Image: The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, Florence
Table of Contents

External links to complete books on opera and singing as well as literary works which were the sources of opera libretti. All downloads listed are available free of charge.

Masterclass with Alfredo Kraus
"We can see a piano, but not the voice. However it can be listened to and this is its mystery. It is the most fascinating musical instrument that exists, because are we ourselves the instrument, and we control it by means of internal sensations..."

Fritz Wunderlich on Singing 
This is an external link to an interview with the great German tenor who tragically died at the age of 36. In the words of his accompanist and teacher, Hubert Giesen... 
"He had such a great understanding of a song like 'Die böse Farbe' (from Schubert's 'Müllerin' cycle) that he could afford to let the song be effective just on its own. The listener will notice that he sang it nearly unadorned, but with such clarity that not a single note could be lost. Nothing was elegantly passed over. He did not put in any false emotionalism or sentiment, and thus he made the greater - one could even say the noblest - impression. The audience received first-hand what was Schubert's will when he composed the song. They were not confronted with the singer's emotions, his coquetry, his love of bel canto, but solely with the song itself. There were years of work underlying this, years of a growing knowledge of precision, one could even say: work in the service of Lieder singing. Wunderlich had high notes that turned out well effortlessly, but he sang them without showing off, just as he sang all other notes that belonged to the song. This seemed to be severe and objective, but made a strange impression on the audience. Many years after his death, a lady told me: 'I have heard 'Die böse Farbe' sung by many singers (and she named some really great ones), but it was only Fritz Wunderlich who made me weep, because I did not hear the singer anymore, I heard only the song. It was as if I had understood for the first time what it expressed...'"
The Tenor's Trembling Hand
By Orlando R. Barone. "What are we about, we, the audience? We are one moment fawning and violently boisterous in our acclamations of wondering praise, the next moment haughty and viciously derisive in our expressions of raging disappointment..."

By Buoso Donati. "Verismo as applied to opera is a problematic term. Originally used to describe a particular literary genre, it came to be applied to operas whose libretti took their inspiration from that genre. Unfortunately, the term remained in vogue long after the composers of this 'school' moved on to other subject matter, much of it decidedly not veristic..."

Mascagni and Mussolini
By Buoso Donati. "Mascagni's links to Mussolini and the fascist regime could best be described as symbiotic opportunism..."

The Lowered Larynx Technique  
By J.H. Anthonisen. "A brief outline of the vocal technique taught to Mario del Monaco by Arturo Melocchi, a vocal teacher at the Pesaro Conservatory, and later on adopted by Franco Corelli, but in a modulated form..."
[external link]

Cantare L'opera  
This site has a huge collection of Italian opera arias where you can hear, line by line, the words of the arias being spoken by a native Italian. Useful not only for singers who wish to improve their Italian diction, but also for all lovers of Italian opera and the Italian language. Many of the sound files are available for purchase, but there are also many free files, including 'O mio babbino caro', 'Deh vieni non tardar', 'Stride la vampa', 'Nessun dorma', 'Pura siccome un angelo' and 'Vi ravviso o luoghi ameni'. A valuable recent addition is a section on
Neapolitan Song
with the lines spoken by a native Neapolitan. [external links]

A Beginner's Guide to Phonetics
By Jean Peccei. This page is adapted from my lectures on introductory phonetics at Roehampton University, where I teach on the English Language & Linguistics Programme.

The Way to the Tenor
A paper by Ank Reinders on the historical development of the tenor voice, presented at The First International Conference on the Physiology and Acoustics of Singing (PAS), Groningen, October, 2002. [external link]

Historical Antecedents to Current Issues in Voice Science
A paper by Prof. James Stark presented at The First International Conference on the Physiology and Acoustics of Singing (PAS), Groningen, October, 2002. [external link]

The Mechanics of Messa di Voce
By Dr. F. Chagnon, S. Hassan & W. Purdy, La Scena Musicale, 1 December 1998.  [external link]

Classifying Singing Voices
By Dr. Françoise Chagnon, La Scena Musicale, 1 September 1998 [external link]

The Voice that Charms
An article by Wah Keung Chan, La Scena Musicale, 1 June 2002 in which he discusses some of the technical characteristics of a great voice - timbre, legato, flexibility, dynamic range, and diction. [external link]

ONLINE GLOSSARIES [external links]

          Glossary of Common Terms Related to Laryngology and the Voice
          From the Center For Voice Disorders, Wake Forest University.

          Glossary of Basic Opera Terms 
          From Southern Methodist University. Concentrates on terms pertaining to the art form itself rather than
          to voice and singing.

          Vocal Terms
          From A (acuti)  to Z (zona di passaggio)
          Nightingale Classics Glossary of Vocal Terms
          A selection of singing terms with sound illustrations taken from the Nightingale Classics recordings of
          Edita Gruberova.

