This will be a short and sweet entry while I wait for the really heavy duty media files to finish uploading on the other entry (whew).

So there are two other big components to being a classically trained singer.

The first is Oratorio. Oratorio is a lot like opera–there is an orchestra; there are choruses; there are soloists. Even music-wise there are arias and recitative aplenty. However, while opera has a theatre element to it, oratorio does not. Oratorio content is generally religious and draws its inspiration from holy scripture. Thus when oratorio is performed, there is no staging; singers tend to be more upright and solemn in order to best present the work.

Think you don’t know an oratorio? Think again. Handel was a champ and wrote a bunch of them, including The Messiah. The above is one aria from that oratorio. As a sidenote, this is the incredible soprano Barbara Bonney. I cannot recommend her enough to those just dipping their feet into opera. She has a voice that will make you want to lay stretched out on the grass and contemplate nothing but clouds, leaves, and a slight breeze.

Of course, the best known oratorio chorus piece is this one… sung by silent monks, no less. Enjoy!

Now the final, most complex stuff that we singers tackle is Art Song. Now art song comes in many different varieties, for many different voices. There’s Italian art song, French art song, English art song, Spanish art song, German art song–the last is most important to me, as that is what my summer program covers specifically. German art song is known as Lieder, which some of y’all may recognize as the German word for “songs.” Art song is very comparable to poetry. A good poem will utilize words to create a textured text that evokes not only images but also emotions and keeps the reader’s attention from beginning to end. Art song does the same. A good composer utilizes both the singer’s voice and the keyboard accompaniment to make the subject of the song come alive. Additionally, text choice plays an important role. Where do most of these texts come from? Well anything remotely poetic and with a steady iambic pentameter makes for great material. Shakespeare, Goethe, any old folk song that’s been around for years–this is where brilliant art song is harvested.

Franz Schubert was notoriously good at composing art song (or more appropriately, Lieder, since he was German). The example I’m going to play needs some listening to. For starters, the text, which is as follows:

In einem Bächlein helle,
In a bright little brook
Da schoß in froher Eil
there shot in merry haste
Die launische Forelle
a capricious trout:
Vorüber wie ein Pfeil.
past it shot like an arrow.
Ich stand an dem Gestade
I stood upon the shore
Und sah in süßer Ruh
and watched in sweet peace
Des muntern Fischleins Bade
the cheery fish’s bath
Im klaren Bächlein zu.
in the clear little brook.

Ein Fischer mit der Rute
A fisher with his rod
Wohl an dem Ufer stand,
stood at the water-side,
Und sah’s mit kaltem Blute,
and watched with cold blood
Wie sich das Fischlein wand.
as the fish swam about.
So lang dem Wasser Helle,
So long as the clearness of the water
So dacht ich, nicht gebricht,
remained intact, I thought,
So fängt er die Forelle
he would not be able to capture the trout
Mit seiner Angel nicht.
with his fishing rod.

Doch endlich ward dem Diebe
But finally the thief grew weary
Die Zeit zu lang. Er macht
of waiting. He stirred up
Das Bächlein tückisch trübe,
the brook and made it muddy,
Und eh ich es gedacht,
and before I realized it,
So zuckte seine Rute,
his fishing rod was twitching:
Das Fischlein zappelt dran,
the fish was squirming there,

Und ich mit regem Blute
and with raging blood I
Sah die Betrogene an.
gazed at the betrayed fish.
Die ihr am goldenen Quelle
At the golden fountain
Der sicheren Jugend weilt,
of youth, you linger so confidently;

Denkt doch an die Forelle,
But think of the trout,
Seht ihr Gefahr, so eilt!
and if you see danger, flee!
Meist fehlt ihr nur aus Mangel
Mostly it is from lack
der Klugheit, Mädchen, seht
of cleverness that maidens
Verführer mit der Angel!
miss the angling seducers.
Sonst blutet ihr zu spät!
So beware! otherwise you may bleed too late!

OK, so there is the poem, German and English. Now when listening to the song, note how the singer’s voice changes color to add more dramatic effect to a certain phrase or even an entire verse. And listen to the accompaniment–it moves so quickly and lithely like a trout in a stream, as the poem describes.

Die Forelle aka “The Trout”

That’s just brushing the surface of art song, but, hopefully between this and opera 101 y’all have a slightly better understanding of what all I get to sing about. It’s a lot of fun!