What are Marcella Pobbe, Giulietta Simionato, Leyla Gencer and Fedora Barbieri describing as "not chest voice"?



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Alisa Kieffer


  1. What are Marcella Pobbe, Giulietta Simionato, Leyla Gencer and Fedora Barbieri describing as "not chest voice"?

The singers all demonstrate a chest voice. They say to avoid it unless it is natural (with disgust) and that what they are singing is about resonance instead of a chest voice. Barbieri believes that it is not a chest sound, but a sound supported by breath. The last interviewee acknowledges that the chest voice is indispensible.


They seem to think of a chest voice in pure terms, as we would think of a belt. Stark writes, “Like covered singing, belting is often considered hazardous, and for those singers who execute it skillfully it probably is.”—Page 86

While these singers are not belting, they are skilled enough to use their chest voice with breath support and pleasing resonance without causing harm.





  1. How would you describe Fedora Barbieri and Gencer's management of the registers and their use of chest register?

They use a mixed chest register and chest registration the same way or very similarly to an operatic tenor during the interview. When you listen to their recordings they mainly sing in head/head mix unless they are singing below their primary register break (Eb4 as Garcia would describe), in which they move into their chest and chest mix. Garcia says in Hints on Singing:


As the sounds rise in the [chest] register the tension of the lips increases, and the thickness diminishes. Meanwhile the contact of the inner surfaces of the arytenoids will progress and extend to the end of the vocal processes, thereby shortening the vibratory length of the lips.”—Page 70
I think these singers are very skilled at doing what Garcia describes above by blending these registers evenly to create similar resonances.



  1. Discuss how you understand the negotiation of the registers in your own voice and in working with your students, both male and female. Do the singers represented here display anything similar to your own concept of working through the passaggi?


The singers represented in the video demonstrate good examples of working through the passaggi, although we would disagree on how to describe these functions. The core aspect of registration seems to be how the vocal cords meet. You can then change the resonance and style of the sound through the position of the larynx and the space created in the pharynx. I take my students through exercises that isolate each register. When dealing with registration changes I work towards strong glottal adduction and breath support to achieve similar quality through these “breaks”. I find slides to be a great initial exercise and then scale passages after acknowledging what is physically occurring during the slides.


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