October 15, 2007


Joan Dorneman, now the premier Italian repetiteur, at the Metropolitan Opera, kept telling me, during a coaching prior to an Escamillo of mine with the Met on tour in Atlanta, “There is just something wrong, but I can’t tell you exactly what it is!” She granted that I was singing very well, the French excellent, phrasing, etc., but something was bothering, nay, nagging her. After about forty minutes she suddenly exclaimed,  “That’s it! You keep getting tall!” I asked, “That’s it, that’s what’ bothering you? Uh huh, but ... how did it sound?” “Great, but it bothers me when you get taller.” (During all of the years we had been working together, she hadn’t realized that I get tall–from the waist up–on every high note.)

“First off,” I suggested, “The audience, if they can see it at all, doesn’t see what I do as being wrong, because it is part of my animation, in character of Escamillo ... and the first row of the audience ... is fifty feet away. No one sees what you are seeing, sitting just seven feet away.” I continued, “Now think about this; has it occurred to you that, maybe I sing the high voice, as well as I do ... because I get tall?” I explained that, every time I get tall, my belly button goes in ... which gives the high notes an extra shot of breath pressure. Also, the getting tall ... allows me to add full vertical room above the note ... soft palate all the way up! I gave that same suggestion to the lovely Carole Vaness, one night stage left, at the N Y City Opera, when she asked, “Richard, what am I doing wrong with the high C {in the aria she was about to sing.}” I told her, “You need to focus a really tighter, brighter vowel, farther forward, more narrow mouth ... get tall ... and lift the phrase down the back side of the phrase!” As she came off, she graciously gave me the high sign and I acknowledged with a smile and a wave ... the beautiful high C with which she had just buttoned the aria.

Thimpk about  it!!!