Being in Italy is a wonderful experience and I count myself fortunate to once again be part of the faculty at the COSI program headed by Darryl Edwards. It is a terrific Canadian program which is held in the beautiful little town of Sulmona in the Abruzzo region.

I was speaking with one of the tenors here regarding the singers that inspire him . Of course, Pavarotti’s name came up. He really is the gold standard of great singing. There are many interesting clips of him on youtube not the least of which is him discussing with Marilyn Horne, Joan Sutherland ( speaking of gold standard!) and Richard Bonynge about bel canto – beautiful singing.

I will never forget the first time I heard Pavarotti live. I was on tour with the Metropolitan Opera in Japan and I was attending a dress rehearsal for the Verdi Requiem. We were all still jet lagged but many of us in the company wanted to hear the rehearsal as we would not be able to attend the performance. Pavarotti had just arrived and was marking the rehearsal. Despite this I was able to hear him so clearly in the vast auditorium in Tokyo. It was as though he was sitting beside me whispering in my ear, such was the acoustic effect of that incredibly produced voice.

I often say to singers that what we are trying to do in improving our technique is to carry around our own acoustic with us. We must have a sense of producing our voice so that no matter where we are singing we can feel- not hear- that we are singing well. Allowing the sound to spin in the sound column and reflect off of the resonators creates an acoustic that is similar to an orchestra playing in front of a band shell when they play outdoor concerts.

This kind of singing creates in its listener a sense of intimacy and directness that cannot be matched. Funny, isn’t it, that by ostensibly singing ‘more’ ( ie. with more spin and with greater freedom) we create a response in our listeners that is a palpable physical and emotional experience. When I am teaching, and a singer achieves this, it is as though they are talking to me. Clearly they are singing, but with such freedom that there is nothing interrupting their thoughts being transmitted on sound waves to my ears. The ultimate goal! The most interesting thing to me in all of this is that people get it. From the the unsophisticated listener to the opera fanatic.

Back in Tokyo, Pav finally lets one fly and the whole theater breathed and released the built up yearning we had for him (to let us have just one glorious note). We are like a bunch of addicts waiting for our next fix!

My name is Wendy Nielsen and I am a voice addict.

Working toward that oft elusive goal of ultimate vocal freedom is something that I have done for most of my adult life. I continue to strive for this both with my own singing and for those singers who work with me. It is not unlike my husband’s addiction to windsurfing. Every day he hopes for some wind, the conditions are rarely perfect but it sure is fun to get out there and make the best with what you have (always hoping for that perfect day).


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