Researching original voices for our new opera

November 17, 2015

Black_Tezcatlipoca3
I’m doing homework for Mitchell Morris’ and my new opera, FRIDA AND THE SMOKING MIRROR. The seven characters are Frida Kahlo, Tezcatlipoca [pictured above] Diego Rivera, Isamu Noguchi, Josephine Baker, Leo Eloesser (Frida’s doctor) and Leon Trotsky. I have made a rough decision on who is what range, but I wanted to see what I could find in terms of hearing their actual speaking voices. So far, I have had no luck with Frida. But today I stumbled across this Pathé gem of Leon Trotsky giving a speech in English in Mexico. Not a particularly pleasant voice. I’m trying to imagine what voice type he might be: a tenor? a pinched throat baritone? Not a man of long tones, as FDR might do. Short and snappy.

To contrast, here is a (pale) recording of Diego Rivera’s voice. It seems a bit lower than Trotsky’s. More shouting. His sentences bounce between a low note, high note, and ends in the middle. The video has an impressive array of photos from his life.

This next video shows a “getting to know you moment” for Diego, Frida, Trotsky and his wife. The interaction is fascinating.

This video has a terrific collection (bleeding chunks) of Frida in moments of her life that I’ve only read about. The final scene was a shocker!

Isamu Noguchi had an affair with Frida. Here is a video of Noguchi overseeing an installation of his work. His voice sings. He has a huge range of pitch in his voice. The duration of his syllables is completely different.

Here we get to hear Josephine Baker. I am so used to hearing only her singing voice, it took a minute to realize it was her. She has a gentle singing voice, a little breathy, many tones and intensities. I love how she soars up into a range for an entire sentence, hover, dance and then come down.

The last (real) character is Dr Leo Eloesser, her doctor of long standing. There is a cassette recording in the library at UC Berkeley. I guess I’ll have to go there and listen to it.

Previous post:

Next post: