Contributions extérieures sur la voix et le chant

How to sing the appogiaturas
Comment chanter les appoggiatures

© Alan August 1998

[Re: how appropriate are appoggiaturas? (another longish post)]

On Fri, 19 Jun 1998, Isabelle Bracamonte wrote :

« What, O Listers, is the purpose of an appogiatura? I say it is to create surprise, tension through the unexpected note. He says it is to create suspension of the chord, a kind of "this chord should resolve" tension. »

You should read Eric Leinsdorf's _The_Composer's_Advocate_ (Yale U Press, 1981), and articles in Opera Quarterly (& other sources) by Henry Pleasants on Appogiaturas in Mozart Arias (I will find the specific article names and sources, but OQ would be a great place to start). Both advocate the return of the appropriate use of the appoggiatura.

The purpose of an appoggiatura is to "lean" towards the ultimate note, usually when the word sung has a female ending, speaking simply. It is usually a major or minor second resolving to the root, or the sus4 resolving to the 3rd, or the 6th resolving to the dominant5. But the reason they are expected, though not written, comes from the notating conventions of the time, in which the composer avoided the inclusion of the dissonant note and repeated the ultimate (ending) note. In Baroque, Classical, and Bel Canto vocal music, they were absolutely expected. If someone were to sing the repeated notes as written, it would have been considered ignorant and a mistake. In fact, as late as Verdi's Rigoletto, they were so unquestionably accepted that, in No. 17 "M'odi !...ritorna a casa," at Rigoletto's "Venti scudi, hai tu detto?...," Verdi's instruction is written into the score: "...senza l'usati appoggiature," or in the English editions: "This recitative must be sung without the customary appoggiaturas." Now...I ask you, do you think that Verdi would have had to add this phrase if everyone was singing it like Fritz Busch insisted, with NO "unwritten" appoggiaturas? Would THAT have been "fidelity to the score?" Notice the word "usati" (i.e. "customary," "usual"). Not "occasional." Verdi marked the beginning of the transition to the Romantic era, which veered away from the era of the singer, towards the reign of the composer, and then, at the turn of the century, to the conductor. But Verdi began writing during a time when singers were _expected_ to embellish, _expected_ to understand the principles of composition, counterpoint, to KNOW how to interpret the written score, and AT THAT TIME, APPOGGIATURAs were EXPECTED (sorry for the shouting).

In the Glyndborne period under Fritz Busch (1934-39), we had a Late-Romantic and Post-Romantic (esp. R. Strauss) conductor - who had learned absolute fidelity to the printed score - reviving Mozart. He performed a great service, and many things about his versions of these operas were wonderful. But his lack of understanding of the absolute expectation of Mozart himself that the singers would add the appropriate appoggiaturas was a great _dis_service to the cause of Mozart.

If I were to invite you over for dinner, for steaks (assuming for the moment you're not herbivorous), and I served them to you _raw_, would you not think it a little _odd_ that I didn't understand that it is customary to _cook_ them first? It was _that_ clear to Mozart what was expected. In fact, I think an Southern Italian pasta red sauce recipe without garlic would have to be written in the cookbook as "sensa usato aglio." (And then, of course, it would be immoral).

Henry Pleasants advocates using the appoggiaturas in the body of the aria, as well as in the recits and he has the weight of early performance evidence behind him. It's funny you should say that "everyone's used to hearing it with the appoggiaturas," since I've heard most of the Bel Canto arias, and almost all of Mozart stripped bare of them for years. Even otherwise excellent conductors like Riccardo Muti _still_ think they are doing the composers a service by ejecting them from every work as if they were gate-crashers, rather than paying customers, a part of the composition. Thank God we are reaching a point where they are being allowed back into the bars and restaurants.

The Elvira you heard was probably doing it exactly right. I didn't hear it, so that's just from your account. But, as long as she wasn't turning even the "male" endings in to appoggiaturas, your finding it "odd" is the result of unfamiliarity with the convention. Of course, there _are_ occasions where you would consider leaving them out, as in the case where they would occur at the end of every stanza of a strophic piece, so that it could start sounding singsong: It might make the audience a little seasick (but you could hand out pieces of ginger). The point I'm making is that it is the _omission_ of an appoggiatura that has to be thought out, not the _inclusion_. That is the tradition. And the tradition was what was expected by the composers of this music.


Alan August