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Giovanni Battista Rubini and the Bel Canto Tenors

History and Technique

Dan H. Marek

Giovanni Battista Rubini (1794–1854) was a legendary tenor and the first 19th-century non-castrati male singer to become an international star of opera. The previous two centuries had been the era of the castrati, with tenors and basses relegated to character and supporting roles in the operas of their time. Rubini stood apart because he not only matched the castrati in coloratura and pathos, but he also had an extraordinarily high voice. With Rubini’s rise, and in his wake, several tenors came to sing roles written specifically for them by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and many other lesser-known bel canto composers. Signaling the end of the dominance of castrati on stage, this period would last some forty years until the advent of grand opera, Wagner, and Verdi and the appearance of the first so-called High C from the chest by Gilbert-Louis Duprez in 1837. Since then, the accepted tenor sound has followed the tradition epitomized by Enrico Caruso and, in our own era, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

Many composers, conductors, and performers would come to regard bel canto dramatic operas as decorative and vapid until Maria Callas and Tulio Serafin demonstrated the heights this genre of opera could reach. However, opera directors and opera performers of late who have expressed an interest in reviving selected masterpieces from the bel canto tradition have found themselves confronted with the problem of locating tenors versed in the vocal techniques necessary to carry the high tessituras. In
Giovanni Battista Rubini and the Bel Canto Tenors: History and Technique, Dan H. Marek explores the extraordinary life of Rubini in order to frame this special period in the history of opera and connect the technique of the castrati who were among Rubini’s instructors. Drawing on the work of Berton Coffin, Marek offers long-sought answers to the challenges presented by high tessitura of bel canto operas for tenors. To further assist working singers, Giovanni Battista Rubini and the Bel Canto Tenors includes over sixty pages of exercises written by Rubini himself before 1840, which Marek, for the first time ever, has adapted to acoustical phonetics.

Professional singers, teachers and their students, vocal coaches, and opera conductors will find this work indispensable as the only English-language work on high tessitura for tenor
and soprano singing.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 436Size: 8 3/4 x 11
978-0-8108-8667-4 • Paperback • June 2013 • $64.00 • (£42.95)
978-0-8108-8668-1 • eBook • June 2013 • $60.00 • (£39.95)
Dan H. Marek is a distinguished international singer, teacher, and writer who has appeared as a principal tenor at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and the Salzburg Opera. He is a teacher of voice at Mannes College of Music in New York City.
Drawing on a distinguished career as an educator, writer, and most notably, a principal tenor at numerous major opera houses, Marek has authored the definitive biography of Giovanni Battista Rubini, the legendary nineteenth-century tenor who gained international fame as the first non-castrati romantic lead in Italian operas. In addition, Marek provides an exceptional historical overview of the singing style known as bel canto as well as an examination of the vocal techniques employed by Rubini and his contemporary bel canto tenors. . . .Giovanni Battista Rubini and the Bel Canto Tenors: History & Technique stands as a testament to Marek’s personal and professional devotion to the world of music. While vocal coaches, students, and opera historians will find Malek’s opus indispensable, the casual reader will also enjoy the wealth of information that documents the fascinating evolution of the fine high voice, which has been admired throughout history. This wonderful publication, the only English-language text on high tessitura for tenor and soprano singing, is a must for all libraries.
American Reference Books Annual

There are many passages in this book that fill one with reverie for what the bel canto era must have been like, overflowing with the musical luminaries who were all in close contact in Naples, Paris, London or Vienna: Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Balfe, Thalberg, Schumann, Paganini and Liszt, just to name a few. ... This book is filled with many exercises for the aspiring singer.
Newsletter of the Donizetti Society

I have no doubt that Dan H. Marek's Giovanni Battista Rubini and the Bel Canto Tenors: History and Technique will become one of the great works on that period and beyond. There is nothing out there that is even comparable. What an incredible amount of work he has put into it... quite an amazing accomplishment with wonderful content!
Basil Walsh, author of Catherine Hayes: The Hibernian Prima Donna

Dan Marek is a tenor. As such he is not supposed also to be an intellectual—we all know tenor jokes of every sort—but life plays funny tricks on us. Having studied and taught singing at length, Marek grew fascinated with the exploits of tenors from the nineteenth century. Giovanni Battista Rubini and the Bel Canto Tenors: History and Technique is only the first of several projects Marek has developed to help young singers today by making them more aware of nineteenth-century practice. We should all welcome contributions from singers of his calibre, whose direct acquaintance with the art of performance assists them greatly as they face the challenges of helping today's young singers come to grips with a performance style that does more than merely duplicate the recorded legacy of twentieth- and twenty-first-century singers.
Philip Gossett, professor emeritus, University of Chicago

If you are looking for rare and fascinating reading about early operatic tenors, Giovanni Battista Rubini and the Bel Canto Tenors: History and Technique is for you. Past information about these tenors has been sadly neglected, and how they laid the foundation for all singing. Dan Marek skillfully pulls back the curtains of time and cleverly explains the techniques of tenors from the baroque era onward; he then reveals how the great castrati were slowly replaced as the nineteenth-century composers Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini started writing their operas for tenors who could encompass the high tessitura bel canto roles written for them.

To that end, Marek brings us the most exceptional and enlightened biography ever written in English about the legendary Giovanni Battista Rubini, remembered then as "The King of Tenors." Included in this book are 60 pages of exercises written by Rubini himself before 1840. Marek also devotes several chapters to the art of singing. A highly experienced professional tenor and teacher himself, he reveals important information that will be of great assistance to professional singers, teachers and students. This large beautiful book should be in every library.
Clarissa Lablache Cheer, author, artist, scholar and archivist

Just this morning I brought a copy of your book to the Rubini Foundation. It is really an important work and it will be shown to the board of directors.
Antonio Maltempi, The Rubini Foundation

The Rubini Foundation can only express pride in your great interest in our countryman Giovan Battista Rubini, who was without an equal as the greatest tenor of his epoch and would be one of the greatest today considering the well-documented vocal ability, which made him so great an artist on the European stage. The book that you have published is, in our opinion, the best representation of his artistic life and of great cultural interest.

Alessandro Esposito, president, Fondazione Opere Pie Riunite Giovan Battista Rubini