About Joan Patenaude-Yarnell (Curtis Institute of Music/Manhattan School of Music)

Following her debut with the Canadian Opera Company as Micaela in Carmen, this Canadian-born soprano joined both the New York City and San Francisco Operas. She has also sung with opera companies throughout North America and Europe. Her roles have included Violetta in La Traviata, Alice Ford in Falstaff, Gilda in Rigoletto, Nedda in I Pagliacci, the title role in Suor Angelica, Mimì in La Bohème, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, Elle in La Voix Humaine, and Héro in Béatrice et Bénédict. As a recitalist she performed internationally under the auspices of the Canadian Government, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Les Jeunesses musicales, and the United States Department of State.. With orchestra she sang under the batons of Sir Charles Mackerras, Charles Dutoit, Seiji Ozawa, Julius Rudel, and James De Preist. Her recordings include Songs of the Great Opera Composers with Mikael Eliasen, pianist. on the Musical Heritage Society label as well as releases on the C.B.C. International Series and Vanguard labels. She joined the Curtis Institute voice faculty in 1996 and Manhattan School of Music in 1997. She is the artistic director of Centro Studi Lirica, a summer program for young singers in Italy. In 2002 she became the editor of her own column, “The Private Studio,” in The Journal of Singing, a publication of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Her students perform with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Paris Opéra, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Stuttgart Opera and are participants in the young artists programs at Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera Center (Zurich, Switzerland), and Volksoper (Vienna). Several of her students are current winners of the George London Foundation Awards, Marilyn Horne Foundation Awards, and Puccini Foundation Awards, as well as the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions First Prize Winner, 2004. Her Master Class "The Principals of Bel Canto" is presented throughout the U.S. and Canada (Rice University, Roosevelt University, University of British Columbia, New York Singing Teachers Association). Manhattan School of Music voice faculty since 1997.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PREPARATION

“IT REALLY IS NOT DIFFICULT TO SING WELL, AS LONG AS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO”  Joan Sutherland

THIS WISE QUOTE IS ALL TOO TRUE.  THE SECRET, HOWEVER, IS “KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO”

ANY ACTION WE ATTEMPT IN LIFE IS USUALLY FIRST BORN IN THE MIND.THE QUALITY OF THE PREPARATION IS REFLECTED IN THE EXECUTION OF THE ACTION. THIS IS NEVER TRUER THAN IN DISCUSSING CLASSICAL SINGING.

WHEN THE BRAIN IS “ORGANIZED”  THE BODY RESPONDS POSITIVELY AND OBEDIENTLY.   IF THE BRAIN IS “SCATTERED”  THE RESULT IS THE  ACTION WILL ALSO BE SCATTERED.

TO DEVELOP THIS KNOWLEDGE OF “WHAT TO DO”  IS EVERY SINGER’S GOAL.  THE CHALLENGE IS HOW BEST TO ACHIEVE  IT.

IT REALLY IS A COMBINATION OF TWO IMPORTANT ELEMENTS:

1)  A SIMPLE, EASILY UNDERSTOOD KNOWLEDGE OF THE VARIOUS ELEMENTS IN THE BODY THAT ARE COORDINATED TO PRODUCE THE VOICE EASILY & AT THE SERVICE OF VOCAL EXPRESSIVITY.

2)  WITH THIS CLEAR KNOWLEDGE, DEVELOPING  THE INNER EAR AND INNER EYE IN ADVANCE OF PRODUCING A TONE OR A PHRASE.

HOWEVER, TOO OFTEN THERE IS ONE OF  TWO WAYS MANY SINGERS APPROACH THEIR VOCALIZING.

  1.  NO REAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE THREE PHYSICAL ELEMENTS INVOLVED IN CLASSICAL SINGING. (BREATH MECHANISM, RESONATORS & SPEECH MECHANISM).   THEY OFTEN TRY A HIT OR MISS APPROACH TO A  ACHIEVE A VOCAL GOAL, AIMLESSLY TIRING OUT THE VOICE.
  2. A VERY  COMPLEX KNOWLEDGE OF THE  PARTS OF THE BODY,  APPROACHED IN A MECHANICAL FRAME OF MIND, OFTEN INTERFERING  WITH THE COORDINATION THE MIND/BODY IS CAPABLE OF IN ACHIEVING VOCAL AND MUSICAL BEAUTY.

