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Rossini on bel canto singing

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
/
SC Public Radio

I wonder what today’s voice teachers would think of the composer Gioacchino Rossini’s ideas for a vocal training curriculum. According to Rossini, learning the art of bel canto, or “beautiful singing,” should begin with many months of soundless exercises, starting no later than the age of twelve. 

Next, several years of just scales, in order to achieve what he called “equality of timbre over the whole range of the organ, equalization of the registers.” Then three years of vocalises and exercises to learn specific techniques for agility and fluidity, then another three years, quote, “putting into practice… everything that [has] been studied in detail.” But even then training isn’t finished, because the singer has to have an education in Style, and “style,” Rossini said, “is traditions, and the secrets of those traditions” can only be gained by imitating “great singers, the perfect models consecrated by fame.”

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.