Appoggio Demystified


  • Catherine Robbin York University


The semantics of vocal technique can be barriers to its comprehension and practice by singers as well as potential stumbling blocks for teachers of singing. Voice teachers use terms such as support, contract, extend, expand, engage, energize, lift, open, release, relax, resist, etc. Their students may or may not understand and interpret these terms in the same way as the teacher intended them. Appoggio is an Italian term from the golden age of bel canto and it is used in contemporary voice studios with various intended meanings. This presentation will attempt to clarify its meaning and function and suggest a clear method of teaching its use in classical singing. Appoggio in its original sense incorporated strategies of glottal resistance and resonance balancing as well as breath management. As singers, our goal is to find a resonating space that is just right for the pitch, volume and vowel being sung, and to match it with just the right amount of breath energy, not too much, not too little. Core muscles are often invoked as the necessary components for effective breath support. But what exactly is meant by this directive? Even if we can identify and find the core muscles in our bodies, how many of us know exactly what they are assigned to do during singing? This presentation will attempt to solve this and other mysteries pertaining to the practice and teaching of breath support for singing.

Author Biography

Catherine Robbin, York University

Catherine Robbin, one of Canada's best known mezzo-sopranos, established an international reputation beginning with her debut in 1972, performing with leading conductors throughout the world. At ease in a wide range of vocal music she was particularly noted for her interpretations of Baroque and Romantic repertoire. Having had an illustrious international performing career with numerous operatic appearances, concert and recital performances and recordings, Catherine has now stepped back from performance and is the Director of Classical Vocal studies at York University in Toronto, although she participates in faculty recitals at York and occasionally makes guest appearances with a few of the concert organizations with which she has been particularly associated. She is often called upon to adjudicate and to give masterclasses at universities across Canada and for young artists intensive programs such as Toronto’s Summer Opera Lyric Theatre. Catherine is President of the Canadian Aldeburgh Foundation, an organization that supports young Canadian artists studying and performing in the Britten-Pears Young Artists program in the UK. She is the president of the Ontario Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and an honorary patron of The Toronto Children’s Chorus, The Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, The Aldeburgh Connection and the Pax Christi Chorale. Catherine was appointed an Office of the Order of Canada in 2011.