Range and tessitura – sound production
The problem resembles a bit what singers with bigger voices often encounter in singing early music, or in ensembles: ‘First you have to sing it, then you will make it in style’. By conditioning the body so that it ‘can do it’ we get the raw material, on top of which we can start controlling many other parameters and mix our best nuances to achieve the required stylistic approach.In real bel canto tenors use an element in their technique called urlare. This is a sort of ‘roar’ – it is a voice production in which the voice is already in its ‘upper position,' being already ‘above’ the passagio, and keeping the throat opened enough to not close it under the big pressure of the threatening feeling that the continuous high tessitura would cause. At this time, in addition to this piece I studied Puccini's Madama Butterfly, an aria and scene of Pinkerton. This music and the technique suitable to sing in this style helped me to discover a flexible movement of the diaphragm while keeping the chest opened by a holding of the intercostal muscles, with the correct positioning and usage of articulation and resonators in the head.
Pronunciation, text/subtext – speech
With my pianist coach we worked a lot on still connecting to the text, and making longer syllables where the word emphasis is. Finding the right character, not just musically, but in the sense of a ‘persona,' and looking to the text through its relation to the music gave me a more secure idea of who I am on stage, and made me have an inner intention of delivering this subtext. This clear intention gave my body genuine motivation to generate enough energy needed for the part, while keeping my instrument as open and free as possible (under such extreme circumstances).
Phrasing, character - Keeping the instrument calm
With my teacher, Sasja Hunnego, we worked a lot on letting the energy through but not going with it (not collapsing). F-ing – In this exercise you imagine a phrase, but instead of signing it, you just breath out on ‘f’ continuously. With that you teach the body calmly stay just breathing out, despite the harsh character of the music, with its square rhythms, marcati, often glottal onsets and harsh consonants. It works as a psychological conditioning as well, in time the breathing starts to become automatic for each phrase, and it provides a constant airflow till the end of the phrase. In this case it was difficult to use this feeling - and still have enough energy for maintaining the high tessitura.
We worked with building exercises to train the smaller muscles of the ribcage and open the chest. Most of the work was studying the piece mentally, practicing a lot ‘silently’ – as otherwise it is too tiring for the voice. Physical and mental exercising was also needed for this most difficult task in my singing career so far.