A Singer Prepares

Stanislavsky and opera

Authored by: Sharon Marie Carnicke , David Rosen

The Routledge Companion to Stanislavsky

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415535649
eBook ISBN: 9780203112304
Adobe ISBN: 9781136281853


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Stanislavsky may be best known for his work in spoken drama, with his pedagogy at the Bolshoi Theatre Opera Studio and his directing at the Stanislavsky State Opera Theatre leaving a mere footnote in many theatre and music histories, but his interest in music never took a subordinate place in his artistic thinking. Since his earliest experiments with theatrical performance, Stanislavsky was as enamored with opera as with spoken theatre, seeing music and drama as interdependent forms of art. Moreover, he understood both performing arts as sharing a similar purpose — to communicate to audiences the ineffable and non-verbal aspects of human experience. In his autobiography, he explicitly makes this connection when considering the expressive importance of the actor's voice:

Can it be that the sound of the human voice is so material and coarse, that it is incapable of expressing what is “abstract,” lofty, and noble? Take, for example, [the singer Fyodor] Chaliapin (who gained world-wide fame). Surely he achieved what we seek in drama. “Yes, but that was in opera, which provides the performer with music,” said the voice of doubt within me. “And why can't conversational speech be just as musical?” I thought. […] In inspired moments of performance when you understand not only the surface meaning of spoken words but also their deep, hidden resonances, you then find sonority, simplicity, and nobility within speech too.

(SS II 1988–99: 356–7)

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