>Over here one gets the sense sometimes that everything in America is looked at as either/or. I realize this is not the case all the time, but one place where I sense it strongly is with opinions on language skills. Reader J. asks if singer’s diction courses “pass on rules of pronunciation that singers can use even if they don’t know the language, or is it pure imitation, e.g. the coach demonstrates what a piece should sound like and the students try to replicate the coach’s example?”, and while this is a perfectly intelligent question I have to add here to my answer in comments: where is the line between knowing a language and not knowing it? Many of us have some experience in several languages but not all of us can say we are fluent in all of them. I am not. But aside from that point, I am fluent in German yet still appreciate some help with singing pronunciation when needed. It’s all fine detail work — when faced with “Wie kommst Du darauf?”, must it be “kommst / Du” or does the listener more easily understand “kommstu”? In English diction, one of the trickier exercises involves singing the word “divine” on two different tones, and what tone should you be singing when you move through the v sound?
Back to my little rant: I have heard countless times for example, that ABBA sang all those pop songs phonetically, not knowing a single word of English. Which is just ridiculous. Certainly the women didn’t like to give interviews in English, not trusting their conversational foreign-language skills, but please.
Therefor I will state here that I don’t believe that Garanca “doesn’t know” French — more likely she knows the words she is singing, knows enough to read a little and work out sentences, but is not proficient enough to speak it off-script, and gets help with the more nuanced pronuciation work (and let me tell you, French diction rules have more exceptions than Italy has Vespas!)
Thank you for the blogpost fodder, J. I hope you know I don’t mean to pick on you!