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What pianists can learn from opera singers

Posted By: shirlkirsten

What pianists can learn from opera singers - 05/08/13 06:51 PM

This mezzo blew me away.. found amazing videos that applied to piano playing, nerves, breathing, etc.

Posted By: cefinow

Re: What pianists can learn from opera singers - 05/10/13 05:20 PM

Originally Posted by music32
This mezzo blew me away.. found amazing videos that applied to piano playing, nerves, breathing, etc.


Thanks. That was fascinating. I have been struggling with a certain Chopin nocturne and something in one single phrase of the "abbracciami" aria made me think "That's it!" Of course to work it out at the keyboard is another project but at least I had a clear idea. Then at this week's lesson my teacher said that was the best I had ever played anything for him (that nocturne). Then of course being typical Chopin it left me feeling that it was further away than ever. But anyway.

It’s interesting how this singer moves around while singing as if that helps her capture or embody a certain sound.

It reminds me of an anecdote from one of my former teacher’s voice students. (Teacher’s diploma is in piano performance, but most of her professional life was spent singing soprano roles and giving recitals.) One day after a piano lesson, my teacher showed me a CD of one of her former voice students and asked if I would like to listen. “Sure” (thinking oh dear, I will be embarrassed and have to suffer politely through an I’ve-always-wanted-to-record-a-CD amateur project). The voice I heard blew me away—very warm, plush, effortless high notes, and most of all strong and very consistent. “How did she not become a professional?” I asked. It was due to a certain emotional/physical fragility; a career in performance is not for everyone, especially with a late start in life.

My teacher said that this lady had no upper register when she started teaching her. I couldn’t believe it. Teacher said, “I knew there was something there, it just wasn’t coming out.” So one day she tried something different. She explained to the student what she had in mind. Then she got the lady to take her hands, and they danced around in circles in the teaching studio, just singing silly songs and squawking away, both of them being totally ridiculous. And then bingo, out came this superb clear high note that startled the student so much that she stopped in her tracks and looked stunned. My teacher wasn’t surprised at all. She knew there was a fine soprano voice in there. It just had to be physically knocked loose from whatever was keeping it earthbound, so it could sail away into the stratosphere…

Thanks again for posting this. I love seeing and listening to virtuosos from any field. I've been listening to a lot of Jimi Hendrix lately too. laugh
Posted By: DonaldLee

Re: What pianists can learn from opera singers - 05/11/13 04:35 PM

My answer is YES grin. I know that made no sense whatsoever, but we can learn so much for opera singers. You should really watch the whole Joyce DiDonato Juilliard masterclass.

I've learned that breathing during my playing deeply affects my phrasing. It helps the instrument sing.

I've learned that there always room to play with the timing of a piece.

I've learned that it's not necessary for the hands to always be playing in perfect time with each other (assuming that it's melody in one, and accompaniment in the other).

Donald Lee III
Posted By: Jeff Clef

Re: What pianists can learn from opera singers - 05/12/13 10:20 PM

"...Re: What pianists can learn from opera singers..."

...or any singer. The other day, I heard an interview with Barbra Streisand (on NPR's 'Fresh Air;' it may be available online), where she discussed her experience, as a very young performer, singing with Judy Garland on CBS TV's "The Judy Garland Show." This is not the time to recall how the producers stole all the money and left Judy, not only in the poorhouse, but being chased by the taxman; there are plenty of bios for learning such details. What Barbra remembered was the way the orchestra director, Mort Lindsey, was able to follow the singer, moving naturally with the breath, the phrasing, the feeling, the dynamics, and the natural drama and rhythm of the piece, including a killer wind-up and ending.

They played the song (actually a mashup of two pieces), and it was exactly true what she said about the musicians. It was wonderful work, and this on a song I didn't even particularly like--- though I still liked it a lot better than the rush-hour traffic I was tied up in.


The NPR web page locating the interview:

and the audio track of the interview:

"On her famous 1963 TV appearance with Judy Garland:

"I can remember it distinctly. ... She was holding my hand and I thought, 'Gee, she seems nervous.' At that time, I wasn't nervous. I was still very young, I think, about to do Funny Girl, and now, when I think back on it, I think, 'Oh, my God, I know exactly what she's feeling.' Or, you know, the fears. It's like, as you get older and people are kind of looking for you to fail more, I think — not people, not the audience — but, you know, critics or producers or whatever. And I just felt her. I felt her anxiety. ... Part of me is much more relaxed than I've ever been, less frightened, less anxious. On the other hand, it's a coming-of-age-thing, and she was much younger than I am, but there are things with careers. ... I just understand the anxiety even though in a sense I'm calmer. It's a dichotomy. It's hard to explain. ... You wonder, 'Well, do I give it up? Do I retire? Or do I get more in before my time is up?' "
Posted By: stores

Re: What pianists can learn from opera singers - 05/13/13 02:35 AM

Everyone ought to watch the "Inner Critic" video. Excellent.
Posted By: JoelW

Re: What pianists can learn from opera singers - 05/13/13 02:52 AM

Chopin used to tell his pupils to go listen to the great opera singers. "They'll teach you how to phrase a tune." -- paraphrasing of course. I don't know the exact quote. (or if there even is one)
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