singing Oh luce langue, and during the drinking song. Even after the murder of Duncan (which we paid super close attention to what was done), for all those events reappear in the sleepwalking scene. Fortunately, the director saw where I was going with all this and was really interested in making things work. Unlike a collegue of mine who sang the sleepwalking scene in bed pretending throughout the entire scene she was taking part in some sex orgie. She wasn’t in tune at all, and it affected her career (she really can sing the scene well, but with what she was asked to do by a very perverted director was criminal; people thought, and wrote, she had lost her voice, which was completely NOT true). We made sure the movements done during those pivital scenes were set apart, so that they stuck in the audience’s mind. Very little movement was done. When the sleepwalking scene occurred, people could see exactly when she was talking about blood on her hands, and when she was reliving events of the past. It was in this experience I learned how movements can bind the story together. Sadly, few directors ever think to any extent, that is beyond trying to make some silly statement about things in their own personal lives we would all rather not be aware of, and using their productions of operas as an outlet to show their own issues to the world. And totally ignoring the story, and having no respect for the words. I have sung in many productions (all because at the beginning of my career I had not learned to say NO) that would have been the end of my voice, were it not for the work I did with my teacher learning to srpoput the voice in all conditions, and in any contortion imaginable. When she demanded I do all those things, I was certain she had lost it. I never saw Sutherland sing that way. I never saw Callas move like that (and I did see Callas sing a few times; she was an incredible actress, but unlike people think, she seldom moved at all on stage; she did what was required by the libretto, but other than that, her movements were very sparce, and the economy of her movements is what made them so telling; one was rivitted by what one saw and heard, everything tied into the whole, but you were not confused by business, there was a stillness, a powerful stillness in what she did; her violent movements calling forth the furies in Medea were so shocking, so primitive, so powerful, yet so filled with economy; she struck the floor with her fists only so many times, one strike less the emotion would have been lost, one strike more and it would have been too much; I don’t know how to express it, but there was no ranting and raving like people think in her acting, but it was not just standing there and singing either; things were such that even the slightest tilt of her head did more to turn the events of the story than all the running and rushing about we see today could possibly do). I was ready for silly directors. But I also knew how to fill the stage with the slighest movement of my little finger. All that came from these exercises she did with me, exercises I thought were over the top and silly. They were an eternal gold mine. So, when students work with a teacher, if they demand some strange things like this, but you SEE YOUR VOICE IMPROVE AND BECOME EASIER TO USE (I say that, because if the voice is becoming unmanageable, then you are not learning good things, you voice is getting ruined; my voice only improved, and I learned that many scenes that were extremely difficult to sing suddenly became easy to sing when I knew what movement fit the intent behind the words and the music), stick with them, you may be surprised at what you learn.