I dedicated the very first episode of AMPED UP to an interview with Diana. I thought the first episode about opera should, indeed, be about the subject that innately draws us to the art form- the human singing voice. And who better to speak about it, than a world-class soprano whose career is legendary, and now dedicates her time to teaching others. This is a remarkable commitment, and one this episode of AMPED UP details.
I can’t believe the value of this interview with Diana. I hear so many young artists struggling with concepts Diana offers so clearly in this episode. And so many people who love to sing without formal training of this level could really take away some concepts to play with. If you love singing, this conversation with Diana may revolutionize, or at least clarify some absolute concepts of singing; and she’s so charming, and offers fun stories about her own work on the concepts we speak about, she makes even technical jargon a pleasure to hear.
Now, in all honesty, I ask Diana to get very technical, because there are few forums where she can, and even more rare to have forums that are free to everyone, like this podcast! Some of the vernacular is pretty clinical, and may not make sense to everyone. So I’m providing a short glossary to define a couple of concepts we discuss. I’ll also provide a couple links to offer a visual on these concepts.
A couple anatomical terms Diana uses:
DIAPHRAGM: The dome shaped muscle attached to the bottom of the lungs that separates your chest and stomach cavities. Its main function is to initiate inhalation. To produce sound like an opera singer, you must learn to employ this muscle to generate and sustain a tone.
LARYNX: The organ at the top of your trachea (windpipe) made up of cartilages, ligaments and muscles. Inside, attached from front to back are your vocal cords. Certain muscles of your larynx affect the tension of your vocal cords as they work with air from your lungs to produce sound. Sound is produced in your larynx. Managing it is a major part of gaining a technique.
VOCAL CORDS: Two muscular folds that connect from the inside front to the inside back of your larynx. Their change in thickness and vibrating length, due to adjustment in tension, affects the pitch and intensity of your tone.
A couple terms used to describe vocal technical issues (I’m providing simple definitions, there are pages and pages written to accurately define these concepts…):
PASSAGIO: Italian for ‘passage’, this term refers to the place within a vocal range where the voice ‘shifts’ or transitions into a different register- from chest voice to head voice, for example. A passage marks the end or boundary of one register and the beginning of the next. We all have these transitions. Managing them is a key to singing a smooth vocal line.
CUPO: This term is from the word ‘coperto’ in Italian, which means ‘covered’. Its a way of using the soft palette to produce a sound that sounds blanketed. Its a wonderful resource for coloring text and a tool for lightening the voice, without pressing the sound. It can be defined as the technique of “darkening” the tone (increasing pharyngeal space), especially at register transition points.
PLACEMENT: A technique that uses the sensation of vibrations in the head to achieve healthy sound that resonates and carries well. My visual connection for this concept is thinking about in what part of the mouth the sound is directed- from behind the teeth, to the back of the mouth where the throat starts. Concepts of placement can make or break even the most healthy connection to breath.
SQUILLA: is a technical term for the resonant, trumpet-like sound of opera singers. Squilla is produced by the bones in the mask of the face. Squilla enables an essentially lyric tone to be heard over heavy orchestrations.
Sometimes I hear audiences describe all this technical jargon as being mystical. I think every pursuit in life comes with its own specific language. Singers, and those of us who work often with voices just use these terms so often, we don’t consider it a language not spoken by others.
Going around Facebook last week was a link to a site that many of my friends who are singers check regularly. I found some of the graphics to be very helpful in visualizing the anatomy of singing. CLICK HERE TO LINK TO THE SITE.
I’ve incorporated a few excerpts of Diana’s recordings into this episode, because I think listening to her sing offers a great emotional pay off, and a study for those wanting to know more about great singing.
1) I use the CARMEN Overture to begin and end every AMPED UP episode because of the energy Bizet’s score offers the listener.
2) This is Diana singing "Un bel di", Madama Butterfly’s famous aria. This is a role that became a signature for Diana. It was the only role I saw her sing.
3) This is from one of my favorite operas, and a role I’ve never heard interpreted better than Diana. This is “Senza Mamma” from SUOR ANGELICA, one of the most emotionally charged opera’s Puccini ever wrote.
4) “Sempre libera” from Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA. It is a treacherous aria, with enormous reward for the audience. Violetta was another role that Diana sang often.
5) This is the ending of “Senza Mamma” for me this aria is forever linked to Diana.
ALL of the above recordings can be found on iTunes. HERE IS QUICK LINK TO THE DIANA'S WORKS ON ITUNES.
Want to add anything to this dialog about healthy vocal technique! You can make COMMENTS below!