Some historical facts of classical singing

Ever since at the farthest historical times, people have created songs. Some of these songs were hymns glorifying the Gods, others were exposing the sorrow in times of funeral ceremonies, and also there were songs, performed in holidays, or competitions too.

• In the Ancient Greece, singing was accompanied with an instrument: for example lire, trigonon, magadis and others. Throughout the history, there are names of Ancient Greek singers memorized: Terpander, Stesichorus, and others.

• There are historical facts about the art of singing in the Ancient Rome as well.
Three types of a singing school can be found in that period:
1. Vociferarril – teachers who used to work on the vocal diapason.
2. Phonashi – teachers, working of the vocal resonance.
3. Vocales – teachers of the vocal aesthetics.

• The historic data of the vocal art in the 15th century is not so rich, though it is known that the singers used the imitation as a voice method. In that period mainly professional singing was the church singing. The voice was required to be at the same time strong but tender, but also light. Same time the voice making should be never from the nose or from the throat.

• Throughout the Renascence all of the arts in Italy have an active development. Each of us are aware of the names of Dante, , Boccaccio, Petrarca, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raffaello, Tiziano, and others as well. All of these authors have been influenced by the Renaissance’ idea of humanism. Making thus a new way of understanding out of the Ancient Greek’s ideas of art.
As a big cultural center in the 16th century used to occur in Florence. The music school Camerata Florentine had been created. It was also known as Camerata de Bardi, that came out of the name of Count de Bardi. In his home many artists usually gathered for discussing the arts. The members of this activity were the poet and philosopher Ottavio Runaccini, the composers Jacobo Peri, Giulio Caccini, Emilio de Cavalieri, Pietro Strozzi, and the lutenist Vincenzo Galilei.

Most important of this period are:
⁃ The lyrics have been defined as main element in the vocal music, that confirms the rhythm and melody.
⁃ The basic concepts is that the singer became a soloist and artist. The singer can creates characters and roles on the stage and is not only a part of the music picture.
⁃ Leonardo da Vinci had represented the first model of the larynx.
⁃ Theoretical compositions about singing had been created. An example is the book “Nuove Musiche” by Caccini. ‘‘
This book includes ancient madrigals and theory where Caccini explains the rules of the singing. Some examples of his remarks are “to be spoken musically”, “clear diction and correct intonation” and others.

Coloratura passages were used only where it is not being an obstacle of the text’s pronunciation.
⁃ Some of the earliest Italian operas have been written. Such as Jacolo Peri’s “Dafne”. “Eurodice” by Caccini, and others.
⁃ The concept of “Dramma per musica” has been established. Thus had been called the operas in Florence at this period of time.
Gradually, singing schools had been sprung up at Rome, Venice, Milan, and Naples. The art of singing was developing very actively throughout the whole Italy at the end of 16th century, and the beginning of 17th century.

Thanks to the art school in Florence, the aesthetically criterion of singing are being developed: singing should be “beautiful, melodious, have wide cantilena, and clearly pronounced text. These requirements reached their peak with composers such as Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1720), and Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). After then a headlong tendency appeared, in which the vocal virtuosity was more significant, and the text was not so important element in the song. As an example, in the Pergolesi (1710-1736) composer’s opera “La Serva Padrona”, in which the important vocal element is the coloratura.
Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) – composer and teacher of singing in Neaples, whose most famous singing students were the castrate:
Farinelli, Kaffarelli and Porporino.
Farinelli can be considered as a first singer “superstar”.

Other students of Porpora were composers Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783) and Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). In Porpora’s school, apart of the coloraturas in the scores, pointed out by the composer, the singers have added more ornaments, passages, and improvisations in order to demonstrate a brilliant technique.
Bologna was the other famous school of singing in the 17-18th century in Italy. The most famous names are Feri, Tosi, and Konti. Pier Francesco Tosi (1653-1732) is a remarkable singer, а castrate, and a famous vocal pedagogue, teaching both: castrates and non castrates. He created theoretical labor of correct and precise indications of the bel canto singers.
The Italian singing stile of the bel canto gets enormous growth in the 17th and 18th century. It reached its peak in the castrato’s technique. The bel canto stile influenced on the whole Europe.
Throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th century, chronologically in Europe araised some important groundworks , prepared by important singing teachers:

• Jean-Baptist Berar ( 1710-1772). L’art du chant, Paris, publ. 1755.
• Bernardo Mengozzi (1758-1800). Methode du chant du Conservatoire de Music. Paris, 1803.
• Alexis de Garaude (1779-1852). Methode de chant. Paris, 1809.
• Henric-Ferdinand Manschtein (1806-1872). Sisteme de la grande Methode de chant de Bernacchi de Bologna, 1835.
• Gilbert-Luis Dupre (1806-1896). L’Arte del canto. Paris, 1846.
• Manuel Garcia-father (1775-1832) “Exercises and Method of Singing with Accompaniment with the Piano Forte”
• Manuel Garcia-son (1805-1906) “Traits complet de l’art du chant. Paris”, 1855.
• Francesco Lamperti (1813-1892). L’Arte del canto. Milano.

The authors which best describe the stile of bel canto singing are Manuel Garcia – father and son. Their works contain the best, most accurate, detailed and fulfilled description on the vocal techniques. They give the best base, upon which contemporary way of sing is build and refined.
Garcia-father as Otello

Garcia-son, aged 100 – Portrait by John Singer Sargent

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