Musical Term of the Month
by Melissa Wimbish
Some singers may be all too familiar with this term. Not quite sure about that next note? Throw in a portamento and no one will know. Want to spice up that Mozart concert aria? Add in a portamento during all of the major cadences.
Ummm…NOT! Actually, contrary to popular belief, the portamento is played out like an early 90s top 10 hit. Remember “Closing Time” by a band whose name escapes me now? I would equivocate this to the portamento. When it happens in the right place at the right time it can be super beautiful! Don’t delete it from your bag of tricks by any means, but don’t abuse it.
portamento – The Italian word for “carrying” refers, in opera, to a means of vocally moving from one note to another. Rather than going directly from one note straight to the next, portamento allows the singer to vocally “bridge” the notes. Portamento shouldn’t be confused, though, with sliding or scooping, and the decision of whether or not to use portamento is a stylistic one. While it may be appropriate at moments in Verdi, Donizetti or Puccini, it’s really inappropriate stylistically in Mozart, for instance.
This definition is brought to you by Eric Skelly’s Opera Glossary.