Types of Verdian Voices in La Traviata
Issues related to changes in vocal styles in the era of romanticism in musicology are not well developed, as they affect the highly specialized aspects of pedagogy of solo singing and opera performance. Meanwhile, of great interest is the problem of preserving and rethinking the traditions of Belcanto of the 18th century in Italian opera art of the mid-19th century and, in particular, in the work of the mature period J. Verdi (1813-1901). Having analyzed the vocal parts of his opera La Traviata (Venice, 1853) and the treatise The Art of Singing, op. 81 (Milan, 1853) professional violinist, composer and vocal teacher G. Panofka (1807-1887), we will try to find out what changes took place in the field of vocal performance of this time.
Among the famous triad of the 50s, “La Traviata” attracts attention not only with its artistic merits, but also with its unusual stage fate. It is almost unknown how it was created. In his letters, the composer recalls the opera in connection with its unsuccessful premiere at the La Fenice Theater on March 6, 1853, and a year later about its restoration in the other Venetian San Sebastian Theater. And later Verdi wrote sparingly about the successes of opera in European countries.
“La Traviata” is one of the few works where there is no active stage action. “A declaration of love at the ball – os-insult – death from consumption – that’s the whole plot!”, – subsequently, A. N. Serov sneered [8; S. 268]. In the fair opinion of the modern researcher G. Galya, “the fate of this opera depends on the performance of the title role, the vocal and acting requirements of which are not so easy to fulfill” [3; S. 397]. In the failure of the first production, the performers were largely guilty, who should have abandoned the cliches of “frantic” parties ”[2; P. 253] and reveal the lyrical and psychological features of images. This, apparently, did not take into account the famous Fanny Salvinia-Donatelli, who acted as Violetta. A magnificent voice, an excellent vocal school had the first Alfred – Francesco Graziani. Subsequently, he received recognition as a baritone. It is known that Graziani sang in the Italian opera house of St. Petersburg from December 1861 until 1874. One of his fans recalled: “The audience could not immediately be struck by this baritone of exceptional beauty, a rare in range, containing, together with full baritone, pure tenor notes, velvet timbre and an amazing combination of softness with energy, which enabled the singer to amaze with amazing drunk, then bring to thunderous notes ”[4; S. 20].
Verdi also enjoyed great confidence in the first performer of the party Germont – Felice Varezi, who had previously been with the composer in correspondence about the role of Macbeth (1847). Verdi listened to the opinion of this singer: “If there is any note or some passage uncomfortable for you, write me immediately, before I instruct it” [2; S. 38]. The composer always selected the performers very carefully, but in La Traviata they were assigned such tasks that the singers brought up in the best traditions of Belcanto could not immediately solve them.
Why did the vocal parts of this opera not correspond to the theoretical settings of Belcanto? To answer this question, we turn to the treatise “The Art of Singing” G. Panofki. The author sees the purpose of his work in setting forth the necessary rules for the formation, development and equalization of the voice. The treatise consists of two parts, theoretical and practical, as well as exercise books. The theoretical part provides a classification and characterization of singing voices in terms of register structure. Panofka recognizes only two types of sound generation, designating them as the first, forming the lower part of the range, and the second, occupying its upper part. The sound of the lower case, writes Panofka, has dramatic expressiveness, and the upper one has softness, grace, lightness, especially in female voices. The middle, the center of the voice range consists to a greater or lesser extent of one or both registers, and “the crossing of the last sounds of the first register voice with the first sounds of the second register occurs in various proportions and depends on the personality of the singer” [5; S. 11]. He replaced the traditional concepts of “chest voice” and “head voice” or falsetto with the terms “voice of the first register” and “voice of the second register”, considering them more accurate in meaning. In the voice range there is a section where you can play the sound of one or the other register. Thus, in the singing range, which consists of two registers, three sections are conditionally distinguished: lower, middle and upper.