NEITHER OF THESE TWO APPROACHES  USES A SIMPLE SET OF TOOLS BASED ON “KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO” IN ORDER TO  PRACTICE AND PERFORM SECURELY.

“KNOWING WHAT TO DO”  IS ACHIEVED SLOWLY, SIMPLY AND PATIENTLY.  WITH THE HELP OF THE TEACHER A YOUNG SINGER SHOULD DISCOVER HOW THE BREATH MECHANISM FUNCTIONS AT ITS MOST EFFICIENT – HOW THE VOCAL TRACK IS PREPARED  –  WHICH INLCUDES THE RESONATORS, THE OPEN THROAT, AND THE EASILY ARTICULATED TEXT BASED ON THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE.     “STOP, LOOK, LISTEN”  MEANS YOU TAKE TIME TO PREPARE IN THE MIND BEFORE YOU DO SO PHYSICALLY.

THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO COORDINATE THIS KNOWLEDGE FOR ONSELF.  AGAIN, THE TEACHER IS ABLE TO GUIDE YOU INTO THE DISCOVERY OF MIND/BODY COORDINATION  BUT EACH SINGER WILL ULTIMATELY HAVE HIS OWN IMAGERY.

THE IMPORTANCE OF IMAGERY

AS LONG AS CLASSICAL TECHNIQUE HAS BEEN TAUGHT, IMAGERY HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN IMPORTANT PART IN SINGING.    THE MORE MECHNICAL AND SCIENTIFIC APPROACH VERY OFTEN UNDER PLAYS THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS TOOL. WITH A COMBINATION OF CLEAR KNOWLEDGE AND THE DEVELOPING OF THE IMAGINATION THE SINGER IS WELL ON THEIR WAY TO MAKING GOOD USE OF  PRECIOUS PRACTICE TIME.

YOUR INNER EAR MUST KNOW THE TONE YOU WANT TO PRODUCE – THE PHRASE YOU WANT TO SING – THE DYNAMIC CONTENT OF THAT TONE OR PHRASE.  YOUR INNER EYE MUST FIRST SEE CLEARLY THE DIRECTION OF THE PHRASE

THE CLEAR  THOUGHT MUST COME FIRST AND THEN THE ACTION.  THIS TAKES PATIENCE AND CONCENTRATION.

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MY NEXT BLOG WILL DEAL WITH ANOTHER FAVORITE QUOTE:

“MOST VOCAL PROBLEMS ARE CAUSED BY THE SINGER GETTING IN THEIR OWN WAY”  (Stephanie Blythe).    ALSO A WISE STATEMENT.

Please feel free to respond to this Blog or to suggest topics you would like covered.

JOAN PATENAUDE-YARNELL  (Curtis Institute of Music – Manhattan School of Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DELICATE BALANCE

When I was beginning my career as a teacher I decided to interview several of the major voice teachers of the period.  It was printed in Opera Canada  under the title  “A DELICATE BALANCE”.  The focus of these interviews was to discuss with these acknowledged  teachers the balance between  scientific knowledge (known  as Voice Science) and the accepted IMAGERY approach so prevalent in vocal studios for so many years – beginning with the Camerati – the early foundations of the approach to the Bel Canto style of singing.

And, of course, the result of these interviews by a young voice teacher were, as expected, a combination of both approaches.  Since that time a preponderance of Voice Science has entered the pedagogical world.

What is the difference between the two approaches:

The preponderance of scientific knowledge, indeed, makes us more aware of what is happening when singers obey the laws of dynamic singing, i.e. Caruso, Pavarotti, Sutherland, Caballe`, etc. etc.   In other words, we are able to understand technically what these great singers of the past achieved in their vocal production.  This knowledge is immensely helpful to doctors.

Knowledge is never wasted.  And with this scientific knowledge, thanks to the ability to measure and visualize the functions of the body that create beautiful singing, it does not seem to have produced more major singers in our time.

It therefore suggests that a balance between the two approaches must be considered in the vocal studios of today.

The Delicate Balance, as I see it, is a combination of knowing what a singer wants to achieve musically, vocally and interpretively without the over emphasis on scientific knowledge that produces the finest singers in modern times.  Thus  the Imagination of the singer should be the first and foremost aspect of achieving a healthy technique (inner ear and eye).

