Following is an audio interview with Franco Corelli found on YouTube. I have written out the transcript in Italian and followed it with the translation into English.
Tu vai aperto… cioe’ la distanza tra palato e’ lingua… ma dolce, non e’ che con tanta foga…. Ti rimane li il suono… e quella li… senti non ce nessuno che insgena per dire o che canti che non pensi ad aprire la gola… tutti pensano quello…. aprire la gola per sbadigliare. No? … e poi canti.. ti fai un punto tuo idealmente un po piu’ avanti o un po piu’ indietro… ma quello lo devi trovare te tra qui e qua. Bisgona riferirlo. Piano piano… Ma basta che tu ti senti libero. Questa qui e’ la cosa piu’ importante, perche’ se tu stringi la gola… ciao. Perche’ pensi sempre di tenere la lingua dolce… non dura..aaagnaaagnaaa.. perche se no indurisci.
Questo e’ il fiato, come la pallina che sta sopra. Tu l’avrai sentito dire queste cose. E devi pensare la voce un po cosi’… non spinta molto in avanti. Perche’ se spingi in avanti prima o poi chiudi. 1 2 3 e ti strozzi. Se il fiato viene su, no, se il fiato viene su… tu ti devi sedere sul fiato… se tu lo centri bene, tutto va bene… ma se non ce’ qui, ti risulta la gola, capisci….? Se non pensi a tenere aperta la gola…
Studiati dentro… dici “cosa faccio io? Tengo…? come faccio con la mia lingua…? come va?” E’ idealizzata, non e’ che puo essere studiata al mirino… pero’ se tu l’aiuti.. comincia ad aprirsi la gola piano piano… vai. Devi giocare col fiato nel canto… e’ un gioco di fiato il canto. Perche’ alcuni cantano con estrema facilita’? Perche’ sanno quello che fanno.
Attento a non prendere fiato di naso. Perche’ se mantieni il fiato nel naso… appena appena l’hai fatto… ma l’hai fatto…. La voce ti va un po’ piu’ in su, e squilla un po di meno. Una delle cose piu’ simpatiche che ce’ scritto nei libri, perche’ anch’io non e’ che un po… tutti no… devi cantare qui… (man says “sull’orlo…. Sui denti si”) Ma e’ sui denti cosi, non sui denti lunghi cosi, cioe’ praticamente deve essere qui come pensiero… non e’ che devi pensare eehhhh… devi pensare qua, perche’ se pensi qua la voce ti si appoggia. Il fiato intanto ti viene su da qui tieni la vocale e’ la metti piu sotto e questo e’ il problema. E’ un po un incongruenza quella che dice… ma deve essere proprio cosi. Capisci…? L’incongruenza e’ tenersi indietro per mantersi piu’ libera. Stai attento la AH farla appena appena piu chiara perche’ scura vuol dire pesantezza. Da Melocchi uno pigliava per tirarla cosi e ehhhehh… e cantava qui… Del Monaco gli e’ venuta benissimo, ma gli altri dovevano pensarci…. Specialmente I giovani…
You go open… that is the distance between tongue and palate… but sweet… not with so much aggressiveness… or your sound will remain here… and that’s it… Listen there is no one that doesn’t teach or that sings that doesn’t think about opening the throat… everyone thinks that… open the throat to yawn. Right? … and then you sing…. You create a point, ideally either a little forward or further back, you have to find it between here and here…. You need to reference it… slowly… The important thing is that you feel freedom… this is the most important thing, because if you tighten the throat… ciao. You must continue to think of the tongue as “sweet”… not hard aaaagnaaaa… because otherwise it get’s rigid.
This is the breath… like the ball balancing on the air. .. you have probably heard of this. You have to think that the voice is a little like this…. Not pushed forward. Because if you push forward sooner or later you close your throat… 1, 2, 3, and you choke. If your breath comes up… you have to sit on your breath. If you center it well, everything goes well… but if you don’t then you get the throat. Understand? You must think of keeping throat open…
Study yourself inside… Ask yourself: “What do I do? What do I do with my tongue? How does it go?” It is idealized of course… its not like we can study it with a scope, but if you help it, you begin to open the throat slowly and it goes. You must play with the breath in singing. It is a game of breath. Why do some sing with great ease? Because they know what they are doing.
Watch out to not take a breath from the nose. If you keep the breath in the nose… as soon as you do this… the voice will get a little higher, and the squillo will get less. One of the nice things written in books… I like others have….. you must sing here. (Man says “on the border… or on the teeth… yes”)
But its on the teeth like this…. Not on the long teeth… basically it has to be here as a thought…. It’s not that you should think eeeehhhhh…. You must think of it here… ( given that the man says “orlo”, the border, I am thinking Corelli probably put his thumb right at the edge of the hard palate before the teeth.) You must think of it here because if you think of it here the voice will lean. In the meantime the breath comes up around here…. And then if the vowel is below this area… this becomes the problem.
It seems contradictory what is said… but it must be exactly like this… you understand? The contradictory thing is to keep back in order to maintain freedom. Be careful… the AH vowel you must make slightly brighter because if it is darker, then you get weight. At Melocchi’s one would take it and go ahaahahaha….. and the voice would be here…. (I suspect he indicated the larynx). That worked for Del Monaco, but others had to really think about it… especially young people.
Of course, without the video we are left to imagine certain parts. I wanted to point out the importance of what he is saying when he talks about how keeping the breath in the nose makes the sound get higher and lose squillo. It is in keeping the depth of the column of the sound that one finds true appoggio or leaning.
The brighter AH rather than a dark weighty one can be achieved by thinking less in terms of vowel and more in terms of function. What makes an EH bright and how do I incorporate that into an AH vowel to make it brighter? This is particularly relevant for Anglo-Saxon speaking folk. The AH is often throaty with the tongue far back. Freedom of the tongue (lingua dolce)… this idea of sweet tongue is when the tongue is not rigid and not impeding the spinning of the breath by sitting on the larynx… keeping relatively away from the pharynx back wall from Middle C upwards… and the voice is able to originate deep and strike the mask in the appropriate places very spontaneously… spinning upwards to the mask. Corelli often spoke about suono dolce… sweeter sound. When you approach the passaggio, if you go into it thinking like a bass you might as well pack your bags and go home. You have to think that the sound is boyish within the wide open throat. The open throat shouldn’t widen the column of your sound in the passaggio or above. It is the boy in the cave… a youthful, non pushed lighter sound originating from a deep OO position.
It is important to remember that Corelli was a second formant dominant singer. He was mostly interested in cavita’ and suono ampio. His concept of avanti e dietro (forward and backward) was not based on squillo like Caruso and Bjoerling… but rather a more spacious feeling… so in this continuum between forward and back he favored back… but careful, that doesn’t mean his sound was back. It just means that his cords weren’t as narrow as an older school tenor’s would be, like Lauri Volpi or Bjoerling. So his sense of flow for the column of sound was wider, but not so wide that the sound fell back into the pharynx. Notice how he specifies how often singers will let the vowel slip below the turn of the breath…. If you think of the breath moving up and curving forward from the soft palate, if the vowel falls below the arch of breath then your cords are not closing exactly right… the balance is off… almost certainly too dark and inefficient. Suono che sprofonda nel gorgo della cavita’ faringea… the sound that sinks into the abyss of the pharynx.
The main balancing factor in this would definitely be the breath, but that would only work if the cords were producing sound “sul fiato” – on the breath… in balance and not pushed. You can’t think LOUDER LOUDER LOUDER and get this to work. You have to think balance, flow, ease.