Page 55 - Classical Singer magazine 2019 Fall University Issue
P. 55

Remember that the exceptions to rules are just as important as the rules themselves. The three major languages we utilize in classical musical literature have evolved through the centuries, resulting in the streamlining and codifying of standard pronunciation rules for most words, but not all. The reason X does not follow the same rule as Y may not be easily explained by a teacher. And Italian, considered by many as the easiest language to sing, has regional di erences that are still argued to this day: when [e] and [o] are opened or closed is the most common issue. So, depending on the education of your teacher or diction instructor, you may get di ering opinions.
In terms of syntax, ask your instructor about the sentence structure of the language. Find out speci cally where the verbs are. For
example, the verb cantare (to sing) in Italian can be found in its in nitive in two ways—with or without the  nal [e]. Verbs are action words, and the poetic  ow/foot of the phrase usually moves toward the action. Knowing this can help with your memorization and interpretation.
Think about keeping a lexicon of 10–15 words that you know the meaning and pronunciation of in each language. Find ones that are common. (I had a student use “lava” in Italian—how often does that occur?) When you’re working a new piece, those words will appear as friends you already know. Again, this will help with pronunciation, memorization, and interpretation.
These are a few tricks that should help you not only survive diction but also more fully understand it. Please check out my companion
article online, where I discuss how teachers can apply these concepts to help students with comprehension and where I go into more detail on English diction. Hopefully, these tools will help you appreciate the nuances of language, increase your interpretation and enjoyment of lyric musical literature, and assist in your development as a thoughtful singer.
S teven B. Jepson, baritone, is a respected international artist with expansive credits in the Americas, Europe, and Japan. H is performing experience is rich and varied, from Broadway pops, cruise ship production shows, and cabaret to opera, sacred works, and symphonies. In demand as a teacher and clinician, he teaches voice and diction at the University of Missouri.
Longy offers vocalists concentrations in:
Voice and Opera
Historical Performance
Jazz and Contemporary Music
Seize the opportunity to study with our world-class faculty— submit your application now. 55

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