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From Anderson to Zaninelli: Audio Lessons for Classical Singing

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Our exploration of audio instruction for singing in the NLS Music collection has one final stop: art song and opera! And who better to inspire us in our musical endeavors, particularly during African American History Month, than contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1993)? In addition to being the first singer to record African American spirituals with a major American record label in 1923, she became the first black singer to perform as a member of the Metropolitan Opera in 1955. Listen and be transported by this 1924 recording of Anderson singing “My Lord, what a mornin’,” courtesy of the National Jukebox. Log in to BARD or contact your local talking-book library to learn about talking books and braille books about Marian Anderson available from the NLS collection. You can also learn much more about Anderson’s musical life and legacy in three excellent blog posts that our colleagues here at the Library of Congress have written in recent years:

Portrait of Marian Anderson singing.
[Portrait of Marian Anderson singing]. Photographic print by Carl Van Vechten, Jan. 14, 1940.
Once you’ve learned the basics of healthy vocal production by using the audio lessons and courses that I listed in my first post of this series, you can use the NLS Music Section’s audio instruction offerings to familiarize yourself with the Western canon of art song as well as practice the songs you’re learning. In this post I’ll introduce you to the two series in our collection that will accompany you on your journey.

First, we have a remarkable series of nearly 200 lessons on individual art songs, including Italian arias, French chansons, and German lieder. Don’t worry: there are some English songs too! Each lesson includes a performance of the song, a reading of the lyrics for diction guidance, an English translation of the lyrics (when necessary), and a recording of the piano accompaniment by itself so that you can practice singing with it. Opera singer and educator Nico Castel, who passed away in 2015, provides instruction for all lessons in the series.

An easy way to browse all the lessons in this series using BARD or the NLS Voyager catalog is to search for “MusAcom,” which is the company that produced the series. You could also search for “Nico Castel.” As an example, this series has lessons on several songs from the collection of 24 (or, in recent editions, 28) Italian songs and arias that was compiled by Alessandro Parisotti in the 1880s but which many teachers use to this day. For certain songs, lessons are available for multiple vocal ranges. For example, a lesson on the aria “Per la gloria d’adorarvi,” by Giovanni Bononcini, is available for soprano, mezzo, tenor, and baritone voices.

In addition to these standard Italian arias, Nico Castel also provides lessons on four songs by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999), who was blind and composed in braille music code:

Okay, let’s say you’ve learned your songs and want to practice but your lovely pianist friend isn’t there to play with you. The NLS Music Section has you covered! Nico Castel’s lessons all include a piano accompaniment track you can use to practice, but we additionally have six collections of piano accompaniment tracks that you can use to practice your lesson or prepare for your performance:

If you’re curious about what else is in our music instruction collection, you can browse our Music Instruction Catalog on the NLS website, contact the Music Section to request large-print copy, or listen to the catalog in audio format on BARD (DBM03542) or on digital cartridge. If you don’t see what you’re looking for in the catalog, please contact the Music Section by phone (1-800-424-8567, option 2) or e-mail ([email protected]).

Comments (2)

  1. These are fine and good, but why only make them available through the BARD access? Musicians are your audience. Under “Music Education” the links you provide under “Voice” are only accessible through BARD. The majority of singers do not qualify. And when will the National Jukebox be up and running? Your mp3 links should be in the public domain.

    • Hello, Susan: All items listed in this post are available to check out on digital cartridge, and most of them are available on BARD as well. Patrons may request that any of the Music Section’s talking books (including those that are on BARD) be mailed to them on digital cartridge by contacting the Music Section by phone (1-800-424-8567, option 2 for Music) or by e-mail ([email protected]). The National Jukebox website is currently undergoing maintenance. Please contact the National Jukebox team directly using the following form: You may learn more about the recordings available from the National Jukebox on the following webpage: Thank you.

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