CJ Replay: Best Voice for Mozart
Date: January 23, 2014
(An excerpt from the Choral Journal article, “The Best Voice for Mozart,” by Robert Russell)
If Baroque violinists sought to imitate the voice, then by reversing the analogy we may discover significant information about the nature of the voice. The beauties of violin playing consisted in the swelling and softening created by the smooth drawing of the bow from end to end; an expressive vibrato produced an agreeable sound that should be used frequently. Since the art of violin construction has remained relatively stable from the time of Amati and Stradivarius and since these old instruments are still played, we have some definite indications about the nature of the vocal model used by violin makers. Following Geminiani's analogy, we may conclude that operatic production of the eighteenth century was purer, sweeter, and more graceful than today. The nineteenth-century operatic concept in which the voice imitated the trumpet as well as the violin was unknown in Mozart's time.
If operatic performers did not sing with full voice in the upper range until the nineteenth century, then Mozart's arias were surely sung in his time with light or mixed-voice production. Mancini concluded as much by saying that "it is not enough for one to have merely an elevated chest and a capacity for big noise to become a successful singer." The flexibility demanded in Mozart's arias cannot be delivered if sung with a heavy vocal mechanism.