Singing at the Limits: Wagner, Breathing, and the Heroic Voice


LAC Burkhardt


Fine Arts


For residence at the Department of Music at Dartmouth College during academic year 2021-2022


This project situates the idea of heroic singing in the crucible of nineteenth-century vocal revolutions. Richard Wagner pushed singing to its limits in his vision of a German singing style as heightened speech. Whereas prior investigations of Wagnerian singing have typically centered on its sheer volume, this study examines how a school of singing defined by the disciplining of the breathing body has shaped the last century of Wagnerian singing. In approaching heroic singing from the perspective of breath, ”Singing at the Limits” opens up a new avenue to understanding connections among voice, sound, and body, and, in so doing, upends the conventional notion that singers are defined by and as their voices.