          Multimedia Music Dictionary  
          Created by Richard Cole, Virginia Tech Department of Music and Ed Schwartz, Virginia Tech New Media

The Origins of Music: Innateness, Development, and Evolution
By Josh McDermott, Perceptual Science Group, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT and Marc Hauser, Department of Psychology and Program in Neurosciences, Harvard. [external link to the full paper in PDF format]

  ABSTRACT: The origins of music, long an elusive target for evolutionary theorists, are now an active
  topic of empirical study. This article reviews research in anthropology, ethnomusicology,
  developmental and comparative psychology, neuropsychology and neurophysiology that bears on the
  origins of music. We focus on evidence that music is constrained by innate principles of organization,
  as it is these innate principles that are candidates for evolutionary explanations. We begin by
  discussing the distinct roles of different fields of inquiry in constraining claims about innateness and
  adaptation, and then proceed to review the available evidence. Although research on these topics is
  still in its infancy, at present there is converging evidence that a few basic features of music (the
  importance of the octave, intervals with simple ratios, and tonality) are determined by innate
  constraints. None of these appear to be adaptations for music, however, but rather appear to be side
  effects of general properties of the auditory system. We discuss other potentially innate principles
  governing music perception and conclude by highlighting a number of key issues for future research.

Resonance tuning and intelligibility in sopranos
Dr. J. Wolf, Acoustics Laboratory, School of Physics, The University of New South Wales  [external link] 
   "As sopranos ascend in pitch in the higher part of their range, their vowels become less easy to distinguish.
   One of the reasons is that they tune vocal tract resonances to the pitch of the note they are singing. This
   page provides sound files to demonstrate the effect, background information and a non-technical introduction
   to the effect."

An introduction to the acoustics of the vocal tract
Dr. J. Wolf, Acoustics Laboratory, School of Physics, The University of New South Wales [external link]

   "There are fundamental scientific questions to answer in the field of acoustical phonetics, but we are also
   interested in the applications in speech training (language teaching), and in speech pathology. When adults
   or teenagers learn a foreign language, they rarely achieve authentic pronunciation and are sometimes
   almost unintelligible to speakers of that language. This difficulty is due to imprecision or inadequacy of the
   auditory feedback system usually used to learn languages - students often cannot hear how wrong their
   imitation of a sound is, and do not know what to do to improve it. (Technically, the problems are called
   categorisation and interference.) The problem is even more severe for the hearing impaired who have little or
   no auditory feedback and can obtain very little feedback about the interior of the vocal tract from looking at
   the lips. A feature of the "deaf accent" is inappropriate use of the soft palate - which is not surprising given
   how difficult it is to see or to feel what one's soft palate is doing during speech.  We also investigate the
   acoustics of the singing voice, partly for its intrinsic interest, and partly with the aim of improving pedagogy
   in that field."

Speech and music, acoustics and coding, and what music might be 'for'
Wolfe, J. (2002). Proceedings of the. 7th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, Sydney. K Stevens, D. Burnham, G. McPherson, E. Schubert, J. Renwick, eds., pp 10-13. [external link to the full paper in PDF format]

From ideas to acoustics and back again: the creation and analysis of information in music
Wolfe, J. (2003). Proceedings of the 8th Western Pacific Acoustics Conference, Melbourne. (C. Don, ed.) Aust. Acoust. Soc., Castlemaine, Aust. Plenary Lecture. [external link to the full paper in PDF format]

The Capacity for Music: What Is It, and What's Special About It?  
Ray Jackendoff (Brandeis University) and Fred Lerdahl (Columbia University). Version of July 1, 2004; written for Cognition.  [external link to the full paper in PDF format]

Musical roots may lie in human voice
Summary of a 2003 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience by Dr. Dale Purves of Duke University....

   "Key universal features in world music may have their roots in the ever-present sound of the human
   voice during the course of evolution. The analysis of thousands of recorded speech samples found
   peaks in acoustic energy that precisely mirror the distances between important notes in the twelve-tone
   scale, the system that forms the foundation of almost all music."  [external link]

Music and the Brain
By Norman M. Weinberger, Scientific American, October 25, 2004

   "What is the secret of music's strange power? Seeking an answer, scientists are piecing together
   a picture of what happens in the brains of listeners and musicians." [external link]

Department of Neuropsychology, University Montréal, Québec
This external link provides access (in PDF format) to several research papers on the neuro-psychology of music by Dr. Robert J. Zatorre and his colleagues, including:

          'Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated with reward
          and emotion',  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2001

          'The Biological Foundations of Music', Annals of The New York Academy of Sciences, 2001

          'Congenital amusia: a disorder of fine-grained pitch discrimination',  Neuron, 2002

          'Structure and function of auditory cortex: music and speech', Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2002.

          'Human temporal-lobe response to vocal sounds', Cognitive Brain Research, 2002

          'Deficits of musical timbre perception after unilateral temporal-lobe lesion revealed with multidimensional
          scaling', Brain, 2002

          'Influence of tonal context and timbral variation on perception of pitch', Perception and Psychophysics,


This page was last updated on: September 30, 2007