The Voice | Singing Vibrato in Baroque Opera | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera
The revolution in opera that came about in the Baroque period required singers to acquire new techniques and disciplines. The idea was to elicit a greater emotional response from opera audiences, hold their attention and engage them more fully in the plot and its characters. One way these aims could be achieved was through judicious use of vocal ornamentation, such as vibrato. Singing vibrato required a singer to make the voice fluctuate in pitch, intensity and in its own distinctive sound, the timbre. Getting it right required great skill and control, since vibrato could easily degenerate into an unattractive ‘wobble’. However, when it was performed by well-trained singers, either as a group or solo, vibrato gave added depth and expressiveness to the music. Lavish use of vibrato was not a general rule in Baroque opera. Controlled vibrato, known as ‘intensity vibrato’, was preferred, and this was normally confined to the cadence point, the ‘full stop’ at the end of a musical phrase. This ornamentation was always sung on the beat. Sometimes the ornament was notated on the opera score; at other times it was left to the singer to interpolate into the performance.
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