|Ominous but helpfully labeled stairway.|
The vocal vocabulary I was most interested in--fach, timbre, tessitura, passagio, coloratura, fioritura--came at the end of the lecture, which ran longer than its scheduled hour and fifteen minutes. I was hoping for a sort of guided tour through audio samples: this is what critics mean when they describe a tone as bright, dark, round, flat, metallic, etc. There were audio samples across fachs, from Diana Damrau to Rene Pape, which was nice. But I think I might need the next level (or two) up in the Met's educational programs. Or book recommendations from you, Gentle Readers! Or possibly even both. Before the lecture got to this point, the following terms were defined and clarified: tempo, dynamics,pitch, families of instruments, and articulation. The audience questions included the following: What is perfect pitch? (Apparently this innate gift is caused by the fluid balance in one's ears, which I did not know.) Is the harp a percussion instrument? Do you control dynamics at each instrument or by adding more instruments? Are there symphonies or operas which require rearranging of the orchestra?
The audience seemed moderately well-heeled, but not pretentious; the majority had traveled abroad. But the game presenter seemed to think it necessary (and perhaps it was necessary!) to demystify staff notation. Had no one in the audience taken a piano lesson, or sung in a chorus? Maybe they never thought to associate those scales and arpeggios with what they hear in the opera house; it's possible; one gentleman asked if the nature of pitch applied to the voice as well as to orchestral instruments. I do not mean to denigrate either the good-humored, courageously questioning people who attended the boot camp (may it redound to their credit and enjoyment!) or those who conducted it with grace and skill. It passed one of the key tests for academic writing: it accomplished what it set out to do. I learned that repertory opera houses keep lists of singers arranged by fach, and I got a handout. But my restless search for continuing opera education goes on.