"La voce è grata assai, ma…”: Monteverdi on singing

Wistreich, R. (1994) "La voce è grata assai, ma…”: Monteverdi on singing. Early Music, 22 (1) pp. 7-20. ISSN 0306-1078 (print) 1741-7260 (online)


Singers seeking solutions to the problems of performing vocal music of the late 16th and early 17th centuries will naturally look to the available documentary evidence. However, the sources of this period present us with a bewildering variety of discourses about vocal performance practice, and we must confront difficult questions concerning their relative value and the ways in which they should be read. The evidence includes the notated music itself, prefaces to song books, didactic literature (treatises) and - particularly important - various kinds of references to singing contained in contemporary correspondence. Especially valuable in this last category are audition and recruiting reports: many of these are readily available to singers today (the majority of my references are drawn from modern musicological sources), but their use as performance-practice material is often overlooked. This article examines evidence about bass singing in Venice in the 1620s which is found in a source of great potential authority - a series of letters written by Monteverdi.

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