I caught the Associated Press review in the local paper of Rolando Villazon’s return to the Met. I am sorry to say I am not surprised about his difficulties. I have only heard him on video and recordings but I have always thought he over-sang. The way he thrusts his jaw down to the maximum is the first clue. He has no lift in the facial muscles either. Jussi Bjorling is a wonderful example of the use of this and the benefits. Villazon’s technical choices require a great deal of energy to fulfill, which usually turns into effort. It gives quite a tone but requires way too much exertion. Not what you would call efficient, again see Jussi for example. The tone is impressive because the vocal folds are vibrating in a thick condition with an enlarged glottis, which requires more breath flow to sustain. Essentially he is forcing his voice to behave as if it is a bigger organ. The problem is this practice goes against the nature of his instrument. It lacks the protection of a well-formed resonator. The amplification from a good resonating form reduces the burden on the voice mechanism so the vocal folds can vibrate in a thinner more efficient condition. Whenever I heard him sing I couldn’t believe he could do what he was doing. The voice was going to fail, it was just a matter of time. No matter how much rest he gets it won’t fix the problem. He is using too much of his vocal potential when he sings and the instrument can’t withstand it.
The lighter voices may have a better chance to avoid these problems because they are less tempted to make an “impressive” sound. But I am not real high on either Florez or Brownlee either. At least functionally. Florez is good at what he does. But when you can hear breath in the tone you know there is an imbalance. And you just have to hear Florez talk to hear he is wearing down his voice. Brownlee you can hear the breath when he sings. That is not a good thing for the long-term health of a voice. When the voice fails, as it must eventually, it is often blamed on illness. But if the functioning is good illness should rarely keep a singer from being able to sing except for a day or two, if even that.
This topic is a real sore spot for me as a voice teacher/consultant. Because everyone is talking/teaching the “breath-flow” concept, which is the main reason we don’t have singers like the “old days”. I have even heard voice teachers criticize Jussi’s breathing because it is not what they have been taught is “correct”. Well they didn’t do things that way back when singers really knew how to sing.