How can two well-respected singers of Italian song be compared and scrutinized based on there Italian diction. For example, when Luciano Pavorotti is compared to Mirella Freni, there is some variation of their diction, variations that also vary from the diction we learned in class this quarter. One might think that their personal backround that could account for such differences, however, they were both born in Modena in 1935 and it is even said that they shared the same “wet-nurse” (whether or not this is true can be left for you to decide).
So if they don’t come from completely different back rounds, then we must start somewhere else.
The truth is, although they are both 67 years old, Mirella Freni still sounds as if she is 22. Some even say that if Milanese opera-goers had drunk a sleeping potion instead of champagne at the intermission of their Boh ” eme performance in 1963 and awakened 32 years later, they might have concluded that they had merely nodded off for a few seconds. For there was Mirella Freni on stage singing Mimi, as fresh and lustrous and touching as in 1963. Not that Luciano sounds old or anything, but his tone sure has not remained as youthful as Mirella’s.
I believe that Mirella’s youthful tone accounts for many of her vocal characteristics. She has much more shape to her vowels and consonants than Pavorotti does. This allows for a better understanding of her lyrics. Pavorotti uses a lot less consonants and a lot more vowel sound. For example, in Nessum Dorma, Luciano pronounces “dorma” almost with a doubled [o: ] and he barely even flips the [r], and goes straight to the [a] sound. On the contrary, he oftentimes doubles consonants that aren’t doubled in the text.
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For example, in the same song, he pronounces the word “silencio” with a doubled “n” [silent: cio]. Although this seems like an incorrect way to say this word, nobody would dare say it was so. Perhaps the note value better fit this pronunciation. Of course, most of the time his diction is more regular, like in E lucevan le stelle when he has great use of the double “l” [stel: la]! Unlike Pavorotti, Freni keeps the consonants much more audible when she reaches her higher range. This allows also for a better use of her “r”s, especially intervocalic. For example, in the duet from La Boheme, Si Mi chiamano Mimi, there is a very soft point in the music; however the “r” in the word “guarda” is extremely evident, which to a non-Italian speaker is very important.
In the same song (in which she sings with Pavorotti), the very last word is sung by them together. Although I cannot make out the actual word, it has an “-aria” suffix and the “r” can only be heard by Freni. As far as Mirella’s uses of double consonants go, I heard a variation only once. In In quelle trine morbide, she doubles the “l” in “quelle” almost as if it is German rather than an Italian imploded-exploded “l.” I think sometimes artists use different pronunciations for stylistic purposes and no other reason.
While both artists display the Italian languages pure, open, legato sound, Freni tends to use a closed vowel sound a lot more frequently than Luciano does. An example of Pavorotti’s open sound is in nessum dorma in which he pronounces “dolce” with an extreme open [E] sound. From what I have heard, Freni would have probably chosen to sing that less open. I found it very interesting however when Freni added a diphthong to a final vowel. This occurred in Un bel di during a word that sounded like [spit so]. In this she pronounces the last “o” almost as [owa].
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Again, this could simply be a result expressing the meaning of the lyrics. After all, she is “the sweetness of infinite lyricism.” Its also seems that for both of these singers, there vibrato gets in the way of their vowel sounds – then again isn’t this the case in every singer? As far as elisions, both of the artists seem to use them normally. In fact, I don’t recall hearing too many of them which can either mean that there simply weren’t many or that they were so smooth, they became subtle marks in the songs. In the La Boheme duet, they both use especially clear elided syllables. I believe this partly has to do with the fact it is a flirty song. It seems as if they are using the lyrics to flirt.
It seems that these two singers work really well together. I wonder if this proves the statement true that “they once shared the same wet-nurse”! It is difficult to determine the reason for the differences and modifications of two respected Italian singers’ diction. Whether it is their background that causes their difference or other reasons, one thing is for sure – nobody is going to accuse them of being more right or wrong. Songs listened to: nessum dorma (Turan dot) Ch ” ella mi creda libero (The girl of the Golden West) Donna non vidi mai (Manon Lescaut) Che gelid a marina (La Boheme) E lucevan le Stelle (Tosca) Si.
Mi chiamano Mimi (La Boheme) O Soave fanciulla (La Boheme) In Quelle trine morbide (Manon Lescaut) Un bel di (Madame Butterfly).