Coup de la Glotte and Voix Blanche
author(s): Ingela Tagil
published in: Norwegian Academy of Music
This exposition explores aspects of the vocal techniques promoted by the Garcia School, in particular Manuel Garcia the younger (1805–1906). Despite his aim to improve the male opera voice, Garcia and his successors had their greatest success with female singers. I believe that, to the extent that they may be considered as significant factors in why the Garcia School was extraordinary successful with female singers, especially high sopranos and coloratura sopranos, some parts of Garcia’s vanished techniques may benefit female voices today.
Garcia’s controversial term Coup de la glotte, his definition of breathing support, and his term for a high larynx position, voix blanche, provide the main focus for the exposition. My core research questions are:
1. How do Garcia’s techniques coup de la glotte (hard tone onset) and voix blanche (high larynx position) affect female opera voice progression?
2. Do these techniques have any relevance today?
I have conducted experiments with seven sopranos, three of them professionals and four opera students at the Bern University of Arts. All participants sang the same Garcia exercises and the same aria, a part of Lucia’s mad-scene from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. All these experiments were filmed, with the camera focused on the singer’s glottis while they sang using Garcia’s techniques.
I am now evaluating the experiments and comparing them with early recordings. I have found that some of Garcia’s techniques, especially the higher breathing support together with the higher larynx positions are really useful to some high sopranos, especially in certain bel canto repertoire. Garcia was already old-fashioned during his own lifetime and singers from the Garcia/Marchesi school clung to older techniques longer than other singers from the same period. For this reason, I suggest that the Garcia School may be used as a historical window to singers wishing to sing in historical ways - even having relevance for pre-nineteenth century repertoire.