Pamela Dellal, mezzo soprano


uncommon intelligence, imagination and textual awareness...





I intend to help each singer discover the instrument that nature gave them, and my approach is essentially collaborative; I strive to give the student their own tools to experiment and refine the control of vocal production.

My principal interest lies in the location and perception of resonance, and how that is controlled and enhanced by the direction and support of the breath. Learning how to feel a free and balanced resonance in every range, and on every vowel, provides the ability to sing perfectly in tune in all registers and in all temperaments. By learning the fine control of resonance the skills of vibrato control, dynamics, and tone color are also discovered. All of this is mediated by a steady, focused airstream unobstructed by tension in the jaw, the tongue, or the soft palate.

The exploration of free resonance also requires exquisite control of legato and the preparation of pitch changes. By drilling both slow scales and arpeggios on a legato line, the subtleties of muscular timing involved in negotiating intervals can be examined and practiced.

I feel strongly that all singers need to have a precise sense of how these elements function, even those singers who have never struggled with a free and natural tone production. Without the knowledge of the optimal location of resonance on all pitches, any physical changes that alter the tone will create havoc in consistency and technique! The precision of resonance location also affords a broad palette of color and expression, which is an asset to all repertoires from early music through art song and grand opera.

This basic foundation of technique can then be applied to the demands of various styles and voice types. If the singer trusts his instrument and knows the optimal free resonance in all ranges, they can experiment with moving things around to accommodate a wide variety of techniques. These include several varieties of straight-tone singing; throat articulation and other levels of articulated coloratura; messa di voce dynamic control; pianissimo and mezza voce; portamento; and extended vocal techniques required for contemporary music (such as spectral music, microtones, Sprechstimme, etc). These specialized skills are risky to acquire before a solid basis in free resonant singing has been established.

The confident placement of the voice also produces a precise physical relationship to pitch. Even without perfect pitch, singers develop physical pitch memory that relates to the effort and vibrations inherent with each frequency; this sense can be refined further to produce flawless intonation in various temperaments based on pure intervals. For singers of early repertoires, the ability to automatically produce perfect fourths and fifths, pure thirds, and whole steps of varying widths corresponding to modal scale degrees is essential. By connecting the pitch location to the resonance and physical sensation, this skill is made more instinctive and reliable.

The modern performer is expected to be proficient in many genres and styles. This is even more incumbent on the historical performance artists; while they are generally focused on music of the Baroque period, they will often find opportunities in repertoire of the medieval and Renaissance periods. Therefore they require a flexible technique that allows them to transition from one aesthetic and sound world to another. The modern school of vocal training, based on deep support, a low laryngeal position, and an open, relaxed throat, is the optimal setup to achieve this flexibility. When combined with expertise in vibrato control, execution of rapid passagework and articulation, and dynamic and color variation, the highly trained singer will be able to shift temperaments, phrasing paradigms, and vocal ranges with ease.

The study of historical performance practice is fraught with ambiguous evidence, both internal (score annotation, compositional technique) and external (anecdotal documents describing performances). While all lines of evidence are essential for a full understanding of the context, the modern performer must also serve two crucial functions; they must maintain a healthy production that accommodates variety of styles, and they must successfully interpret the music for a contemporary audience. As with all performance practice decisions, this requires an acknowledgment of modern aesthetics and sophisticated musical interpretation as well as an informed surmise of the technical approaches of the original performers.

For example: several lines of evidence lead us to surmise that lute songs in early seventeenth-century England were often sung by members of the upper classes who did not receive professional training in singing. The performance conditions were likely to be intimate circles of acquaintances, and the artistic focus mainly placed on text delivery. While one might conclude that a very gentle, speech-like tone that may not have been evenly placed in the resonance could have been the predominant practice, a modern singer gains nothing from attempting to perform this repertoire this way. Rather, she should employ the strengths of her training to create a natural text delivery while also exploiting the resonance control and color palette of a professional vocalist; this might exceed the virtues of the original performer but would allow for interpretive subtlety that could speak to the composer’s intentions more completely than the historical performance could!