In the lore of voice pedagogy, there is a frequently cited anecdote about a famous singer who worked with an Italian teacher for seven years on a single sheet of vocalises. At the end of the period, the pedagogue pronounced the pupil ready to begin his professional singing career, even though no repertoire had been studied. This model is not the norm for contemporary voice pedagogy. In colleges and conservatories, students are regularly required to perform juries and recitals, and singers at all levels welcome the opportunity to present literature. Despite consensus among voice teachers that repertoire should be incorporated into instruction, author Christopher Arneson observes that undergraduate voice students often take pedagogy classes that are devoid of instruction in the evaluation and selection of repertoire. As a result, neophyte teachers frequently assign literature that is too difficult, or that does not address specific pedagogic goals. In Literature For Teaching, Arneson offers tools for acquiring these skills.
The first step in choosing appropriate literature, writes Arneson, is identifying a singer's abilities, and he suggests a process for assessing new students. In addition to questions that will help the teacher appraise singing proficiencies, the author includes a sample observation and evaluation form to organize the resultant information. This review includes what the teacher sees and hears, and what the student verbalizes: the goal of the lessons, the type of music he or she enjoys singing, and previous musical performance experiences.
Gauging the skills and interests of the student is only half the task of repertoire assignment; the other component is the evaluation of repertoire. Analysis of the basic musical elements of a song is essential; these include rhythm and tempo, melodic contour (such as intervallic considerations and phrase length), and harmonic aspects. Moreover, the teacher must consider the expressive requirements of a piece, including language, text setting, and interpretive demands. Arneson leads the reader through an overview of these factors.
Repertoire serves an important pedagogic function. Selection of appropriate literature can advance singing technique in areas of breathing, phonation, registration, articulation, and expression. To this end, Arneson offers sample rubrics to assist teachers in evaluating the technical demands of a specific piece. In addition to identifying basic information about composer, genre, language, tempo, and source, each model assesses the musical and technical demands of a piece. Five songs are parsed according to the four sample rubrics, allowing the reader to compare the different models. Arneson underlines that teachers can choose from these paradigms or develop their own method. Similarly, the data can be catalogued according to level of difficulty, voice type, style, or whatever system is most useful for the instructor. It is important, however, to identify the demands of the repertoire before assigning it.
Pursuant to the pedagogic role of repertoire, Arneson recommends the development of individualized teaching plans for students based upon their technical needs. Such a plan enables teachers to assign sequential series of songs that foster steady technical growth.
Rubrics for 200 songs comprise more than half of this volume. There are also suggestions for repertoire that address technical issues of articulation, breathing, registration, resonance, and support, and recommended songs for singers who are making the transition to a different voice part. A section entitled "Suggested Repertoire by Genre" contains listings of Baroque arias, songs for beginning bass, and easier songs by important composers. The repertoire discussed in the book is compiled into a song and aria index for easy access. Two select bibliographies are included; the first consists of traditional print volumes, while the second contains online resources. Indexes by song title and by composer round out the guide.
In educational circles, it is the vogue to quantify. From standardized tests to college curricula, rubrics are created and applied in an attempt to compartmentalize, count, and catalogue intangibles. For that reason, the premise of this volume may engender skepticism. It is unwarranted. Arneson adheres to the task at hand: the identification of a song's demands, and how to use that data to make informed pedagogic choices. The author is not only knowledgeable, he is also reasonable; he does not tout one particular method or system. Although Arneson suggests four rubrics, he encourages teachers to create a system suited to their own situation. The purpose of the book is to provide guidance in the analysis and selection of repertoire for students of all ages and abilities. This volume is recommended as a text for voice pedagogy classes, and as a reference for teachers of all levels of experience. Whether or not the reader adopts a structured approach to cataloguing repertoire, the book will undoubtedly tweak even the most seasoned pedagogue's approach to choosing vocal literature.
Shigo, Daniel James. Hidden in Plain Sight: The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method Based Upon the Famous School of Manuel Garcia. New York: Voice/Talk Publications, 2013. Paper xvi, 84 pp., $19.95. ISBN 978-0-6158937-8-5 www.shigovoicestudio.com
The introduction to this pedagogic treatise reads like a detective novel. Throughout his vocal studies, Daniel Shigo heard tantalizing bits of information about the London-based voice teacher and music critic Hermann Klein (1856-1934). Klein, who studied with Manuel Garcia when the latter was a boarder at the Klein family home in London, spent eight years in the United States, and was the first chairman of the organization that would become the New York Singing Teachers Association. During his American sojourn, Klein embarked on a project to use the recently developed gramophone in the teaching of singing--the first pedagogue to do so. Before Klein returned to London in 1909, he completed several instructional recordings, but a series of incidents (including a fire at the publisher's warehouse and bad press about Klein that stemmed from negative articles he wrote about his tenure in New York) prevented the completion of the project.
When Shigo hunted for the recordings and the companion instructional manual, he could not find them. This is when sleuthing entered into the saga. Shigo learned that Klein had changed the spelling of his name after World War I. To avoid a backlash from having a German name in England, Klein dropped the second "n" in his given name. Once Shigo searched under the Germanic form, he successfully located the historical treatise and the accompanying audio tracks; both were easily accessible under the original spelling. Shigo drew the title for the volume from this hunt for something that was hiding, in plain sight, under another name.
