Introducing The Diction Police: Special Diction Unit

Posted in Miscellaneous, Special Editions by thedictionpolice on November 2nd, 2014

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Your favorite Diction Policemen are taking it one step further than the podcast, offering at reasonable prices:

  • IPA transcriptions and translations of art songs, operas and oratorios in three languages (English, German, French) in PDF format.
  • Streaming videos with readings by native speakers as well as extensive interviews discussing the diction rules and principles.

SDU’s staff includes some of the most respected professionals in the field of lyric diction today, including professional singers, vocal coaches, diction teachers, language experts and published authors, all discussing the pronunciation of song text in their native language. Our mission here is the same as the original podcast: to bring the sounds of foreign language alive for classical singers and vocal coaches all over the world.


Come check us out at www.dictionpolice.com !

The podcast itself will remain free of charge! There are also free diction tips available at the SDU website, as well as the long awaited Tongue Exercises Video! If you've been waiting to see that, then go check it out today!




Episode 75

Posted in Podcasts, French Diction by thedictionpolice on May 19th, 2014

This week, French tenor Gilles Ragon works through Don José's aria, "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée", from Carmen with us. We concentrate on the letter "e" and how to tell whether it's the open epsilon [ɛ], the closed lower case [e] or the schwa [ə]. We talk about the accent grave (è) and accent circonflex (ê) which both open the vowel to [ɛ] and the accent aigu (é) which closes it to [e].

The libretto for Carmen can be found at the Opera Guide. Make sure to click on L for libretto and F for French (because it seems to default back every time, and in that order, because it will keep reverting!) and then scroll down to No.17 Duo--the aria is just a little beyond that indication.

The diction book I mentioned in this episode is the second edition of Jason Nedecky's French Diction for Singers: A Handbook of Pronunciation for French Opera and Mélodie, available from the University of Toronto bookstore. It's a great resource, which includes a list of common spellings and their pronunciations as well as over 7,000 proper names with their phonetic transcriptions!

The YouTube that I promised to post is this one, of Gérard Souzay singing "Clair de lune" with Jacqueline Bonneau on the piano. Please feel free to comment below, I would love everyone's opinion as to whether or not you think he is singing "les" open or closed (there are a whole bunch of "les" starting at about 1:55) :-)

With questions, comments or suggestions, you can get in touch with me here, at the Facebook page, on Twitter or directly at ellen@ellenrissinger.com

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Episode 74

Posted in Podcasts, German Diction by thedictionpolice on November 12th, 2013

In this episode we finish up our conversation with Martin Koch, with the text "Wenn sich zwei Herzen scheiden" and an exercise from Dr. Augustin Ulrich Nebert's article "Das einzigartige -IG". Obviously we are focusing on the ending -IG again as well as devoicing/unvoicing final consonants and the voiced initial S.

The text Wenn sich zwei Herzen scheiden was written by Emanuel von Geibel, a 19th century poet who was part of a linguistic society in Munich called Die Krokodile (the Crocodile Society). This text has been set by Mendelssohn and a plethora of other composers. For the exercise text, see Dr. Nebert's article "Das einzigartige -IG" and scroll down to page 10 under "Übungstext".

The resources and summer programs I talked about in the episode are:

  • Dr. Nebert's Sprechatelier--based in Halle, Germany, they have classes in every kind of public speaking in German, from diction lessons to media related speaking to debate and rhetoric, from Hochdeutsch through to every dialect. Dr. Nebert also studied singing as well as speech science. Special thanks to Dr. Nebert for recording his Übungstext for us!
  • University of Miami Frost School of Music's summer program in Salzburg, Austria--a 5-week program for young singers and pianists, with many opportunities to take advantage of being in Salzburg during the summer Opera Festival (Festspiel)
  • IPAI (The International Performing Arts Institute)--in Kiefersfelden, Germany (near Munich, on the Austrian border), a 3-week program for young singers and pianists with divisions for Classical/Opera and Musical Theater
  • IMFA (The International Music Festival of the Adriatic)--in Duino, Italy (near Trieste), a 3-week program for young singers and pianists as well as composers and string players, which makes for a very interesting possibility of vocal chamber music and modern music
  • AIMS (American Institute of Musical Studies)--in Graz, Austria, a 6-week program that has been around for over 40 years, for singers and pianists, plus an orchestral program to create their own festival orchestra


Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments or suggestions here, at the Facebook page, on Twitter or directly at ellen@ellenrissinger.com

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Episode 73

Posted in Podcasts, German Diction by thedictionpolice on September 29th, 2013

This episode is the beginning of a conversation with German tenor Martin Koch. With the text to Mendelssohn's "Frage", we focus on the -IG suffix, whether to roll an R or to use the near-open central vowel [ɐ] (which I keep calling the upside down bright A) and a few notable exceptional words with long, closed vowels followed by two consonants.

Originally attributed to H. Voss, it appears that Mendelssohn himself wrote the text as well as the music to "Frage". This song also became the basis for his string quartet in a-minor, Op. 13.

Please note that Lydía Zervanos has allowed us the use of some of her texts with IPA and translation for Episode 71 on Greek diction, feel free to download them!

As always, please feel free to contact me here, through the Facebook page, on Twitter or directly at ellen@ellenrissinger.com (I'm trying something here, not sure if this link will work... if not, please cut and paste into your email program!)

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Text for Episode 71-Κάτο στον Άγιο Σίδερω

Posted in Worksheet Downloads, Greek Diction by thedictionpolice on September 24th, 2013

Lydía Zervanos has graciously sent me pdfs of the texts (with IPA!) for Episode 71 to post here at the blog page. Here is Κάτο στον Άγιο Σίδερω. Thank you so much, Lydía, and happy listening and studying to everyone!

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Text for Episode 71-Ο Ναός

Posted in Worksheet Downloads, Greek Diction by thedictionpolice on September 24th, 2013

Lydía Zervanos has graciously sent me pdfs of the texts (with IPA!) for Episode 71 to post here at the blog page. Here is Ο Ναός. Thank you so much, Lydía, and happy listening and studying to everyone!

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Episode 72 - Special Edition - Rolling Rs

Posted in Podcasts, Special Editions by thedictionpolice on September 8th, 2013

This is a mini-episode with some tips on learning how to roll Rs. Kerry Deal (from the faculty of Boston Conservatory and MIT) and Michael Strauss (a vocal coach with New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory) talk about the problems we have rolling our Rs and give us some exericises and tricks to help us practice! We've been working together at the International Performing Arts Institute for the past few summers.

Don't forget that there are already two episodes with tongue exercises as well, Episode 48 and Episode 49!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or suggestions here, at the Facebook page, on Twitter or directly at ellen@ellenrissinger.com

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Episode 71

Posted in Podcasts, Greek Diction by thedictionpolice on September 1st, 2013

In the second episode of our two-part discussion of Modern Greek Diction, Lydía Zervános works through the texts Κάτω στον Άγιο Σίδερο and Ο Ναός. We focus on the letters Gamma γ and Kappa κ and the vowel digraphs: αι [ε]; ει, οι and υι which all become [i]; αυ [av] or [af] and ευ [εv] or [εf]; and ου [u], along with the accent marking ´ and the diaeresis ¨ .

Κάτω στον Άγιο Σίδερο is probably recognized better as "La-bas, vers l'église", from Ravel's Five Greek Songs. Ο Ναός was composed by Μανώλης Καλομοίρης (the founder of the Greek National School of Music) to a text by Κωστής Παλαμάς (a Greek poet in the late 1880s who wrote the words to the Olympic Hymn).