Caruso, Gigli, and singers of the 19th and early 20th century  were not as aware as each vocal student is today of the scientific knowledge of how they approach their craft.

The early singers , primarily castrati, set about developing a way for the singer to express the words more clearly – the emotions of the text  more immediately – than the technique of singing prevalent in their time — namely , polyphony   which was more more  about harmonics than text.

Their goal was to achieve through text and vocal line  a way for the expressivity of the text to touch the public. Thus the use of  text became far more prevalent and important.

This approach to singing, depending a great deal on use of the text, became the seed that created the art of bel canto and its development that has lasted some 400 years. Mozart, Handel, Rossini  Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and into the verismo reperotire of Puccini et al.

Not only were the great Italian composers developing this appraoch to singing but all of the composers including Schubert, Brahms, Wolf, Britten, and even the composer of the American Musical Theatre  ( Victor Herber, Irving Berlin, Rogers & Hammerstein, etc.).

The use of Imagery in the art of teaching  voice has always been a major component of the art of vocal technique training up throughout these some 400 years.

It was not until the late 19th century that the art of voice science began to evolve.  The early composers of the 15th and 16th century had very little knowledge of the physiognomy  of the human body and of their elements in developing a solid classical vocal technique.

The Delicate Balance, then , seems to be exactly that — a combination of Imagination (Inner Ear/Inner Eye) with the modern knowledge of the  workings of the various muscles of the body in producing what we call healthy classical technique.  One aspect must balance with the other – without a preponderance of either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOME USEFUL IDIOMS

THIS SUMMER, FOLLOWING MY SERIES OF MASTER CLASSES  AT  “SUMMERFEST” (CURTIS INSTITUTE  OF MUSIC) & “LA MUSICA LIRICA” (NOVAFELTRIA, ITALY), SEVERAL SINGERS  ASKED IF I COULD SET DOWN  SOME OF THE  “IDIOMS”  I  USED IN THESE CLASSES.

AND SO I AM HAPPY TO INCLUDE A FEW IF THESE FOR MY  “END OF SUMMER” BLOG:

 

  “STAY AT THE PARTY WITHT THE VOWEL YOU CAME WITH BUT FLIRT WITH ANOTHER  – PREFERABLY HER ROUNDER SISTER”  (Vowel Modification )

 “TOP DOWN/BOTTOM UP”  –  (blending the registers)

“LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP”   (preparing mentally)

“A VOWEL IS LIKE A BAD HOUSE GUEST – COMES EARLY AND STAYS LATE”  (maintaining the pure vowel)

“LET THE TONGUE DO  THE WALKING”  – (vowel harmonization)

 ‘DON’T TRY — ALLOW”  (mental preparation)

“LESS EFFORT – MORE ENERGY”  (developing the tools intelligently)

 “FIND THE GESTURE IN EVERY PHRASE” (legato energy)

“THE INHALE IS THE UPBEAT TO EACH PHRASE”  (Prepare the whole instrument in advance of the first tone)

‘INHALE – INHALE”   (Thomas Hampson)  (balances breath management)

“SING THE WORDS AS IF YOU HAVE NEVER SAID THEM BEFORE”  (strong intent & honest expression)

“ALWAYS HAVE A POINT OF VIEW”  (mental preparation vocally and expressively)

“HOLY TRINITY – BUT ONLY ONE GOD “  (register balancing)

“YAWN UP”   (allow resonators to do the work)

“HEAR YOURSELF BEFORE YOU SING – NOT WHILE YOU SING) (developing the inner ear)

“KEEP THE BRAIN AHEAD OF THE VOICE”  (Benita Valente)

“ALLOW THE DOME TO SING ”    (Resonance)

“FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD”  (awareness of the vocal tract)

“STOP – LOOK – LISTEN”  (using the imagination – inner ear & eye)

“THE INFINITIVE OF LEGATO (‘LEGARE) IS AN ACTIVE VERB – NOT A PASSIVE VERB”  (legato energy)

“LET THE CONSONANTS DO THEIR JOB”   (articulation)

“THE LARGER THE HALL THE LESS YOU TRY”   resist tendency to push outward in larger halls)

And these are the three quotes with which  every Master Class begins: 

“A VOICE TEACHER’S RESPONSIBILITY IS TO HELP A SINGER WHO HAS SOMETHING TO SAY, SAY IT MORE EASILY”  (DIETRICH FISHER DISKEAU)

“IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO SING WELL, AS LONG AS YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO” (Joan Sutherland)

  And the one that seems to be enjoyed the most:   “ALWAYS FOCUS ON ‘BEL CANTO’ – NOT ‘CAN BELTO’ “

THERE ARE MANY MORE IDIOMS WRITTEN OR SAID BY GREAT SINGERS AND PEDAGOGUES WHICH I WILL INCLUDE IN A FUTURE BLOG.   

