Purcell and the seventeenth-century voice : an investigation of singers and voice types in Henry Purcell's vocal music
This thesis uses the study of Henry Purcell"s vocal music to establish the vocal characteristics of the singers and voice types for whom the composer wrote in London in the seventeenth century. This process is begun in the first chapter by discussing 'The Counter-Tenor Debate' in order to establish the method(s) of vocal production used by Purcell's counter-tenors. This in turn addresses the issue of whether the counter-tenor was a completely different voice type from the tenor, or if they were simply high and low subdivisions of the same voice type. Chapter Two discusses the bass voice, in particular the influence of individual singers in creating voice-type subdivisions, and the dramatic and musical stereotyping of this voice type in Purcell's works. The third chapter takes as its subject Purcell's sopranos and trebles, focussing in detail on the individual singers in his works for the London stage, their vocal characteristics, dramatic stereotyping, and musical influence on the composer. Chapter Four uses the characteristics of each voice type identified in previous chapters to reassign the 'lost" voice types of Purcell's chamber songs and, in conjunction with research into actresses, literature and theatrical convention of the period, provides a first performance voice-type cast list for the opera Dido and Aeneas, as well as offering insight into the possible individuals for whom the work may have been intended. Finally, all the above information gathered is combined with knowledge of seventeenth-century singing techniques gleaned from contemporary sources and the work of modem day scholars to offer advice on the modem performance of Purcell's vocal works in a 'historically- informed' manner.