This slim volume contains a reproduction of The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method Based Upon the Famous School of Manuel Garcia. The brief treatise is divided into two parts: the preliminary instructions, and twenty exercises. In the introductory material to the exercises, Klein expounds upon the benefits of using recordings in voice pedagogy. He states that he had resisted calls to write a book on vocal technique because he felt the printed word was not sufficient to teach the art of singing. The development of recording provided the missing piece. Klein embraced the new technology for voice instruction, envisioning the benefits of providing vocal models in conjunction with written instruction. He offers explanations that he characterizes as "simple, concise . . . and free from superfluous technicalities." Klein proffers advice for developing the components of successful singing, as well as prescriptions for vocal health.
For the student who wants further reading, Klein recommends Hints on Singing by Garcia, for which he served as editor. Students of historical pedagogic writings may also recognize Klein's name from the introduction to Marchesi's Bel Canto: A Theoretical and Practical Vocal Method (New York: Dover Publications, 1970), in which Philip R. Miller cites Klein's unsympathetic description of the recital given by Nellie Melba in London before she began her studies with Mathilde Marchesi.
Two aspects of Klein's method are notable. The first, as mentioned earlier, is the use of recorded examples. The second is his emphasis on "masque" resonance, which he asserts was taught to him by Garcia. The famed pedagogue, however, was critical of sounds produced in the nose. In the introduction, Shigo reconciles the seeming contradiction. As a pedagogue and voice scientist, Garcia explored the creation of the sound at the glottal level; while he understood the pharynx modified the vibrations, he did not offer a physiologic explanation for the acoustics of the singing voice. He did not endorse nasal singing, but in his writings, he did not address the sympathetic vibrations felt in the face. Klein, who studied with Garcia for four years, stated that resonance in the masque was part of the method he learned from the latter. When Shigo studied voice with Margaret Harshaw (who also traced her pedagogy to the bel canto master), she maintained that voice placement and singing in the masque was part of Garcia's methodology.
It is undeniable that Manuel Garcia casts a long shadow in the field of pedagogy. He was successful both as a teacher (as reflected in the formidable lineage of singers and instructors who are products of his studio) and as a voice scientist. Klein's association with Garcia provides ample reason to peruse this volume, and his groundbreaking use of the gramophone earns him a place in the history of voice pedagogy. The audio examples of the exercises (which are accessible online) and the corresponding instructions, while not offering a direct view of the teachings of Garcia, provide a refracted glimpse of his tutelage, much the same way that Garcia's mirror offered a reflection of the vocal folds. Those interested in historical pedagogy will find this volume fascinating, and all serious students of voice will benefit from the succinct and straightforward instruction offered by Klein.
Mitton, Ewan Harbrecht. Authentic Bel Canto. Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2014. Book One: An Instructional Review. xiii, 127 pp. ISBN 978-1-4621-1599-0. Book Two: The Vocalises with Instructions on How to Sing Them. vii., 149 pp. ISBN 978-1-4621-1600-3. Book One and Two sold as a set $114.98. Student Manual. xii, 115 pp.,$54.99. ISBN 978-1-4621-1601-0. Each volume includes 5 CDs. Full set of three volumes $154.97. www.authenticbelcanto.com
The vocal longevity of Ewan Harbrecht Mitton is impressive. The soprano began performing before she was a teenager and concertized into her sixties. Her career includes an impressive number of appearances with major orchestras and opera companies, and more than fifty years of teaching. Mitton attributes her success to vocal technique she learned from Mario and Ruth Miller Chamlee, students of tenor Giovanni Sbriglia, who in turn was a student of Manuel Garcia. In Authentic Bel Canto, Mitton shares this vocal methodology.
The first book of the three volumes, entitled An Instructional Review, offers background and explanation of the technique. Mitton begins with an overview of the lineage of bel canto. She traces it back to 15th century masters Johannes Ockeghem and Josquin de Prez, who instructed singers in sacred music, and to Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri, who were members of the influential Florentine Camerata of the early Baroque. In the late Baroque, Niccolo Porpora taught Francesco Lamperti and Giovanni Ansoni; the latter was the teacher of Manuel Garcia, who in turn taught his son, Manuel Garcia II. Mitton includes Jean de Reszke, who studied with Sbriglia, and his pupil Maggie Teyte.
This first book contains an explanation of the essential elements of singing, spanning breath to interpretation. The terms chiaroscuro, portamento, and messa di voce are discussed, and there are chapters devoted to breath, onset, register identification and blending, voice classification, pronunciation and diction, agility, and ornamentation. In an appendix, Mitton summarizes her participation in William Vennard's research at the University of Southern California; she also reproduces Ruth Miller Chamlee's 1964 lecture to members of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).
