17. May 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramble

A very good amount of time ago now (long enough no one can attempt to connect it to anything) Dan and I were at a performance that included a well known singer in a lead role. The singing was so incredibly out of tune we, who are usually silent even during applause after arias, leaned over to each other at exactly the same time to discuss our shock. Truly. It was so bad it wouldn’t have surprised me to hear a boo or two.

But nothing.

The audience applauded as long as one might expect for a well known singer.

But okay. We all know not all audiences are savvy about things like that.

And then the reviews came out. Not only was there no mention of the disastrous intonation, but several writers adored what they heard by the singer. Only one reviewer left the name out of the review entirely, which hinted to me that he wasn’t impressed.

But I’m still puzzled.

I would think that reviewers would understand that intonation matters. Being 1/8 or 1/4 step sharp is really not okay. So was the very famous singer so untouchable that no one dared comment? Or did the reviewers honestly not hear the problem? I wonder.

And then what about taking a singer’s part down a 1/2 step to avoid a particular high note? (No, not the same singer as MissedIntonationSinger™.) Do reviewers ever notice if a singer’s part has been lowered (or raised) to accommodate a voice? I wonder. If so, perhaps they should be more careful about praising a high C or whatever it is they praise; they might be hearing a different pitch, after all! Maybe they should just say, “X’s highest note was particular lovely,” and leave it at that.

Ah well. I know I’m picky. And yet I also know I’m not perfect when it comes to intonation. So I should probably just keep my mouth shut. And my fingers still!

Too late.


  1. I played a performance of Carmina Burana in which the soprano sang her big song in two different keys, one for each verse. Neither was the actual key of the piece. The audience loved it. They always love Carmina, the poor dears.

  2. Major ouch, Brian. I don’t even want to imagine that one!

    Why is it that crowds simply go crazy over that work? (I will confess I loved it when I was in high school.)