AS ALWAYS I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS.   JPY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing With The “Fear Factor”

Several  of you have asked me to write a blog on  the “Fear Factor”.  It is often a problem  that so many singers face from time to time  – students & professionals alike. 

Here is a good place to start:    “WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States )  It is an important maxim for us all.  But it is especially important for singers.  It is too easy to let the fears take root.

No other group of performers and musicians deal with an instrument they cannot see, put into a case or forget about when  done using it.   Our instrument is our own body – not a man-made object that is  between us and the audience.       

 There are several things that can cause singers to experience fear of some type  – be it in rehearsal, in audition or in performance.  

So let’s talk about some of the obvious ones  –  what may cause theme –  and what can be done to control or eliminate them.  

“Fear of not being vocally, musically, interpretively secure in performance.”

 This common fear is governed  by the quality of your preparation.   

Technical Preparation:         We have all heard :   “When performing one must put their technique on the back burner”.    But to do that we must already have a solid technique to put on that back burner.  One of two things is often the cause of this common  fear:   lack of steady technical preparation  or 2) using technique as an end itself.

If you intelligently  and consistently prepare the work technically it will be there for you.   Muscle memory will hand it back to you when you are performing.   

 On the other hand, when a singer considers technical skill as an end in itself they forget about letting technique  serve a higher goal – to bring to life   the composer’s and librettist’s emotional intention.  This is true for auditions and performances.

Musical Preparation:    Callas used a term for this aspect of her craft  – The Wedding Cake approach.   It quite literally means to layer each facet in  preparing a piece:      rhythm, notation, phrasing, dynamic markings, text (pronunciation & comprehension )  Only then did she put the bride and groom on top of the cake (music  & text). Time consuming work to be sure, but it ensures  a sense of security and pleasure  in  performing.

Text Preparation: Apart from correct  pronunciation, one must have a total and complete understanding of the text in any language we sing.  .   A  vague sense of the meaning  is just not good enough.        Callas called it “reading between the lines”, or “getting behind the meaning of the words”.

Having a Point of View: It is common knowledge that the brain cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time.Therefore, if the brain focuses on the the musical and interpretive aspects of his performance – a result of careful preparation – there is no room left for fear.

2) A fear of not being in physically  top shape for a performance. 

Normal performing nerves cause us to have some unpleasant physical symptoms, :  dry throat, fast heart beat, phlegm, shortness of breath, etc.   Learning to live with these goes a long way in reducing the power they have to spoil an audition or performance.   A healthy lifestyle is the key to being in top physical shape.  Do not be afraid to cancel  if you are not physically well.  The experience could leave an emotional  scar.  

The next fears are usually handled by the mind set of the performer.

3) A fear of failure professionally:  

This fear  is a waste of energy that could be used in both your preparation and your  auditioning or performing.   Developing a Positive Point  of View as to what our goal is as  artists goes a long way in alleviating this fear.  We often just try too hard for success.  Instead of “trying”  it is better to “allow” what you have prepared to function without fear.  

4) A fear of critics & criticism:

5) A fear of one’s competition:

Fears No. 4 & 5 are  usually  dealt with if you set your own bar.   Beverly Sills claimed she set her own level and reaching it  came ahead of  outside criticism.   Everyone listening to you has an opinion – some are intelligent but most are subjective.   Follow the advice of several successful performers – “If you don’t let criticism affect you it will go away”.   You have one singer to compete with – and that is yourself.  Each singer brings an individuality to the stage and to the repertoire.   Developing your individuality is far more important than comparing yourself to colleagues or peers.

6) A fear of not winning the competition or getting the role:

Think about this:     If you go out to audition with a  sense of fear the listener immediately picks up on it.     But, if you present yourself  with a sense of confidence   the audience will  immediately accept you that way.   An added benefit is  the singer themselves feels ready to go out there and “do it”.  

