Wednesday: Lesson 8

When you sing Lesson 8 today, make sure that you don’t put accents on the appoggiaturas. Lean into them from a timing perspective (make them long) and maintain your dynamic plan through each phrase. Don’t let dynamics happen to you! If you sing every appoggiatura twice as loud as the rest of the line, people “won’t like it”. With good reason! But they will tell you they don’t like the appoggiatura, when, in fact, they don’t like the way you sing them! And then you are where you don’t want to be: in a battle about whether we “like” or “don’t like” the appoggiatura. You can avoid this battle by singing smoothly through them.

Read on for some additional information on the appoggiatura:

Ok, I know yesterday’s post was on the geeky side and today’s is as well. Apologies! It is a fine line we walk between just enough and too much information. In my defense I can just say that the topic of the appoggiatura STILL leads to much confusion and I want to take the opportunity here to arm you with some solid proof when you decide how to sing your Handel, Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti. Oh, and Cimarosa!

Opinion: Cimarosa is fantastic with appoggiaturas. Without… not so much…. Only the truly great ones transcend our bleaching/filtering of dissonance out of their music – mere mortals do not survive us as valiantly. We look at an example of “another way we know what we know.” Below you see the Countess’s recitative as reproduced in a “practice book.” We can infer a lot from looking at the ‘Schirmer anthologies’ of the past. During the same time the Italians were writing about the Italian tradition in London (and elsewhere), they were teaching it. And they compiled early versions of “aria books” for their students. Luckily quite a few of them survived. They are not only interesting because of what is compiled in them, but also the notes the teacher made. (This gives me pause: what will people think 200 years from now when they look at what we wrote in our anthologies…😮)

Some context for our example: It was printed by Goulding D’Almaine Potter & Co (20 Soho Square, London). George Goulding was probably in business before 1784 – Le nozze di Figaro had its London premiere in 1789 after its premiere in Vienna in 1786. The publisher had their address at Soho Square since late 1811. At some point in the early 1830’s Goulding’s name is dropped from the company name. Our example thus was printed and used some time between 1811 and 1830ish. This would have been easily during Mozart’s lifetime if he lived as long as Haydn. I bore you with these details since people often assume that these examples are a “bel canto interpretation of Mozart”. While we’re thinking about what happened when: spare a thought for the fact that Mozart would have been 60 at the premiere of Il barbiere di Siviglia, 74 for Anna Bolena, and 75 for Norma.

Opinion: “Style” does not cut as easily into courses and semesters as some would like to have you believe…Our example is of particular interest, since we see two layers of information on the appoggiatura:

  1. the editor suggests appoggiature by printing them in small notes (in the style of Donizetti). I dare say this editor does a better job than those at Schirmer when it comes to suggesting appoggiature…
  2. the teacher crossed out the ones he did not like, or did not require the student to execute. Which, we don’t know, but it does not matter.
Review of the simple “when” of the appoggiatura:

Whenever there are two (or three) of the same pitches at the end of a phrase (or member of a phrase), we support the prosodic accent with an appoggiatura. Another way of saying this: whenever you punctuate (whether you breathe or not), you place an appoggiatura.

You may also use the appoggiatura in the following cases, but you don’t have to:

  • In the middle of a line (again the purpose is to promote the prosody and give shape to the line)
  • If the phrase (or member of a phrase) ends in tronco, i.e. there is only one note because there is only one syllable.

There is one extra piece of information we have not discussed yet: what to do with all the printed rests in the recitative. We will discuss this in more detail when we talk about recitative in Lesson 14, but, for now: composers were taught to place rests at the end of the poetic lines of versi sciolti to clarify the poetic form for the singer. If you choose to “read across that line ending” you may ignore the rest – just like you might read across a line ending in English blank verse. Mozart reads across the line ending a couple of times in his setting already.

Here is Da Ponte’s verse:

E Susanna non viene! Sono ansiosa
Di saper come il Conte
Accolse la proposta. Alquanto ardito
Il progetto mi par; e ad uno sposo
Sì vivace e geloso…
Ma che mal c’è? Cangiando i miei vestiti
Con quelli di Susanna, e i suoi co’ miei…
Al favor della notte… O cielo! A quale
Umil stato fatale io son ridotta
Da un consorte crudel; che, dopo avermi,
Con un misto inaudito
D’infedeltà, di gelosie, di sdegni,
Prima amata, indi offesa, e alfin tradita,
Fammi or cercar da una mia serva aita!

Le nozze di Figaro Act III Scene vi

In our example I put circles around the rests that denote the poetic form, and also indicated where Mozart ignored the rule and “read across the line ending” himself. I have indicated in red arrows all the places where the appoggiatura MUST be placed if the singer punctuates. Should the singer chose to sing across the rest after “con quelli di Susanna,” she may omit the appoggiatura (or keep it). You will see that the teacher did not cross out any of the appoggiature that are considered obligatory by Tosi, Corri, and García. I have indicated in purple arrows all the optional appoggiaturas. The teacher crossed out the printed note by Mozart when he wanted the singer to sing the suggested appoggiatura and he crossed out the suggested appoggiatura by the editor when he wanted the singer to ignore the suggestion. You may or may not agree with him!

One of my singers once came to coaching and sang an appoggiatura on “O, zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn.” I said, “I don’t really like the appoggiatura on Sohn.” She smiled and said,”I do.” I don’t think I was ever a more proud teacher than in that moment! (Remember Telemann? Yes it applies to German. Also English. Get your appoggiatura game on in Messiah!) In Sunday’s Zoom I can answer questions about application to your specific recitatives and arias. Remember that Corri tells us that the convention of the appoggiatura applies to both “air and recitative.” Today we just happened to look at a recitative. Happy practicing and applying to repertoire! Tomorrow we take a break from all this geekiness!

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