I sat with rapt attention at the back of a gorgeous, high ceilinged hall across the plaza from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
Prof. Dr. h.c. Ks. Brigitte Fassbaender was giving a master class for singers who had completed their formal educations.
I was so looking forward to learning more about Richard Strauss art song interpretation from this legendary operatic mezzo-soprano. Instead I watched her students struggle to fill a resplendently, acoustically resonant hall with their sound. The struggle left few resources available to honor the master composer and the poetry he had chosen to illuminate with melody.
I watched her try to get her students to maximize how they used their bodies.
How frustrated I was as an auditor. I can only imagine what it was like for her to be confronted with physical struggles which compromised the freedom to receive and execute her suggestions for interpreting the composer and lyricist/poet's works.
Prof. Fassbaender expressed her frustration that well educated vocal musicians were missing one vital point: in order to make dynamic choices with Richard Strauss's glorious music, they needed their whole instrument, their entire body and their entire resonance available to them.
She turned to the audience. Without benefit of amplification she spoke with the authority garnered from a long and illustrious career.
"Make no mistake, opera singing is a high-performance sport." Prof. Dr. h.c. Ks. Brigitte Fassbaender
I was riveted by that one idea. She inspired me to intensify my quest in support of my fully embodied resonance. What would I discover if I treated myself as a vocal athlete? I went on one of my singing sabbaticals to find out what I could find out.
In retrospect, their struggles looked an awful lot like the struggles of clients I have worked with since I figured out how my ligamentously lax body works optimally to make consistently free and supported sound. I have watched so many singers and speakers struggle in master classes and behind podiums because the coordination of vocal support needed by ligamentously lax vocalists, those that unbind the voice and release resonance have been left to chance (until now).
Prof. Dr. h.c. Ks. Fassbaender is right. Opera singing requires a profound command of the entire body. And in my experience any type of vocal resonance work (telling a story, singing a song, making a point maybe as a teacher or care-giver) requires a fully embodied voice.
(I've attached her Deutsche Grammophon performance of Richard Strauss' "Morgen" here. Perhaps you'll want to invest in some of her music-making).
© Monica Schober, VOICE UNBOUND℠ 2021. All rights reserved. Please link back to this blog post and credit VoiceUnbound.com to avoid copyright infringement. Thank you.