Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Polyglotism

(Yes, it's a word:))

Don't ever let anyone persuade you that language study (and, to a certain extent, a natural and intuitive facility with languages) isn't critical to a singing career. This should fall in the "duh" category, but I'm surprised how often I meet people on both sides of the footlights who underestimate its importance. The range of repertoire staring us in the face for the next three months is a case in point. English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Catalan, Basque.

The polyglot approach is truly in effect for the next few Orpheus-filled weeks. When I first learned of this opera in German, French and Italian, I was dubious, thinking that it must sound fragmented, even disjointed. The odd thing is that it makes perfect sense. Narrative scenes and arias in German give way to pastoral French arias and choruses, and ultimately to (of course) Italian rage arias. An oversimplification, of course, but it gives you an idea of the underlying structure.

And, even more to my surprise (and I shouldn't admit this...), Telemann's music is a powerful unifying force. I wasn't previously a fan. I really didn't know the vocal works, and the various instrumental concerti and sonati sort of blended together with all of the forgettable Vivaldi I'd ever heard. (An unfortunate byproduct of all of the unimaginative and truncated "classical" radio playlists we've all been exposed to.) But this is real stuff. Lyric, gutsy, tragic, funny and touching. And the vocal casting is more Mozart than Handel. A lyric baritone hero in love with a light lyric mezzo-soprano, a jealous dramatic coloratura soprano wild woman, a light tenor best friend/sidekick besotted with a charming soubrette, and a basso guardian of the Underworld.

All of this in one room, while the Spanish Treasure concert music wafts from across the hall. (Anyone know a Basque language expert in the Washington, DC area?.....)

Glückwünsche!

Congratulations to Wolf Trap alum Carolyn Betty, one of the finalists selected for Seattle Opera's Debut Wagner Competition!

1 comment:

Ariadne said...

Amen, amen, and amen again to your thoughts on polyglotism from one super long-time & incorrigible polyglot herself, who simply can't resist offering a joke here, a play on words, for the fellow linguistially-minded & singer-oriented among us:

"Polyglotism, as opposed to ... what? Polyglottalism!?? (ha ha)