My new emerging voice….

My assumption on rebuilding my voice was predicated on not going too far too fast, but still to push the envelope some since I am not sure how many years I have left to sing period.

I was sure at the very least I was a light lyric soprano, but now I have stumbled upon the remnants of a rather high soprano extension, which at my age is nothing short of a miracle.  On initial warmup I still start in mixed voice at an F or G above middle C.  After singing for 10 minutes or so, I begin to have down to a middle C in a quiet focused forward heady mix.

Not being sure of where all of this would go, I put the cover on again (as I would singing Wagner) and the cords would not come together, so I returned to working with a closed mouth singing on the edge of the cords to get the voice realigned.  Then I heard a young high soprano singing belt in the next practice room.  And I thought, that’s really a little voice but look how far forward her belt sound is, so I tinkered with a similar position on my middle C and was able to make the adjustment to the F and match pitches to the G in mix just above, and quite suddenly the middle mixed sound improved and there was greater focus on the attack in mix.  I kept vocalizing and realized that there was a working high F in alt still in the voice.

That’s when I re-read Kathy Pope’s article on technique for coloratura sopranos.  I did some more vocalizing for a week, ran into some problems and then re-read the sections on nose-form and the high head voice in Lilli Lehmann’s How to Sing book.  I have re-read this book many times and have waded through the terrible German to English translation plus all the  medical jargon, and I finally understood her discussion of the pillars of the fauces and her insistance on the ay breath jerk attack in the middle.  If you keep her nose form activated consistently and then make the tongue and  palate adjustments the voice suddenly lines up from the very top to the bottom.  I am using roughly 35% of the breath that I used to and I am getting a great sound that simply works consistently for an hour to an hour and a half at a stretch.  So far I have sung to the F# in alt.  My voice recovers immediately and is there daily to work with.  And there is no sensation in my throat of any kind, just astonishment at the consistency of the vocal production. 

From the beginning my speaking voice had always been depressed and since I always read music easily  I was the alto section leader in choir.  I had consistent throat hoarseness and discomfort, but I was too young to know better, and I was stuck in the choir until I graduated.

Since those days, I have had a series of well-intentioned teachers who each had only part of the answer and since I have asthma, a resolved tied tongue (surgery at age 26) and resolved bone-blocked sinuses (surgically resolved 15 years ago), sorting out the incorrect physical technique (plus the fact that my agents and conductors thought I was a world-class Wagnerian soprano) from the various physical impediments has been a real trick – add that to the normal dryness as you age – all of this had to be resolved to get any voice I had back together. Moreover, the first thing I did was to RAISE the pitch of my speaking voice – and that was a HUGE adjustment for me. I could no longer talk with the projection of a buzz saw. 

I have been granted a miracle at this age.  I have no idea how long my voice will last, and I have outlasted most younger sopranos so far. At this stage I am leery of announcing even a vocal classification.  But it makes sense that most high coloratura sopranos don’t have much bottom to their voices.  Nor do they have a huge mid-range.  Their voice begins to really gain on the high C and above – like mine does. So I am acting on the assumption that if it “walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”

So, I am now looking at the only repertoire I have NOT studied:  A collection of enormously embellished coloratura soprano songs, and my voice is working really very well.  Besides that, I am preparing song groups by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Faure and Debussy, making sure that I do NOT sing anything I learned BEFORE my vocal crises.  So however long this lasts, I believe I am a coloratura soprano.  But by publishing this I do feel as though I am whistling as I walk past a graveyard.  Time will tell the story. – sh

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