Ask an opera singer

  • Ask an opera singer

     Commander Octopus updated 1 month, 1 week ago 4 Members · 7 Posts
  • Commander Octopus

    March 3, 2021 at 20:13

    Not only a super villain, but I also have a secret identity. I operate under the disguise of an opera singer. Ask me anything!

    (No, there was never an Enrico Palazzo for real).

  • Magnus Widqvist

    March 4, 2021 at 20:38

    Speaking of villains, what is your take on Ingvar Wiksell as Baron Scarpia in the 1976 Colin Davis, Montserrat Caballe recording. This one gives me goosebumps in places where I thought goose-bumping was impossible.

    bumpy — MW

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  Magnus Widqvist. Reason: spelling
    • Commander Octopus

      March 4, 2021 at 22:44

      I think Ingvar Wixell in any role is an absolute treat. He had a comparatively light timbre, which is not to say the voice wasn’t filling a house. Instead of the darkened sound people seem to have come to connect with Verdian baritones, Wixell had a tremendously noble voice, and an expressive one at that. People who used to work with him has told me they instantaneously started crying when they heard him singing. His voice seemed to go seemlessly through the passaggio, which could almost make you wonder if there was actually any passaggio reached at all! Usually, the register change from chest to head is much more audible.

      It’s wonderful to hear Wixell commanding and caressing with his voice, it brings out so many dimensions of Scarpia, who risks becoming only a pitch black character if a singer only puts weight on darkness and power.

      This was one of my first opera recordings that I owned, so I cherish it very much. I never got to hear Wixell live, but when I did a church gig as a very young singer, he was suddenly in the audience. The soprano was one of his students…!

      I’m also a sucker for George London’s Te Deum, but that’s another topic…

  • Duncan Hill

    March 4, 2021 at 20:49

    What’s the most technically challenging piece of music you have had to sing?

    • Commander Octopus

      March 4, 2021 at 23:22

      It would be tempting to mention some modern piece because of the musical intricacies. It would also be a platitude with plenty of truth in it to say “whichever piece I’m presently working on”, because I always strive to improve technically.

      There are some pieces, particularly in the Italian repertoire, that will sound like crap if they are not technically 100% solid, but on the other hand, those pieces are written in a way so that they generously line you up for good technical singing.

      Paradoxically, the pieces that I’ve sung that have been the most challenging, ended up being the funniest to sing, probably because I put so much effort into learning them flawlessly. Billy Budd is one such role. The same goes for a lot of Britten’s music. Britten demands a huge balanced register, fast runs, virtuous text delivery, unconventional interval jumps, plenty and plenty of nuances, legato singing, and on top of that, music that is difficult to learn, and at the same time sounds easy to the ear, so that the audience can clearly hear when you fuck up…

  • Oskar Lewczuk

    March 4, 2021 at 22:06

    How good was Luciano Pavarotti? I know he was good, but from my non singing perspective anyone who sings at least decent 😉

    • Commander Octopus

      March 4, 2021 at 23:29

      Luciano Pavarotti was absolutely superb, anyone saying anything else is a moron. He had a remarkably beautiful timbre, a voice which we will never hear the like of again, and he mastered that voice flawlessly.

      You will probably meet a lot of people with other preferences, I wouldn’t choose Pavarotti before Jussi Björling when it comes to some operas. But that is not to say he wasn’t one of the greatest.

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