Vocal Sniper Rifle
So I’ve been meaning to write post about these videos for a while. I first saw them on the personal blog of Andy Ihnatko, a tech news personality and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, whose work I greatly admire.
Anyway, the deal is this. There’s this (brace yourselves) opera called Tales Of Hoffman, and there’s a particular part in this opera called “The Doll’s Song”. This opera in particular was being performed at the New York Metropolitan Opera House – this isn’t am-dram we’re looking at, people. I’ll let Andy explain in his own words what this scene is basically for:
Witness “The Doll’s Song,” which is the coloratura equivalent of a scene in which giant robots throw each other into skyscrapers. It’s designed to push a performer almost to the limits of what the human voice can do. When this aria comes up, even modern audiences lean forward in their seats a little; they know they’re going to see something spectacular.
The lady that is cast in the part, Kathleen Kim, does a stunning job. Here she is nailing it (don’t worry that you can’t understand the language, apparently you get a cheat sheet when you go to see it in real life):
And remember that she’s turning in that performance every single day. This boggles my mind. I sound like a constipated bear when I so much as hum in the shower. But anyway, back to the point. One day, Ms. Kim was taken ill at short notice and her understudy, Rachele Gilmore, had to step in to perform a show. In one of the finest opera houses in the world. would you soil yourself? I know I would. Gilmore doesn’t. She does this:
Please try and make it all the way through to the end of the movie. It’s phenomenal. Again, Mr. Ihnatko explains it more eloquently than I:
This second video is an example of what happens when a highly technical role is performed by a talented, hardworking person who knows that:
(1) This next performance is a huge moment in any singer’s career;
(2) This is an aria in which the singer is actually supposed to showboat during the reprise;
and maybe most importantly
(3) She doesn’t necessarily need to protect her voice for the next two weeks of performances.
Awesome doesn’t start to cover it. By popular consensus her note toward the end was one of the highest notes ever sung by any human in the history of ever. I had no idea the human voice could even do that. Watch the two actors behind her on the right of the screen. They can’t actually believe what she’s doing. They aren’t acting, they’re thinking “holy FUCK did that just happen?”
Anyway, I just thought I’d present this for your (and more importantly, my) edification. I know next to nothing about opera and musical theatre in general, but stuff like this makes me want to. And here is Andy Ihnatko’s original blog about these videos and opera in general, well worth a read.