Would you, perfect technicians, explain to me why Mr.Jones wrote this article?
I don’t share your golden ears nor your convinctions and it seems your mentor, Mr. Jones, doesn’t join your voices either. I have attended some of Ms. Fleming performances and she is an outstanding singer.
Funny enough, in the quest for perfect singers, Mr.Mayer approves only the dead ones. He never heard Bjorling live. However, he claims relying on his super special aural skills to define who is a perfect technician and who is not. I would love to listen to one of you singing, guys. Really. Especially the master. On his site one cannot find a single song or aria sung by him. It’s always easy to play the wise and criticize established artists!
Here is a comment I received from my post comparing the difference between older singers and modern ones. I expected to get some negative comments from this like I did when talking about Rolando Villazon’s difficulties. There is a reason these artists are famous and at the top of the Opera heap. They have many faithful fans that are passionate about their singing. And I think that is great. There is nothing wrong with admiring a singer, that is what keeps the art form alive.

Even though it is often a challenge, I am asking people to be objective when listening to a singer. This is difficult, especially when it is a singer you enjoy and identify with. When I used Renee Fleming as an example of the difference in function between the older and modern singers I tried not to make a judgement about her artistic abilities. In fact I thought I pointed out that she is obviously a wonderful artist. But at the same time she is being very artistic with an inefficient vocal function. Which is what I am trying to illustrate for people who want to learn how to maximize the potential of their voice. I obviously touched a nerve with this person. And I could have used other singers. She is not the only modern singer who we could use as an example. But she is one of the most obvious examples and is of a high enough stature that she can handle the comparison. (I think it might be unfair to use someone who is not an established artist, as this person seems to imply I should do)

The reason I am highlighting her comment, which was rather nasty towards me, is to illustrate how irrational we can be about “our” singers. Being objective is obviously not in this person’s skill set. And I admit it is easy to become defensive when someone attacks one of “our” singers. But if we are interested in learning then we need to learn how to differentiate between artistic expression and vocal function. You can make an argument about artistic expression because it is in the realm of personal preference. You can like or dislike what someone does artistically and argue about it with someone else. Vocal function provides less to argue about, if we are able to look at it objectively. This is because function is rooted in the natural design of the body as it is provided to us. Our job is to learn how to recognize that natural design and follow the principles laid forth by nature. There is not much room for opinion or preference when talking about natural function. This is because poor function leads to fatigue, break-down and injury of the voice. If we have the opinion of liking an unhealthy function, that may be fine artistically. But we will always lose that argument with nature. Just ask the rock singers who like their distorted sound, or the pop singers who like the power of their belting, or the opera singers who like the feeling of ease in their breath flow. Eventually the voice will become unsteady and break down.

Here I would like to use Renee Fleming as another example. This time singing “When I have sung my songs to you” from the Joseph Volpe Gala at the Met. I find it a very nice performance that is especially touching because of the setting. 

Then for comparison is the same song sung by Kirsten Flagstad and then Rosa Ponselle. Now please recognize that I am not trying to compare the artistry of the singing, because all three are at such a high level that it would be foolish to try and argue who is the best. The point of this comparison is to observe the difference of the vocal function between the modern Fleming and the older singers Flagstad and Ponselle. The Flagstad and Poselle recordings are both from the mid-1930s when recording was essentially a live performance.