Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Musings on Style and Interpretation

I always find that "style" feels either elusive or obvious. Never in between. One can imagine pretty easily the style of a Rococo painting, with its pastel colors, over-decorativeness, and frivolous innuendos…

And when it comes to music, the Bel-Canto style has a tradition that is immediately easy to hear …

Mozart also has his own stylistic decorum …. "Most people do the appoggiatura there in that recit…. and that note is held longer…. Here, at the end of 'deh vieni,' a small portamento is acceptable… " - etc., etc.

The more I work on Dialogues of the Carmelites, the more I am trying to crack Poulenc's distinct style. What is my flexibility as an artist? Can I do a portamento here or there, dare I say hold out a note longer here or there? The more I listen to my favorite singers, I notice that they've taken pretty big artistic liberties. Renee Fleming, for instance, loves to slide and do portamenti in her French arias, just as Maria Callas does tasteful portamentos in Bel-Canto arias. When these liberties are done really well, it can make something sparkle - it can bring life and freshness to the piece. I really feel like it shouldn't always be viewed as an evil thing. The key perhaps is learning it "straight-jacketed" (as Maria Callas used to say - learning precisely and clearly what the composer wrote), and then tastefully adding these things to the mix.

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