Italian Diction : The Discussion Continues

A Counterpoint Response

In the June 2019 article “Diction for Today’s Singer“, Professor Steven B. Jepson referred to Italian as a language whose rules change according to which region the teachers or authors are from, or according to the region where they have been educated.

Professor Elisa Ramon from the University of North Texas wrote a counterpoint article “Don’t Mess with Italian Diction“. The discussion continues with a reply from Professor Jepson.”

Professor Ramon makes some good points concerning the complexity and possible pitfalls of Italian Diction, and I welcome her comments, especially as she is a native speaker and someone who has a certification to teach Italian. However, she does agree, in her response, that there are differences in pronunciation throughout Italy, and because of this, she teaches the differences (the differences in sempre, for example). She even agrees that “there have been textbooks that, while overall based on standard Italian diction, have nevertheless mixed it with the pronunciation habits of renowned Italian singers, thus creating a sort of hybrid Italian “lyric” diction”, and that “such works might have generated confusion among voice teachers and students.

This is exactly my point, when it comes to Italian. Students need to realize that teachers and/or musical directors may have different pronunciations, dependent on their training and experiences. We, as educators, need to let students know that these differences of opinion occur, and, unfortunately, more often in Italian.

As we strive for accuracy in our teaching of Lyric Diction in all languages, it should be our goal to let these “hiccups in the system” diminish over time, and a more codified style be taught, while understanding that regional dialects do occur. Again, I appreciate that Professor Ramon took the time to continue the discussion, and I hope it leads to a healthy discourse on our main goal – to instruct students in proper, understandable diction.

Steven B. Jepson

Steven B. Jepson, baritone, is a respected international artist with expansive credits in the Americas, Europe, and Japan. His performing experience is rich and varied, from Broadway pops, cruise ship production shows, and cabaret to opera, sacred works, and symphonies. In demand as a teacher and clinician, he teaches voice and diction at the University of Missouri in Columbia.