Wednesday, April 29, 2009

...So would you call yourself a baritone or a bass-baritone? Episode I

It's been six days since my last post- sorry to disappoint my readership of one, but this gig has been a little nutso.  

So, baritone vs. bass-baritone is a question I've been asked numerous times over the course of my career, and it has no clear answer, as I sing repertoire in both areas.  I'm surely going to make things even more confusing after this stint of doing both Rossini's and Mozart's Figaro.  Even though plenty of baritones have had both roles in their repertoire (Thomas Allen and Hermann Prey come to mind), it seems that these days the voice types are so compartmentalized there is no room for overlap. 

Mostly when people ask me what kind of rep I sing I respond "whatever people are foolish enough to hire me to sing" and leave it at that, but it can cause some problems.  For instance, walking into an audition with "Se vuol ballare" and "Largo al factotum" on my list probably won't impress the auditioners.  It will probably make them think I have no idea what voice type I am.  I'd like to think that versatility in this regard is an asset- I mean, did the term bass-baritone even exist when Mozart and Rossini wrote these pieces?  I think not.  

But I digress- the reason I'm ranting about this is because as we approach opening of Nozze, I'm reminded why Mozart Figaros tend to lean a little more on the basso side.  Being that most of the role lays in my middle voice, it is easy to get away with murder.  For instance- not fully supporting, or trying to sing it without warming up.  I realized that the hard way halfway through our Wandelprobe the other night.  We were in the big E-flat battle royale in the Act II finale, and I realized that was the first time I had properly supported a tone all evening.  And by that time, I was vocally tired from not supporting my middle, and, well there you go.  Mozart shouldn't be or sound heavy, and that's how I was singing it.  Shame on me.  

So, kids,  guess the moral of the story is: warm up and support your middle voice!  You will be much happier.  Oh, and don't do drugs.  

I had a little moment of panic when I was warming up the other day.  I was practicing the E naturals in "Non piu andrai" (of which there are several), and was thinking that they seemed awfully difficult.  I was starting to think I wouldn't be able to get through the show when I realized my cheap pitch pipe was broken and was I was trying to sing the whole aria up a step.  Dumb.  

So until I figure out what voice type I truly am (who knows? bassitone, maybe? as long as I'm not a bare-ass!),



  1. I really liked this post, especially! I had someone ask me the difference between a bass, bass-baritone, and a baritone the other day. Since I got the feeling that that might be his standard question for a musician, I wasn't too worried about my answer! :-) Love the blog.

  2. I hope you replaced your pitch pipe! I think this is really cool that you're tracking all these thoughts!