Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Am the Queen of Night! F6! F6!

I'm not saying that Royal Opera House is going to fly me in to replace Diana Damrau as Queen of Night in its next production of Mozart's Magic Flute (or that I'd be auditioning for any such thing), but this is important (to me): please listen to this aria. Go ahead. It's Sunday night, what else are you doing?

OK, so here's why it was important to me that you listen. You heard those high F's? (F6's to be exact?) Out of the spanking blue I suddenly have that. Yep. I got it. It's allllll mine.

Ten-fifteen years ago when I was actually in classical vocal training/ensembles, I was a very resentful mezzo soprano who always whined about preferring to sing alto where 1) my voice was comfortable 2) I could harmonize = much more fun. Because, after all, my only "training" beyond that had been singing shape note hymns with regular folks in church. (No choral program in my rural high school.) But both of my voice teachers shoved a mezzo version of 26 Italian Songs and Arias in my face and made me sing very uncomfortable things in very uncomfortable ranges. I once, at age 18, sang a painfully strained, gasping version of Samuel Barber's "Sure on This Shining Night" for a recital and thought my voice (sure on my shining life) wasn't built to sing above a D5. Hitting those F5s and G5s was like wriggling and pretending to attempt pull-ups in front of the entire gym class. And I hated it. And I hated singing that way. Such was the case until last summer.

The irony is this happened quite on accident, while working with a pop vocal coach, while focusing on my lower register/chest voice, while on a mission to declassically train my voice. (If you're just catching up, here is the post about how this guy made me cry before my first lesson and another about how he told me why nobody was going to bother to listen to me sing in my second lesson. No, really, it's some of the best stuff anyone's ever said to me. Check it out.)

And here's the story in pictures (click to enlarge! because I want you to!):

This all happened with three voice lessons and regular vocal exercises over a period of one year. All of this focused on making use of my lower register (chest voice) and producing a more me-sounding, unpolished tone. And it's crazytown because, now that I'm not trying to be able to sing arias or art songs, I magically can. And now that I'm trying to unearth a more raw, speech-like quality in my voice, my voice can sound as clear as a bell. So . . . what am I going to do with that? That is the question.

I have some ideas. On that note, I had my fourth lesson today. I'll write about that next.


  1. Er, hmm. I'm a bit confused. Did you dub your voice in for the YouTube clip? Inquiring readers/listeners want to hear *your* F6, not that of some random famous-opera-singer-type person. :)

  2. Thank God for Mozart. He really raised the bar in our civilization. Congrats, Sarah!

  3. Anonymous! Thank you for reading! Who are you? You are right, and in my excitement to illustrate my discovery I grabbed Queen of Night as a reference point for How Big A Deal This Is (to me). I mean, it's widely used as The Highest Note in Classical Repertoire (though I know G6 happens in few other pieces). And that's most certainly not me singing. But yours is a reasonable request, and leads me to my next blog post: how I'm going to make use of this range. I'm now figuring that out ... so please stay tuned.

  4. Congrats, Sarah, that's marvelous! :-)
    All best

  5. Mea culpa - I was posting as Anonymous. Just easier than logging in sometimes (sorry about that!)