Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Balls to the Wall

I’ve been asked by a fellow blogger to write and describe what it is like to sing Wagner. Well, the short version is that it feels like what a camel must experience when it hurls it’s larynx out of its throat. This is true. Camels will on occasion upchuck it’s vocal mechanism and let it dangle outside it’s mouth at a human it feels is a threat, or at attractive double humpback female camels as a mating ritual. Evil baritones have been known to do this when singing Wagner.

The Flying Dutchman is one of Wagner’s early operas and consists of many signature Wagner motive’s which are prominent later on in his bigger grand operas, but also has much sense of the Romantic style that Wagner appreciated, especially from Bel Canto composers such as Bellini. Richard Wagner, however, has taken liberties with his compositions. He enlists broad strokes of melody with hellacious ranges, and gigantic leaps in dynamics for singers of opera.

To sing Wagner is a stretch vocally, musically, and physically challenging for one’s stamina. I was so physically exhausted after singing the men vs. ghost chorus in Act III that I literally collapsed in the Green Room each night after performing the scene. With wads of tissues in hand I dampened my sweaty brow and gulped water like it was sweet as milk & honey. It certainly did not help that the director’s staging had us stomping, hitting, and otherwise creating mass hysteria onstage while singing, “Steuerman las die vacht!” That chorus and style of singing can only be described by the term known to all singers as, "Balls to the Wall!"

And after each curtain call when the throng of 3,000 fanatics were finished applauding, whooping and whistling, I lingered on stage after the curtain’s final drop so that I could search for my vocal mechanism which was left somewhere downstage right. Wagner? Oy! I love his music, but I think I’ll stick to singing Mozart & Puccini.

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Comments on "Balls to the Wall"


Blogger Andrea said ... (April 20, 2007 11:34 AM) : 

*FINALLY!* Sheesh, about time, EB.

Disgusting photo notwithstanding, a very good post. We all need reminding, from time to time, that, well... Wagner ain't Bel Canto!

Good thing you've got that Magic Flute in the works now. And what's this about Puccini?


Blogger Penny Karma said ... (April 23, 2007 2:32 PM) : 

Ok, where of earth did you get that picture??


Anonymous Campbell Vertesi said ... (May 10, 2007 9:48 AM) : 

wonderful description. For the record, sometimes singing big ole verdi is the same experience.


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