Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Not a real tenor..."

I'm browsing through Juvas Marianne Liljas' doctoral thesis, "Vad månde det blifva av dessa barnen?" ("What is to become of these children?"), about David Björling's vocal pedagogy. David was Jussi's father, and the dissertation is quite interesting. Actually, it's my wife, Katarina, who's borrowed it for her own research.

One passage that caught my eye was about how David Björling, who frequently used recordings by Caruso in his teaching, also used Karl Martin Öhman as a role model.

"Öhman, who studied in Milano among other places, was considered a consummate bel canto singer. Martin Öhman mastered a wide range of opera repertoire and his career was most successful abroad. It's evident from historical sources that Öhman initially had problems establishing himself on our Swedish national stage. At the Royal Opera in Stockholm, it was considered that Öhman was 'not a real tenor', since his timbre was too dark."
I found a sound clip here.

Interesting to find that the Swedish suspicion towards dramatic tenors goes so far back. Later (pg 320), Liljas describes Jussi's conflict (in terms of vocal technique) with John Forsell (artistic director of the Royal Opera) as representative of the struggle between the old influence of the French school and the national, or naturalistic, tradition. In this case, Jussi (and Öhman) rather represented the Italian school, or a cross between the Italian school and the naturalistic Nordic tradition.

Öhman later went on to teach Nicolai Gedda and Martti Talvela - marvellous singers both.

The thesis is quite interesting. Hopefully, I'll have time to read it thoroughly.


Kerstin said...

I found your blog while looking for information on Martin Öhman. I'm so pleased that I did. I'm not a singer, but have always been fascinated by the art of singing. BTW,Öhman was also the first teacher of Gösta Winbergh whose 30+-year career, beginning in Bel Canto and ending with acclaim in Wagner, attests to his solid training which began relatively late at the age of 24.
I applaud you for continuing to improve your lovely voice and for your blog which furthers the understanding of proper technique in singing which I fear is becoming lost in favor of "emoting."

p.s. my father was a championship sprinter in Malmö many years ago

Ulf Wiger said...

Thank you, Kerstin.

I bet you my father has a record of your father, if he placed in any Swedish championship. He has charted the top 6 athletes - male and female - in every Swedish championship since they began more than a hundred years ago. He has also written books about it, most prominently SM-boken