Interview with Dmitri Hvorostovsky on Vocal Technique
Автор В.П. Морозов   
07.04.2010 г.

Interview with Dmitri Hvorostovsky on Vocal Technique

By V.P. Morozov
Original (Russian) here.

nterview with Dmitri Hvorostovsky on Vocal Technique - Dmitri Alexandrovich, your name has been on the posters of the most prestigious musical theatres, the press calls you the best baritone of the world, gives many interesting details about your personal life and creative successes, plans, but not a word about vocal technique. I plan to put a page about your voice in the second edition of my book "The Art of the Resonant Singing", which I gave to you after your triumphant concert at the Great Hall of the Conservatory. Although about you - as an outstanding singer - is high time to write an entire book.

- Thank you. I am interested in vocal literature. I have an entire library about it. But I haven’t had the time to read your book, because my father took it.

- He sings, too?

- Yes, he has a beautiful voice.

- Fine. So you have a voice in the genes, that’s for sure. When did you start singing?

- As far as I can remember, about when I was three.

- And what voice did you have until the breaking?

- Normal, high, most probably soprano.

- Usually sopranos after the breaking transform into low voices.

- But I found a large range with very nice tenor top. My parents say it was a Lemeshev-like timbre.

- And how did you turn out as a baritone?

- When I came to the Krasnoyarsk Conservatory, Ekaterina Constantinovna Yoffel - my teacher - listened to me and said: "You are, without doubt, a baritone" - and led me as a baritone. In the third year I sang full baritone operatic repertoire in the theatre. My middle and lower register became stronger, baritone timbre, but I could not take the tenor top as freely as before.

- Do not regret! If you were a tenor, it is not known whether you would enjoy such a world-wide fame as you do today as the best baritone. After all, look what happens - at a concert in the Great Hall of the Academy the audience cheered you so much that they prompted you to sing an entire block of encores which was not on the program. I was listening to you already standing. But let's talk about the technique.

How do you imagine and feel your voice and its formation in your vocal apparatus, for example resonance?

- I can feel the vibration especially above the eyebrows, between eyebrows, around the nose, this "mask", as you know.

- And the chest resonance? Can you feel the connection of chest and head resonance?

- Chest, shoulders - all resonate. Like a column, resonating from the head, comes into the chest – such a feeling.

- When going to the top, what changes in your feeling of the resonance?

- Nothing in particular changes, because in the entire range and the lowest notes, I try not to lose the feeling of the mask, i.e. the upper resonator, and on the highest notes, to keep the chest resonance. Perhaps in the uppermost notes still noticeably the head sounds more. But in general, on all notes of the range, I use a mixed sound of the head and chest resonators.

- And on the transition notes?

- And on the transition notes - I have this "E" - "E-flat" - a mixed nature of sound, when both the upper and chest resonators sound, helps me to smooth out the registers.

Actually I have a feeling is that with the help of the resonance, it is possible to develop a force of sound that it will drown out the thunder of aircraft engines.

- And have you not tried?

- I have not tried to compete with a plane, but with the acoustics of the hall yes. At 35 years, when I began to sing in the big theatres in Europe and, especially, America, like the Metropolitan, I wanted to make my voice bigger, more powerful. And this is understandable - a huge hall provokes forcing. Your voice goes away from you and doesn’t return and to you it seems that you sing silently and should sing louder. But as a result I began to notice that I lose resonance and the ease of the voice, especially at the top. Yes, and transitional notes dropped a semitone, moved into the bass region - with the "E-flat" to "D".

- Yes, the forcing - the enemy of the resonance. How did you cope with this problem?

- It helped me that in our class – with E.K. Yoffel - we were accustomed to sing in muted acoustics. All the walls there were covered with drapery. You sing in the corridor - everything sounds great, but come to classroom – you can’t recognize your voice. As a result, I learned to sing focusing mainly on my internal feelings - both the resonator and the muscles.

After all, on the stage, especially in the opera, there are all draped sets, you’re wearing some plump costume, a huge hat absorbs all the high singing formant. Therefore, if you will rely solely on your ear, you will certainly force, and you’re ruined. But inner feeling, and in particular - resonator, here’s salvation. The singer has to be sure, - if the voice will be unforced, free and resonant, he does not fear any very "bad" acoustics, the voice will be flying and audible everywhere.

- Fine. Well, and how do you feel your singing breathing?

- The inhaling is short, very short. Yoffel used to say: "Breathe in the smell of a flower" - it definitely helps correct inhalation. But in order to have enough breath, the air consumption must be economical, very economical. This does not mean that you should hold your breath, no. It should be free and not forced on the larynx. The larynx should also be free, not tense, though lowered, as in yawn. This makes the oropharyngeal cavity larger and longer, and that’s good for the voice.

- And do you feel your vocal cords, do you try to manage them, when you sing?

- But for what? I read in Yudin, you probably know, he focuses on the vocal cords. As a student I tried to experiment with these cord sensations of tension and so on, but apart from damage to the voice, I didn’t get anything. We feel, control and regulate the work of breathing and resonators. This is important. But keep track of how your vocal cords work? No, no. It seems to me quite unnecessary.

But with the breathing and resonators we form some habits and then this all goes into the subconscious, in the automatism. And on stage I, of course, both breathe and resonate, as it should be - over that I keep some sort of control - but I think mostly about other things - how do I "paint" with my voice the emotional painting, the image, so that it is seen by each of my listeners.

The process of singing is not just a physical process, but also a psychological process. Therefore, the state of the singer’s soul is very important.

- When one listens and watches you on stage, they see how you show what you sing with all your body.

- This is Yoffel’s school. When I as a student began to unnaturally gesticulate, "help" myself with my hands (laughs), she halted it. And she taught to meaningfully express feelings with voice and behaviour. I am grateful to her. In addition, such natural "movement of the soul" helps as if to relax, to withstand the unnatural strain on the scene. And freedom of the body causes also, by the way, a resonating sound.

- Wonderful. And what are your preferences of other singers?

- How I turned out what I am – 50% of that comes from how much I listened and listen to other singers. I cultivated and cultivate my voice because of this.

- Your ideal? Which singer?

- From ours - it is P.G. Lisitsian - amazing, I mean the beauty of timbre and the vocal technique.

- You know, in the first edition of the book, in the section of computer spectra of the voices of masters of vocal art, I placed your spectra next to Lisitsian’s. So your voice can be compared in the basic parameters of high singing formant.

- Interesting! I will certainly look at it!

V.P. Morozov. The Art of Resonant Singing. Basis of resonance theory and technique. - Moscow: 2008, pp.459-462. (Annotation)
(В.П. Морозов. Искусство резонансного пения. Основы резонансной теории и техники. - М.: 2008, с.459-462.)

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