7) A fear of not becoming successful quickly enough:

There is no telling when success will come.    Instant success does not happen often and when it does it sometimes does not last. Trying for the “brass ring” all the time will not allow you to “take a chance”.  All great artists get out of their own way.  It takes time and patience and faith.

I hope these thought are helpful.  Being nervous is normal but fear happens when it is out of control.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“BEL CANTO – A style or a technique?

The term “Bel Canto” is  heard over and over again in articles, books, voice studios, critiques, etc But do we really know what we mean when we use it?

Is it a style ?  Is it a Technique?

It is, of course, a style.  And  it is also a technique.

The term “Bel Canto Style” historically pertains to a long line of Italian vocal literature that spans 400 years , ( i.e. Caccini, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Handel, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti  ending with Verdi).   However, this term (translation: “Beautiful Singing”) was coined only in the mid 19th century.

Over the course of these 400 years, singers of the classical and romantic bel canto operas slowly and steadily developed a  Technique that fulfilled this evolving Style of vocal writing.

The “Bel Canto Technique”  is, therefore   a set of tools to achieve the inherent characteristics of the Style.

Today the term Bel Canto Technique encompasses  a  broad panorama of  vocal writing. As well as the rich repertoire of the Bel Canto Style, it embraces many languages, many composers of many styles:    Verismo, Wagner, European Operetta, Classical American Musical Theatre,  Lieder, Melodie, Canzone as well as Art Songs &  popular American songs of the 20th century.

The Bel Canto Style embraces a specific set of characteristics.   The Bel Canto Technique is based on these very characteristics.  What are these characteristics ?  Let’s take a look:

      1. Smooth blending of the registers:  An ability to smoothly join the head, mid and chest resonances into one unbroken line

2Clear diction:        pure, harmonized  vowels, well articulated consonants

3.  Dynamic Control:   an ability to modulate the tone throughout the voice (messa di voce)

      4. Clean onset  and offset of tone:   noiseless,  smooth, immediate beginning and ending of each phrase.

  5.  Long phrases sung on one breath:   a mastery over breath management and support of the tone.     

 6. Flexibility:     an ability to sing agile, accurate coloratura passages throughout the range

7.”Chiara/Scura tone:  – a balance  of bright and warm tone in every note in the vocal range.

.  Expressivity:  The convening of the deepest human emotions through voice and text

Keeping these characteristics as their  goal  a singer will begin with a knowledge of how one wants to see the curve of a phrase, express  a vocal color, deliver a text, create a long line, etc. It is in having this strong intent that we go about finding & developing the tools that allow  our singing to be much easier, healthier and energized.

In recognizing and willing these characteristics the technical growth of a singer becomes more comfortable, homeopathic, expressive and less mechanical.  We tend to get out of our own way which, of course, is the singer’s most common vocal challenge.

“Vocalizes are the foundation of a well-developed vocal technique.  They are the only way one can develop the tools that allow for beautiful singing of arias and songs.” – according to the great Belgian Bass Baritone Jose Van Dam.

The intelligent use of bel canto vocalizes is the clear way to achieve these goals, of course.  They are the building blocks  to developing an effortless but  energized classical vocal technique.     When approached in an orderly way the student, with their teacher, is able to develop the characteristics of Bel Canto Technique.   My favorites are:  Rossini (Gorgheggi E Solfeggi); Tosti (alter 25 solfeggi) & Marchesi (accompanied vocalises).

Keeping in mind what three of my favorite singers have said, we will realize that vocal technique is a means to an end – not an end in itself.

“THE VOICE TEACHER’S JOB IS TO HELP A SINGER WHO HAS  SOMETHING TO SAY,  SAY IT MORE EASILY”  (Dietrich Fischer Dieskau)

“SINGING BEAUTIFULLY IS NOT DIFFICULT, AS LONG AS ONE KNOWS WHAT THEY WANT TO ACHIEVE”  (Joan Sutherland)

“A BEATUIFUL TONE IS NEVER AN ACCIDENT (Thomas Hampson)

PS  – As I finish up this blog I have just seen and heard on You Tube  – Fausta Truffa, a  rather old woman singing Verdi’s  “La Vergine degli Angeli”  – a remarkable example of both the Style and Technique of beautiful singing.  It is also a testament to the healthy use  of a voice well into a later life.  Look and listen for yourself.

