What does it mean to sing well in Italian?
And what do singers need to know about the language in order to sing it well?
The Melofonetica Method™ is a research-based method of Italian diction for singers, based on the phonetics of the sung language. It is fast gaining recognition for its clear and practical approach to helping singers to achieve better diction and expression in Italian opera and classical music.
Created by tenor, musicologist and renowned Italian Coach, Dr. Matteo Dalle Fratte, the method is the result of extensive research and work with singers of all levels, from students to professionals, on young artist programmes and at leading UK conservatoires.
Melos in Greek means melody, and phonetics is the study of the sounds and signs of language. While phonetics applies to spoken language, ‘melophonetics’ or ‘melofonetica’ in Italian, is a new term and discipline created by Dr. Matteo Dalle Fratte, which focuses on the correct articulation of sounds, diction and expression in sung language.
Key benefits of the method:
- Provides a structured and straightforward approach, guiding singers to quickly achieve clear and correct Italian diction
- Improves expression and authenticity in the language
- Shows singers how to use the text to strengthen their breath support and improve projection in a performance space
- Supports accompanists and conductors with the interpretation of Italian scores
- Increases audience comprehension and enjoyment
- Preserves the beautiful sounds and rhythm of the language that was created to be recited, and inspired the music of the great operatic composers
About the research
Having identified the lack of a clear, research-based methodology for the teaching and learning of sung Italian, Dr. Matteo Dalle Fratte has researched how the natural phonetic properties of Italian combine with the rules of music and singing technique to produce clear, resonant and expressive sung language.
His research set out to answer the questions:
• What does it mean to sing well in Italian?
• What do singers need to know about the language in order to sing it well?
Describing what motivated the research, Matteo explains, “I started by observing the best artistic performances of the world’s greatest opera singers in the Italian language and trying to understand, scientifically, what made them so good. I noticed that all of them instinctively preserved many of the pure phonetic qualities of standard Italian but there are also adaptations that happen when spoken language is transposed into music. I wanted to create an accessible way for singers to understand and master this in order to improve their skills and confidence in performing sung Italian.
“I also wanted to help to preserve the beautiful properties of the language as it was originally conceived for artistic use in the 13th century by Italian poets – the same language that contributed to the birth of opera in Italy in the 16th century, and went on to become standard Italian as we know it today”.
During the research, Matteo worked closely with experts in the fields of music, musicology, literature, phonetics and phoniatry, including Italy’s leading phonetician, Dr. Luciano Canepari.
The research included a full review of literature on the art of singing in Italian, from the evolution of ‘recitar cantando’ in the times of Caccini and Monteverdi, to current approaches to teaching Italian diction. It also included empirical studies with singers of a range of nationalities and levels, from beginners to professionals, to understand how, phonetically, they learn and perfect the art of sung Italian. Matteo’s ongoing work with singers, accompanists and other music professionals continues to refine and develop this work.
Thanks to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the National Opera Studio, London, for their support of Dr. Matteo Dalle Fratte’s research.