Repeat after me: Jerome Hines is not Gregory Hines. Jerome Hines is not Gregory Hines. Possibly only I have trouble making the distinction. Deep down I know he's not, really I do, but the fact remains that all the time I was reading the book, I pictured Gregory Hines interviewing opera singers. Even now, having seen pictures of Jerome, I still see Gregory. It's very odd, I know, but there it is.
Anyway, that's beside the point. I've just finished reading Great Singers on Great Singing, Jerome Hines' series of 40 interviews with opera singers and a few other experts about vocal technique. I'm not quite sure why. Why I was reading it, that is. After all, it's aimed pretty much solely at actual singers. Yes, there's a glossary in the back, but nevertheless, there's not much fun stuff here for those unversed in the ways of placement, passaggio and projection. And I certainly fall into that category: or at least I did. 40 interviews later and, while I still know next to nothing about the subject, on demand I could probably now supply a handful of definitions- not to mention 40 different opinions of chest voice and the concept of 'open throat' ('the beginning of a yawn' seems to be the consensus on the latter).
It's not a bad read, actually, although I'm not quite sure who I'd recommend it to. Personally, I was fascinated to read about all this technical stuff, but I think many people would rather just listen to the singing. And I'd tend to agree with the warning from Cornell MacNeil: 'This book may be injurious to your vocal health'. I can only imagine what havoc it could wreak in the wrong hands: 40 fabulous voices telling you how they do it, and all saying different things- very dangerous to the impressionable mind, I should think. But I enjoyed myself, and I've certainly emerged with some education. It was nice to read Anna Moffo's interview, the next best thing to hearing her speak (which I never have). Above all though, a phrase stood out from Franco Corelli, who said singing should be approached with "love and seriousness". It's probably even more euphonious in Italian, but still, I think it sums it all up, really.
I do have some issues with the book though, on a mean & petty sort of level, all of which boil down to the fact that Jerome Hines bothers me. I'm sorry, he just does. Perhaps he wasn't as irritating in person as he seems, I don't know. But he's got some very annoying habits. For one, if his transcripts are to be trusted, an irritating tendency to finish other people's sentences. The interviews are loaded with 'I suggested', 'I interjected', 'I interrupted' and so on. He also talks more about himself than he ought, considering he has his own chapter as well. And perhaps worst of all, he seems determined to 'sign off' every interview with some corny little summary of its subject... the greeting-card philosophising gets very old very quickly.
But ignore me. It's a good book and surely the best (and possibly only) of its kind. And authored by the Mel Gibson of the opera world, it would seem. (Tall, handsome and the composer of an opera about the life of Jesus.)
Now listening to: Renée Fleming: 'Ma quando tornerai', Alcina. Georg Frideric Handel. Cond. William Christie.