The second book in the set is comprised of vocalises and instructions in their use. In the introduction, Mitton offers guidance in posture and breathing, and gives specific tutelage in the performance of the exercises. Nearly half of the volume consists of notated exercises: those used by Porpora/Sbriglia for beginning voice; Marchesi's exercises for advanced voice; vocalises to correct specific problems; and those intended to develop coloratura. The author also proffers the exercises of Jean de Reszke that she learned from his student, Maggie Teyte, when Mitton studied with her in London.
The third book of the set is directed to students. The prefatory information contains directives about vowels, consonants, and pronunciation of the four languages (English, Italian, German, and French) commonly used by singers. Under the heading "General Information and Helps," Mitton offers advice on subjects ranging from posture to the changing male voice. The student manual contains only the Porpora/Sbriglia and Marchesi vocalises. All of the exercises are contained on the five CDs that are packaged with the books.
The volumes are well written and well researched. The manuals not only explain Mitton's teaching method; they are treatises on the history of bel canto, expositions of the elements of singing, and guidebooks to the many facets of performance. The CDs are a valuable component. Although the author's illumination of each exercise appears within the text, a single reference for the content of the tracks is sorely missed.
Throughout the volumes, Mitton exhibits a continuing fascination with the voice and singing. For instance, she attended classes in belt technique and devised a "pseudobelt" method, compatible with bel canto, for singers who were required to sing in this style. She teaches the singer to maintain ". . . a proper head tone and open throat but introduce a forward, even quite nasal, vowel placement." Mitton is a faithful adherent to the bel canto technique, but it is obvious she is a life-long learner. She acknowledges insights gained from others, such as classmate Marilyn Horne and colleague Jerome Hines.
Mitton represents the amalgam of traditional pedagogue and voice scientist. In the first volume, she cites this observation made in 1912 by tenor Alessandro Bonci: "If the modern scientific discoveries would blend themselves with the old Italian Method, using the latter as a foundation, then the Art of Song would again be raised to its former high standard." For Mitton, this is more than an interesting passage. It is the philosophy upon which her singing and teaching is based. She was trained in the traditional bel canto style, yet participated in William Vennard's groundbreaking voice research using the laryngeal electromyography machine. The book references historical pedagogic writings, such as those by Tosi and Porpora, side by side with contemporary treatises by Richard Miller and Robert Sataloff. Mitton moves with ease between bel canto terminology and scientific nomenclature, from voce di testa and coup de glotte to spectrograph and formants. Current pedagogues have access to more research, both historic and scientific, about the voice than ever before. Mitton is a fine example of a teacher who has studied, understood, and incorporated that research into her method of instruction. Both the content and the presentation of this set are commendable.
Martin, Nicholas Ivor. The Opera Manual. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2014. Cloth, xxxvi, 442 pp.,$85.00, ISBN 978-0-8108-8868-5; e-book, $84.99, 978-0-8108-8869-2 www.rowman.com
This single volume performance resource for opera offers information about nearly 600 operas by more than 200 composers. In the introduction, author Martin explains the criteria for inclusion. He chose standard works in the repertory, those that were extremely popular during their time, small-scale works that are frequently performed by schools, and works by famous composers, even if the operas are not well known. Martin also includes all operas by major composers, if the list is not unwieldy; for instance, Puccini's complete catalogue is cited, but not that of Donizetti.
Entries are arranged alphabetically by title, with a translation into English if that is not the original language. Each entry includes information about the composer, librettist, original language, source of the story, date and location of premiere, setting, type of opera, structure, sets, acts, length, major arias, categorizations of roles, chorus and dance demands, orchestration (including whether any instrumentalists are needed on stage), publishers, and copyright information. Martin also identifies "Hazards," which refers to " . . . unusually difficult stage business, such as the destruction of the universe [or] singers transformed into frogs."
The data is detailed, yet succinct. Plot outlines and character lists provide relevant content without verbosity; the author manages to condense the entries for Gotterdammerung, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, and Les Troyens into a single page each, and the notoriously complicated plot of Le nozze di Figaro is deftly encapsulated in four manageable paragraphs.
The guidebook is an expansive resource that offers a wide range of information. Four listings augment the usefulness of the volume; the entries are listed by title, by composer, and by librettist, with additional indexes of arias and one-act operas. The inclusion of contemporary works is especially useful. In his introduction, Martin muses if such a volume is relevant with the plethora of information available on the Internet. Online research, however, places the onus upon the reader to ascertain if the material is reliable, or to visit a number of sites to gather knowledge. This volume offers background for hundreds of operas in a single, convenient, and accurate source. Moreover Martin, who serves as the director of operations at Lyric Opera of Chicago, has researched scores that may not be accessible in a digital format.
This volume is a revised edition of The Da Capo Opera Manual that was published in 1997 by Da Capo Press. The Opera Manual is the most recent addition to the Music Finders series published by Scarecrow Press. An earlier voice-related title, Arias, Ensembles, and Choruses: An Excerpt Finder for Orchestra, by John Yaffe and David Daniels (reviewed in Journal of Singing 69, no. 2 [November/December 2012]: 235), was published in 2012; the series also included volumes devoted to orchestral music and repertoire for individual instruments. Directors, singers, and opera aficionados will find this reference a useful addition to their libraries, and those who wish to avoid adding another tome to their bookshelf can download the ebook to their virtual holdings.