Singing posture for women part 1 – meet Jenny Bernals!

you_doodle_2016-09-10t20_08_41z

Bernal Opera now has a new patroness – a French singer by the name of Jenny Bernals.

I found a postcard of her on Etsy, fell in love with it and now Jenny is my favorite model for talking about singing posture for women.

So what is the difference between a singing posture for women and for men? Basically none –  the dynamic male posture, as described in my earlier post, works well for anybody. The problem lies in the fact that while men have dressed principally the same for the last 100 years – jacket, shirt, pants – female wardrobe underwent a complete transformation and that transformation affected women on many levels, not always in a positive way.
On the surface it seems that getting rid of corsets and long, heavy skirts was a liberating development. However, the old clothes were a kind of ladies’ armor. Within the structure of the corset and her long dress a woman, I suppose, felt more confident and protected. As we see in Jenny’s picture, she is not apologizing for anything in her looks, she doesn’t have to think about a muffin top, hanging belly, cellulite or any other concerns that plague women of today not only when they make a trip to the beach.
The best example would be to compare Jenny’s stance with that of a contestant in a beauty pageant from the 1960s:
img_4929

She wears low heels, seems relaxed and balanced just like Jenny, yet the overall impression is fundamentally different. Let’s see the pictures side by side:

you_doodle_2016-09-10t21_56_14z img_4929

When I look at Jenny I see a female Alpha, a queen. When I see the 1960’s Girl, I feel that although she is smiling, she is somehow hiding in her body. She stands straight, but do we want this kind of straight?  She is almost naked and exposing herself to judgment by a bunch of strangers, so she is playing down her curves. Jenny can afford an “indecent” and open pose, because she is fully covered. 1960’s Girl cannot. I can imagine Jenny making a great and loud sound from her posture, the other one – I am not so sure.

Let’s examine the examples in more detail:

you_doodle_2016-09-12t17_46_12z you_doodle_2016-09-13t05_02_20z

It seems like the lines of their bodies are reversed. 1960’s Girl’s line is also almost flat.

you_doodle_2016-09-13t21_14_52z you_doodle_2016-09-12t17_31_05z you_doodle_2016-09-12t17_36_23z

Small difference and yet very important for a singing artist. Although, as I said in the post on posture for man, a good singer can produce great sound in any position, it is easiest if your everyday posture is already good, you don’t have to undo some bad habit. The corset helped the ladies in the past, but this is not the whole story – see another popular pin-up of the day, dancer La Belle Otero – she’s definitely not wearing one, but her stance is just as fine as Jenny’s. Or look at the iconic beauty, opera singer Lina Cavalieri.

you_doodle_2016-09-13t23_34_25zlina_cavalieri_1910

The long skirts encouraged a certain style, certain look that in the 1920s went out of fashion. Women started hiding their breasts, tummies, butts and hips even as they exposed them to the public. Just look at Bettie Page, young, cute and sexy model with a pulled-in stomach. I can just hear the photographer telling her to pull it in, if she didn’t remember. You cannot sing with a pulled-in tummy, so for me this photo is ruined by the fact that I perceive a woman rendering herself mute.

img_4922

Why Jenny’s posture works better for singing I will explain and demonstrate  in the next post. I will also tell you how to work towards it – and no, it is not just about pulling back your arms, raising your chest and holding it all like that. No pushing and pulling in this singing guide!

The proof that the curvy posture is natural and works for all kind of singers, not just for 19 century divas, another half of the photo of Mick Jagger: here with Taylor Swift. Wavy body line, facing up to him,  strong on her high heels as he is in his sport shoes. No pulled in stomach!

you_doodle_2016-09-14t00_08_30z

Part two of women’s posture coming soon.

Advertisements

Power Posture for Singers – Men

I was going to continue reviewing Leyerle’s book but cannot pass the opportunity to say some more about the issue of posture. What is the perfect posture for singing?  These days singers performing live on stage assume all sorts of positions, standing, lying down, dancing, even hanging down suspended from a bar, whatever the dramatic situation requires.

Anthony Ross Costanzo

 

However, in recital or auditions little acting is encouraged. I would not go as far as saying there is one “correct” position to deliver an aria or a song, but there are some that work better than others. Unfortunately, those are not the positions that you can find by googling “perfect posture”.

What you find instead are the positions of a character that goes to a doctor’s office and is asked to stand straight.

Doctor's office posture

 

Is any of it really useful? In my opinion it’s not. So is there a better way? Of course. Just learn from the masters. Let’s take a posture class from Placido Domingo.

This is what he does:

IMG_3515

This is a characteristic posture of a male lead in an opera. Some people find it old fashioned but it is still used by singers to deliver challenging arias. As you can see it consists of leaning forward on your “stronger” leg, slightly bent. Does he stand “straight”? Does he stand tall, “as if a suspended on a string from the crown of his head”? Certainly not!

IMG_3543

But he  is well balanced, grounded and expressive.

Let’s make his position into a diagram.

IMG_3544

Let’s remove the photo:

IMG_3545

Let’s simplify it still further and make it into a stick figure:

Now the diagram doesn’t show the arms, but gives you an idea how the singer holds himself, how he supports his body. The front leg carries most of the weight and is flexible. I left off the arms as they are used more for expression than balance.

So this is it, this is how Placido stands.

 

Well, not just him.  Look at Mick Jagger!

So the slightly forward leaning stance seems to be working for all kinds of singers.

 

 

Tenor Hak Soo Kim Sarasota Opera Blogspot

Their e is a reason for it. It makes singing easier. It takes care of itself, once established you don’t have to think about it.

Because of that it can be especially helpful for beginners. Once you can vocalize well in “Placido’s” position,  you can adjust it to the more elegant, modern recital pose.

Jonas Kaufman Sehnsucht Desire Munich

It is harder to maintain, but doable. At the end of the day a great singer can sing in any position.

So, look around YouTube and find some other singing masters. Look for live recitals and shows where camera captures the whole silhouette, from the head to the feet. Turn off the sound and just observe how they move.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 4.32.17 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.04.14 PM

Hope this helps – if you don’t trust me, trust Placido and Mick!

Next time – best singing posture for women.  Stay tuned.

 

Photos: Anthony Ross Costanzo in Partenope, SF Opera, Huffington Post

Mick Jagger in concert with Taylor Swift , Nashville, Getty Images

Tenor Hak Soo Kim, Sarasota Opera 2012 sarasotaopera.blogspot.com

Russell Thomas as Pollione in Norma, SF Opera 2015, KQED broadcast April 2016

Videos:

Placido Domingo with Luciano Pavarotti at the MET in La Boheme (Domingo singing the baritone part of Marcello)

Jonas Kaufman German Arias recital in Munich (Munchner Rundfunkorchester)

Franco Corelli  in recital, Hamburg 1971

Doodling: Anna Samborska