reading and breathing opera



reading and breathing opera
Laura Buff
Class of 2013
Raleigh, NC
That is “breath”
and “inspiration”
combined in a single Italian
word, and is thus the perfect
word to symbolize opera.
Whenever people ask me about
last summer, I find myself at
a loss for words. Inspirazione,
however, comes close to
encapsulating my summer.
As a Vocal Performance and
Italian double-major, I wanted
to push myself in both fields
through my Burch Fellowship
experience by immersing
myself in the study of opera
in Italy.
Rosina Storchio, an Italian soprano
inspirational to my own progress as a
whose career lasted from 1892 to 1922,
performer. Many of the press reviews
became the muse of my studies. I carried
painted a clear picture of Storchio as
out research at the libraries at Il Teatro
a singing actress and praised her for
della Scala and the Conservatorio
both her intellectual qualities and her
Giuseppe Verdi; took voice lessons from
dramatic specificity. She premiered at
Giovanna Canetti, formerly affiliated
least six roles in major opera houses
with both La Scala and the conservatory,
in Italy by composers of the giovane
attended performances at La Scala and
scuola, or the “new school” in operatic
other major venues; and explored Italy’s
composition, such as Puccini, Leoncavallo,
culture, history, and breathtaking beauty.
and Mascagni. This affinity for pioneering
amount of growth in my ability to speak
However, the unanticipated personal
new roles resonates especially with me, as
Italian. While my reading comprehension
growth that accompanied this experience
I have discovered a passion for new music
is nearly fluent in the language, it is hard
is something only I will ever completely
during my time at UNC.
to truly develop conversational fluency
Research carried out in the libraries
My summer in Milan allowed a huge
While I spent most of my time
without being immersed in the culture.
researching in the libraries, my Burch
Being alone rid me of the temptation to
comprised the main
experience also delved
speak English with fellow Americans that
component of my Burch
into other dimensions
I previously experienced during an opera
Fellowship experience.
of my topic. I attended
program my first summer in Italy. Instead,
I began this research by
performances of Don
I got to know lots of Italians both young
spending most of my time
Pasquale and Manon
and old with whom I could speak. I began
in the conservatory to
at La Scala and Roméo
to learn slang terms and grew much more
understand a broad view
et Juliette at the
comfortable with day-to-day interactions.
of vocal technique in the
Arena in Verona, all
As I grew more fluent in the language, I
nineteenth century in Italy.
operas that Storchio
also gained the confidence necessary to
This information came
performed regularly.
live alone in a foreign city.
from treatises and method
These performances
books on vocal technique
brought my research
Fellowship summer confirmed my idea
written over the course
to life and allowed
that performance and research can and
Most importantly, my Burch
of the century, with an effort to gather
me to compare and contrast the ideas I
should coexist. I realized that I truly
information from the beginning, middle,
was able to gather from reading about
enjoy immersing myself in a research
and end of the century. Some of my areas
Storchio’s singing and dramatics. To gain
project that I have designed based on
of focus included changes in voice type,
a hands-on understanding of modern
my interests, and hope to combine my
breath, vibrato, and forms of articulation
Italian vocal teaching, I took voice lessons
desire to conduct research with my love
such as portamenti.
with Giovanna Canetti, formerly affiliated
of music in a career. While the fields of
with both La Scala and the conservatory.
performance and musicology often exist
voice itself throughout the nineteenth
This branch of my experience allowed
separately, I hope to work to bring those
century, I focused my research on
me new insight on my own vocal
two together as an “intellectual performer”
Storchio. Most of this sector of my
development, as Signora Canetti took me
of sorts, carrying out research that will
research took place at La Scala. I used
back to fundamental concepts of singing
directly inform the roles I perform.
After gaining a general picture of the
to rebuild certain aspects of my
technique. She focused especially on
my breathing and vibrato, which are
closely interconnected. As a whole,
using Signora Canetti’s lessons as
representative of the current Italian
school, much of modern Italian vocal
training seems to be consistent with
that of the end of the nineteenth
century. Italian vocal training
a variety of media to find details about
continues to place heavy emphasis on
Storchio’s life and career, including letters,
a bright, forward tone with consistency
the press, and biographical writings.
between vowel sounds, along with purity
Researching Storchio’s career was
of those sounds.

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