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Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Wanting to be two

Once I’d started taking singing lessons (January 2016) I had this urge to co-operate in duets, especially with a soprano. Why? Perhaps because a second voice might make the role of solo baritone less exposed, less lonely.

V tried me out with We’ll Gather Lilacs from Ivor Novello’s operetta Perchance to Dream. To say the least, operetta, ie, light opera (ugh!), has never been my thing but that wasn’t the problem. V’s powerful voice – even turned down to pianissimo  – pulled my fledgling voice off my singing line. So duets were shelved for a while.

A new dawn broke a year later when V tried the Pappageno/Pamina duet, Bei Männern from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. I did progress but it wasn’t a true test. As a listener I’d known this musical dialogue for ages through regularly hearing the opera. As a result I was less prone to being influenced by the second voice.

More recently still V offered me Purcell’s My Dearest, My Fairest. I really liked this poignant work and worked hard at getting it right. I definitely progressed but – again without explanation – V dropped it. I never question V’s decisions; she has, after all, created my singing voice. But I secretly yearned.

Three weeks ago, humbly, I begged her to resurrect My Dearest. She agreed. And that we should persist for as long it took. Again she agreed. And now I knew why she broke off the first sessions. Then I needed more tuition in musical technicalities, especially subtleties of pitch. Now I’m better equipped. It’s hard, bloody hard but there are moments when our voices fuse. And it’s bloody wonderful

Click HERE to find out what I’m aiming for.


  1. Sounds difficult and I can't quickly ascertain what this has to do with Pausanias. An early chapter in his life, before he betrayed Sparta and was bricked up to starve to death (the first brick set by his mother)?

    1. MikeM: I deliberately didn't look up the opera, even though its name was printed on the score I used. Operas of that vintage (Purcell's dates: circa 1659 - 1695) are often completely static, usually presented these days in concert form with the singers ranged up in front of the orchestra. Sometimes they are forgotten altogether with the exception of a single song which carries especial merit.

      The thing about My Dearest is that its sentiments are complete and as relevant to the oughties as they were to the seventeenth century. As to its difficulties these are mainly confined to the first twenty bars with the intertwining of the verb "languish" between the singers. Elsewhere it's merely a matter of getting the timing right

      The soprano gets the best single line "Ah why are love's hours so short and so sweet". A couple of bars later I come in with a response to the soprano's "And loving" with my somewhat raunchier "... and kissing" and I need to be careful I don't give in to that oh-so poignant earlier line.

      Rehearsing a duet alone is a real bastard. It's logical for me to hum the soprano's lines but the words themselves are so simple and persuasive. Never mind, I'm determined to nail this one