The other resources that I mentioned in the episode were:

  • Learning Greek Podcasts by the Hellenic American Union--a podcast where you can practice listening and learn quite a few useful colloquial phrases in Modern Greek
  • Επικοινωνήστε ελληνικά--all in Modern Greek, this is a great book to learn the language from, since you don't have to keep flipping between the Greek alphabet and the Latin one as you're learning; there are 3 main books and 2 workbooks to go along with each of them
  • Minos--try this on Spotify! Type in Minos in the Spotify search and under the albums you should get a few listings for Greek Pop music. It's a great way to hear the sounds of the language!


As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or suggestions here, at the Facebook page, on Twitter or directly at ellen@ellenrissinger

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Episode 70

Posted in Podcasts, Greek Diction by thedictionpolice on June 3rd, 2013

Είμαι πάρα πολύ χαρουμένη για αυτά τα επισόδια! This episode and the next will be on one of my favorite topics--Modern Greek Diction! On this episode, baritone Aris Argiris works through the Greek alphabet with us, through the text Κόρες της Αττικής.

Κόρες της Αττικής was set to music by Theodoros Karyotakis (I could only find this in German on Wikipedia), a student of Dmitri Mitropoulos. The text to this song can be found on page 49 of Lydia Zervanos' Greek Diction Guide for Singers, from a Presidential Scholars Project she put together several years ago. She has since tweaked some of the transcriptions for errors, but the rules to Greek diction in the first half of the project are invaluable.

As I promised, here is the Greek alphabet, along with an Americanized form of their names plus the options for their pronunciation (not including the digraphs that we'll talk about on the next episode):

  • Α α - alpha [a]
  • Β β - vita [v]
  • Γ γ - gamma [γ] [ʝ]
  • Δ δ - delta [ð]
  • Ε ε - epsilon [ε]
  • Ζ ζ - zita [z]
  • Η η - ita [i]
  • Θ θ - thita [θ]
  • Ι ι - iota [i] [j] [ç]
  • Κ κ - kappa [k] [c]
  • Λ λ - lambda [l] [λ]
  • Μ μ - mi [m]
  • Ν ν - ni [n]
  • Ξ ξ - ksi [ks]
  • Ο ο - omikron [ɔ]
  • Π π - pi [p]
  • Ρ ρ - rho [r]
  • Σ σ ς - sigma [s] [z]
  • Τ τ - tau [t]
  • Υ υ - ipsilon [i] [v] [f]
  • Φ φ - fi [f]
  • Χ χ - xi [x] [ç]
  • Ψ ψ - psi [ps]
  • Ω ω - omega [ɔ]

Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments or suggestions here, on the Facebook page (and now you can even "like" each separate episode here on the blog!), on Twitter or directly at ellen@ellenrissinger.com

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Episode 69

Posted in Podcasts, Italian Diction by thedictionpolice on April 22nd, 2013

In the second half of my conversation with Italian bass Maurizio Muraro, we discuss the text to Don Bartolo's aria "A un dottor della mia sorte" from Il barbiere di Siviglia. This time we concentrate on the rule of "raddoppiamento sintattico" (called phrasal doubling in English), the combination GLI [ʎ], S before a voiced consonant (which becomes a voiced [z]) and when to roll or not roll Rs!

You can find a libretto for Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Opernführer. Scroll down to Aria No.8 (remember to make sure it's on L for libretto and I for Italian!).

The fabulous website resources that I mentioned in this episode are:

Technology for the Classical Singer, a must-have resource for all of us, with blog postings on everything from foreign language dictionaries to the free treatises on singing at IMSLP to where to find accompaniment tracks. She also has amazing video tutorials to teach us all how to get the most out of our technology!

SingersBabel, a diction website with video clips that allow you to see the text and IPA transcription while you listen! Focusing on French, German and English repertoire right now, it has a large selection of pieces to choose from, including Bach Cantatas and choral repertoire!

And don't forget to have a good chuckle over Bugs Bunny's classic Rabbit of Seville :-)

As always, please feel free to contact me with questions, comments or suggestions here, at the Facebook page, on Twitter or directly at ellen@ellenrissinger.com

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