Ever heard a conductor sing?

This is Barbara Hannigan at this week’s Victoires de la Musique.

And the orchestra sings along, too.

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  • Barbara Hannigan is an amazing talent and someone who has achieved something truly remarkable, namely turning her favoured repertoire into something that is almost entertaining.

    And yet, she seems as a singer to have little natural feel for this type of music, I find her interpretations very detached and cold. Likewise in this version of ‘Lost in the Stars’.
    Although I don’t think her choice of accompanist helps.

    • I often wonder whether our own expectations shape the way we listen to music. I conceive Barbara Hennigan’s interpretations somewhat “outwardish”, extroverted. So if you expect a more intimate version of Weil’s songs you might be disappointed. But boy, what would we missing in variety if there weren’t artists like her, which contradict our expectations

      • J, I think in that instance she thinks she’s singing ‘Glitter and be Gay’. Lost in the Stars is just not that kind of song. The really deep emotional stuff finds her out. But she does an amazing job with the avant-garde repertoire!

  • José Cura used to pull the stunt of singing Puccini arias while (sort of) conducting.
    Funny how his megalomaniac antics seem to have been forgotten by the media.
    Barbara Hanigan however, is a sympathtic and (opposite Mr.Cura), totally unpresumptuously talented true multi-musician.

  • But I have heard many pianists sing and quite loudly. Once at Curtis, an indignant member of the audience said to me at intermission: “Sir, there is someone singing along with the pianist, would you please make him stop immediately?” My reply: “Madame, it’s the pianist singing along with his playing and since he is a faculty member (the late Seymour Lipkin), it seems unlikely that he would listen to me since I’m just the dean.” She was furious at my reply and didn’t believe my analysis of the situation.

  • There was an instance a few years ago at Pittsburgh Opera where the tenor was unable to finish the performance, so the conductor (a trained tenor) sang the rest of the role from the pit while conducting.

    Also, Peter Schreier used to conduct Bach Passions while singing the role of the Evangelist.

  • Yes – at a concert of Monteverdi’s Vespers last night in St Leonard’s on Sea. The conductor- Marcio da Silva – principle conductor of the Hastings Philharmonic is also a fine counter tenor and baritone, and took the part of third tenor in Duo Seraphim.

    • Quite a few gay actors have pulled off hetero lover roles very convincingly. But none of them is known for conducting German romantics very effectively.

  • I don’t know if you can call it singing, but Toscanini can be heard humming in many recordings. And in the opera rehearsals he sings all the parts with text to give the players context, especially in recits with punctuating chords or figures.

    • In opera rehearsals the conductor sings so the orch knows where the rubatos will be. The conductor either sings (Domingo does this — all the parts!) or does a kind of sprech-stimme for the timing.

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