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Bel Canto A Performer's Guide



Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press
List Price: $34.08

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What version or edition is this?

This is the edition with a publication date of 1/14/2013.

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  • The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any CDs, lab manuals, study guides, etc.


Bel canto, or 'beautiful singing,' remains one of the most elusive performance styles vocalists strive to master. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, composers routinely left the final shaping of recitatives, arias, and songs to performers, and singers treated scores freely so that inexpressively notated music could be turned into passionate declamation. In other words, vocalists saw their role more as one of re-creation than of simple interpretation. Familiarity with the range of strategies prominent singers of the past employed to unlock the eloquent expression hidden in scores enables modern performers to take a similar re-creative approach to enhancing the texts before them. In this first ever guide tobel canto, author Robert Toft provides singers with the tools they need not only to complete the creative process the composer began but also to bring scores to life in an historically-informed manner. Replete with illustrations based on excerpts from Italianate recitatives and arias by composers ranging from Handel to Rossini, the book offers discussions of the fundamental principles of expressive singing, each section including a practical application of the techniques involved. Drawing on a wealth of documents from the era, including treatises, scores, newspaper reviews, and letters, this book captures the breadth of practices singers used in thebel cantoperiod. Complete with six scores (recitatives and/or arias) for performers to personalize through the old methods, and a companion website offering demonstrations of the principles involved,BelCantois an essential resource for any singer or vocal instructor wishing to explore and master historical techniques of interpretation and re-creation from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Author Biography

Robert Toft has pursued a career as a vocal coach, performer, and researcher. He has published four books on the performance practices of singing between the 16th and 19th centuries and has given master classes, workshops, and lectures on historically-informed performance in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and USA. He is Professor of Music at Western University in London, Canada.

Table of Contents

Part 1 The Principles of Bel canto
1. Introduction
2. Phrasing
3. Altering Rhythm and Tempo
4. Tonal Contrast, Register, Vibrato
5. Ornamentation
6. Dramatic Action
Part 2 Bel canto in Practice
Handel, "Armida dispietata/Lascia ch'io pianga" (Rinaldo, 1711/1731)
Handel, "O worse than death indeed/Angels ever bright and fair" (Theodora, 1750)
Gluck, "Sposa Euridice/Che farņ senza Euridice" (Orfeo ed Euridice, 1762)
Sarti, "Lungi dal caro bene" (Giulio Sabino, 1781)
Mozart, "Voi che sapete" (Le nozze di Figaro, 1786)
Mozart (arr. Bishop), "Love! ever leave me"

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