If you’ve had any degree of vocal training in the Western classical tradition, you’ve encountered the 24 Italian Songs book.
Folks love to hate on em. You can search the YouTubes and find a lot of nascent singers doing their best.
You can also find some of the world’s greatest like Cecilia Bartoli bring them to stunning life.
Theatre singers often give these the hard eye roll because they can’t see how a 250-year-old art song is gonna help them nail that Hairspray callback.
And they’re right. It’s not a direct line. Add to that most singers don’t take the trouble to find out what they’re singing about, and yeah, absolutely — you’re in irrelevant-to-me snooze town right away.
But when you’re a theatre singer, you get to embody countless stories and folks, and that means countless sounds. And these songs have a lot to teach us about how to access those in beautiful, soul sharing ways.
I’m remembering reading the program notes from Betty Buckley’s concert at the Donmar Warehouse in 2000; she talked about how her core training was in bel canto technique, and you can hear the value for legato singing, communication of soul, and vibrant presence in everything she did/does.
Go listen to some “Memory” circa 1983 as well as the stuff she sang in “Tender Mercies” and you’re gonna hear legato flow in all of it. If there’s a theatre singer you wanna take a note or seven from, there you go.
These can give you the keys to flow in your breath and sound, vowel secrets and acoustic leverage, make your articulation clear and effortless, make you a flexible embody-er of character, give you terrific sound comparison tools, and show you how to mine the beauty in material folks call overdone.