Friday, March 5, 2010

Fach Schmach

The title of this post is intended to be read in German, as a confession of shame [Schmach] rather than a dismissive splutter of indifference. Yes, among the Really Shameful Confessions which seem to be piling up is that the concept and limits of fach have been a source of confusion to me. Of course, I've done enough opera listening to understand that a tenore di grazia and a Heldentenor are on opposite ends of a spectrum where lirico and spinto come somewhere in between. But what about a lirico spinto? What about singers who transition into (predominantly) one type of repertoire from another? What about Placido Domingo? When more experienced devotees (usually in the line for Rush Tickets at the Met) started talking about a singer's fach, I remained shyly silent, trying to understand what was going on and what the disagreements were about.

Like the protagonist of Daddy-Long-Legs, however, I usually cope with not understanding things by quietly going and reading up on them. The faithful branch libraries of the NYPL provided me with Fred Plotkin's Opera 101 (clearly mendacious subtitle: "a complete guide to learning and loving opera.") I found it less patronizing than I had feared (hooray), frequently entertaining, and on pages 125-43 (sneakily viewable through Amazon), informative about fach. What about Placido Domingo? may be a question for the ages, but I feel better informed now. Whew!

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