Lyric French Diction


French diction is often intimidating for non-Francophones.  French often employs several vowels to make one phoneme (remember the English use of the French word “bureau” [byro]!), consonants are often silent or combine to form semi-consonants (réveiller [reveje]), there are mixed vowels that we don’t use in English (coeur [kœr], yeux [jø], rue [ry]), nasalizing consonants require some soft palate negotiations that we’re not used to, and of course, it all needs to be bound up in a beautiful legato line, preferably with some tasteful elisions and liason between words to keep everything running smoothly.  Mon dieu!

As always, gaining comfort with the spoken language of “Après un rêve” or “C’est l’extase” before tackling the piece’s musical language will make your life easier.  In this French section of SingersBabel, you’ll get healthy doses of the poets Paul Verlaine, Henri Cazalis and Victor Hugo, applied to musical settings by Gabrièl Fauré, Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saëns, Reynaldo Hahn, Henri Duparc and Franz Liszt.  Take it one phoneme at a time and enjoy this wonderful repertoire!

Barbara Paterson 



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