Fleming: The Inner Voice
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Renée Fleming, The Inner Voice : The Making of a Singer. New York : Viking, 2004. xvii + 222 pages.
Why have I submitted a book by Renée Fleming, an opera singer, as a Scienticity book note? The original instrument was the human voice. This book explores what can be done with the human voice to hone it to the caliber needed to sing opera.
This book also contains chapters about Fleming's family, children, studies, education, and marriage, but I will approach this book note highlighting how she was coached to make the most of her voice. (Her parents sang at home after dinner as her Father was a high school vocal teacher and her Mother taught singing at a small private college.)
Interspersed among the pages are the names of classical musicians I hear about on classical radio: Aaron Copland, Maria Callas, and George Solti.
The training of a voice is a science. A Voice begins with talent, but has to be "nurtured, cajoled, wrestled with, pampered with, challenged with, and examined." Fleming imprints her parts on her muscle membranes.
The high soprano voice lies above the speaking voice, and producing high tones requires much amount of space in the mouth. Fleming had to make mental pictures in her mind to direct air to the cavities in her head, or to the mask, mouth or chest. The mask is the nose, cheekbones, nasal, and sinus cavities where sound resonates. A singer has to project the voice to the back of the hall. Muscle isolation and coordination comes first.
The resonance and focusing, or placing of the voice, flows to the pharynx, larynx, epiglottis, hard and soft palate, breathing cavities, and diaphragm. There is so much to learn about breathing and support. The parts of breath are: take in a breath, control the sound with breath, and support the sound with breath.
Once a voice is nearing perfection and splendid singing offers are made, Fleming needs a "cast of thousands", or a huge retinue, to support her career. Included are secretaries to make travel arrangements, make-up artists, wig and costume/gown arrangers, language tutors for foreign operas, nannies, and coaches to guide her as she learns her roles.
Basically her roles are determined by her finely-honed voice. Without her scientifically trained voice, she wouldn't be considered such a fine soprano.
-- Notes by EHL