 

 

 

 

RESPONDING TO YOUR COMMENTS

THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO HAVE SENT IN COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS TO MY BLOG – I AM NOT ABLE TO RESPOND FOR SOME REASON OR OTHER DUE TO SOME WORDPRESS ID PROBLEM.  AS I TRY TO SORT IT OUT WHY DONT YOU JUST WRITE ME AT MY EMAIL ADDRESS WITH YOUR COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS.

I WILL BE HAPPY TO RESPOND.  THANK YOU FOR FOLLWOING “SINGING WITH MANY VOICES”

JOAN PATENAUDE-YARNELL

“I SANG BECAUSE I HAD TO” – Jon Vickers

                         A TRIBUTE TO THE ART OF JON VICKERS

The Canadian tenor, Jon Vickers passed away this July.  He leaves behind a legacy as one of the great singer-actors of the 20th Century.

WHAT MADE JON VICKERS STAND OUT AS SUCH AN IMPORTANT ARTIST?

He was born in the western province of Alberta in Canada and his beginnings were very humble.  He came from a working class family that lived by hard work and a deep sense of their religion.  He worked at low paying, hard labor jobs until he was granted a scholarship to go to the Toronto Conservatory to study with George Lambert – a teacher who insisted that his young student learn new repertoire for each lesson – a great deal of it being oratorio and songs.

He always claimed that his intense love of words came from his strong religious background and prayer.   He also developed an intense understanding of the human condition – most likely because of his less-than-prosperous beginnings and early family struggles to survive  .  Both of these experiences he brought to his singing.   

Mr. Vickers has often been called  the male equivalent to Maria Callas as they both “read between the lines” of the text and delved into their most profound meaning.    He was a great believer that the words came first and then the music – as it did for the composers.   

Because of his love of text and his intense emotional commitment, he never failed to bring a strong point of view to every role he performed – every song he  sang.  As with Callas, he found things in the characters he portrayed that lesser singers fail to do. 

Vickers approached each character with his own particular  individuality,  be it the jealously driven Otello, the self-destructive Don Jose, the lonely outcast, Peter Grimes.  His strong points of view  guided his singing.  It was all born in his imagination long before he put the role into his voice.    As with  many of our greatest singers, it was this intensity of purpose that guided his singing.  Technique was a means to share his deepest musical and interpretive goals with  his audience – never an end in itself.  This  intense preparation informed his singing.

Although  he was classified as a dramatic tenor, he brought the most elegant vocal colorings to his recital repertoire – especially Schubert’s “Die Winterreise”.  Again – he found these colors through his emotional commitment to  the text and the music.   Thus there was always a sense of deep personal commit:ment that came from deep inside the singer himself – nothing seemed to come from outside of him.

This approach, of course, meant taking many chances which many singers are reluctant to do.   He was driven by a need to share his deepest feelings through his voice thus his often heard quote: _ “I Sing Because I Have To”.

For me Vickers was always a profound inspiration – both as a young girl in Canada hearing him on television and also the great honor of singing my first professional role with him while I was still a student in conservatory (Micaela in Carmen – Canadian Opera Company).    I would watch him from the wings and see in front of me – not Mr. Vickers — but a human being who went from a young, naive  soldier in Act 1  to a killer in Act 4 –  a profound study of a self-destructive man.  

He was the personification of a great artist –  wonderfully prepared – very often demanding – always intense & above all a true catalyst between the composer and the librettist, laying bare for us all to see the deepest of emotions of the human spirit. 

The likelyhood of another artist of such intensity is rare – but we do have today the German tenor, Jonas Kaufmann.   He too “reads between the lines” of the text and always brings a strong individuality  to every character he portrays .  His singing is guided by his deep understanding of  each character. And he too  “takes a chance”   a   lesson all young singers should not be afraid to learn.

I heartily recommend that you check out the following Vicker performances on You Tube:

“Vesti La Giubba”  (Pagliacci) – Flower Song (Carmen) – and scenes from “Otello” and “Peter Grimes”.  

In a Vicker’s performance you will always hear deep understanding, intense communication and an overpowering vocal performance — goals we should all reach for.