Some time ago, in a land far, far away (i.e. myspace) I was asked by a group of one to start a new blog series called Ask the Tenor. So here is your opportunity to ask me anything. I hope to open the world of the art form to you, by giving you, the reader, the opportunity to pick my brain on the art of classical singing. Of course, when I say anything, I actually mean almost anything. Please don’t be too rude or vulgar and try to stay on topic. Here are some things to ask me about:
What is vocal range, and what is yours? What do you eat on singing days? How do you become a singer? Who is your favorite opera singer of all time and why? What’s the difference between a tenor and a counter tenor? Which came first the chicken or the egg? On American Idol, what does Paula Abdul mean by “pitchy”?
Pretty much anything and I will try to answer it. If I can’t, I’ll make up a convincing answer and do a little research for you. So, please email me your questions, and I will pick the best ones and feature them here!
Without further ado, I give you Ask the Tenor:
Do you recommend forms of physical exercise before performances? – Philip in California
I believe a light cardiovascular workout to get the blood flowing is a good thing. Several of my colleagues go for walks, runs, swims, bikes, hikes, etc. the morning of performances. One thought is to build it into your daily, routine and not skip it on your performance day. I had a good discussion with the baritone soloist, Neil Nelson, over dinner back in April while singing a Mozart festival in Fort Myers, FL with the Southwest Florida Symphony. Neil has been coaching high school football. He tries to workout daily. I know of several other singing colleagues who try to fit a workout in as well.
I too, am a Tenor, and have been dying to ask another professional about this. Am I the only person that feels that Jussi Björling is a ‘better’ singer than Enrico Caruso?
I love Mr. Caruso, but since I’ve discovered Mr. Björling, I can’t bear to listen to any other tenors. – Tony in New York
What a great question. I am quite fond of Jussi Björling ‘s singing as well. Both are incredible singers. Let me frame this answer up a little. First problem is the recording archive of both of these singers. Caruso’s recordings for the most part are mono-analog recordings. Björling arrives in the stereo age, and though his recordings are also analog, many are stereo. Also video quality is better, so we get to see Björling perform in more clips. My thought is that it is hard to take into account very old recordings because they can be sped up, slowed down, cleaned up, scratchy, etc. (a lot to do with the source material and the technology of the time) Now that we live in the digital age, we are used to clarion clear sound.
Björling was an incredibly versatile singer, and you can find recordings of him in several different languages and styles. In my opinion, he was as linguistically gifted as another tenor I like, Nicolai Gedda. Caruso, like many Italian and German singers of his time only sing in their native tongue. For instance, most of the recordings by my favorite tenor, Fritz Wunderlich, are in German, even the Italian opera and love songs. Very rarely do you hear him sing in Italian. (Here is a review of a recent documentary on Wunderlich’s life and singing)
Better singer? I’m not sure, though Björling is definitely much more versatile, it seems he sang practically everything. You cannot however deny that both singers sang with a great deal of passion and characterization.
There is my spin on it.