Operatic Olympics

March 19, 2008

The summer Olympics are quickly approaching and people are getting into the spirit.  But athletes aren’t the only people out there that have to train for the Olympics.  Though I may not train to run the 100 meter dash, I do have to get ready for the Olympics of Opera – Rossini.

For those of you unfamiliar with opera, let me give you a little lesson.  If you have any familiarity at all, you’ve probably heard of Carmen and Butterfly. These are staples in our field and a tour de force in their own right. I have much respect for those singers.  But I have recently discovered another tour de force, that for me, at least, is harder than any other type of singing I’ve had to do – Rossini’s music.

Rossini was an Italian composer who lived in the late 1700’s early 180o’s.  His hey day was just after Mozart’s (a guy you’ve probably heard of).  Rossini thought it would be fun to write music that made singers sing a lot of notes back to back really really really really fast. You may have heard recordings of singers doing things that resemble a dying cat – the voice goes from low to high really quickly making brief stops on all the notes the whole way.  It’s called coloratura. Instead of writing just a plain little melody, Rossini writes the plain melody and adds about 20,000 notes in between each of the other existing notes, and it’s the singers job to sing all of them.  I liken the sound to blowing my vocal cords out of my throat and shaking them really hard with my hands. That’s about the only way I can get all those notes out so quickly.  When you look at a page of Rossini’s music, there’s much more black than white on the page.  At times, I wonder if he had an overabundance of ink in his ink well and felt it necessary to use it on all the singers – usually the female singers.   Maybe his way of revenge on all the women who had wronged him.

With coloratura, it is often common practice to add to the gillions of notes already on the page.  This I find ludicrous.   There are only so many notes ot choose from, and if they’re already written down, how can I add more?  But alas, I am resigned to do such a thing, because if I don’t, then my ego is crushed.   You know how dudes will drive their muscle cars really fast and fix them up with really big, loud mufflers to announce to the entire northern hemisphere that they are cool?  Well, coloratura is opera’s equivalent.  The more, the louder and the longer, the better.

So now I am learning Rossini’s Cenerentola,  which goes on in May, just a few short weeks before the Summer Olympics. People ooh and ahh over the guys who run the 100 meter dash in under 10 seconds. Don’t get me wrong, that’s great and all.  But I have to do this coloratura stuff for 2 hours straight.

Now who’s cooler?

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5 Responses to “Operatic Olympics”

  1. ben Says:

    Anyone who can compare Opera to muscle cars is certainly cooler.


  2. A dying cat, eh? I’ve definitely gotta check out this opera.

  3. kensajolaw Says:

    May 8,9,10:)

  4. Munsy Says:

    you’re the coolest baby


  5. […] funny thing about this is that as I wrote in Operatic Olympics this kind of singing is really hard, something I have shied away from, yet something that everyone […]

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