Dost Thou Know Thy Tongue’s True Tune?: Discovering the Early Opera ‘mezzo-Soprano’ Voice for Today’s Interpreters
The purpose of this article is to provide today’s operatic interpreter with the historical insight she needs to understand the early operatic female voice. In particular, it focuses on where today’s mezzo-soprano voice classification falls within the seventeenth- and early eighteenth- century operatic repertoire, which are the genre’s first efforts. This route of inquiry is particularly difficult since the mezzo-soprano classification did not emerge until the mid- eighteenth-century. Previously, it was not identified as a separate female voice category. Therefore, in order for today’s mezzo-soprano to access and, hence, engage with this early operatic repertoire, she must gain a clearer understanding of her historical predecessors, principally those in the soprano and [contr]alto voice classifications. By utilising the historically-informed performance practice approach suggested in this article, she will now possess the tools she needs to engage successfully with this early Baroque repertoire. Through this methodology, today’s mezzo-soprano can effectively begin to introduce early Baroque vocal works into her current repertory.