Singing in Russian: A Guide to Language and Performance

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9780810881167: Singing in Russian: A Guide to Language and Performance

With its unique blend of eastern and western traditions of music and poetry, the world of Russian vocal music is rich in spirituality, intimacy, and passion for singers and their audience. Russian song traditions offer an ideal opportunity for self-expression and the forging of a deep connection with one’s listeners. It also presents formidable challenges to singers at every level, ranging from the complexities native to sung and spoken Russian to the intricacies of diction and interpretation that lie behind the nuanced relationship between Russian music and poetry.

Founded on the underlying principle that sung language differs dramatically from spoken language, Singing in Russian offers a comprehensive and accessible approach to understanding, mastering, and performing Russian vocal music. After covering the basics of the Cyrillic alphabet and Russian grammar and diction, author Emily Olin encourages readers to take the innovative step of using the music itself to guide the singer’s pronunciation and interpretation. English sound comparisons, linguistic and musical examples, and multifaceted exercises complement textual explanations, reinforcing the techniques Olin has employed for over three decades. The addition of repertoire lists and practical recommendations further equip singers to confidently go from start to stage. Furthermore, the online audio examples contain exercises that demonstrate and reinforce the correct sound and interpretation of everything from the alphabet to the presentation of vowels, consonants, words, and phrases.

Singing in Russian is an invaluable resource for students, performers, teachers, directors, conductors, and coaches seeking to increase their access to Russian opera and art song, master the challenges they present to performance, and expand their personal, professional, and institutional repertoire on stage.

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About the Author:

Emily Olin is lecturer at the Yale School of Music, having taught the course "Russian for Singers" there since 1996. In addition to teaching, Ms. Olin has had a concert career and she serves on the jury of the International Doluhanova Art Song Competition in Russia. She also maintains a private studio in New York where she coaches professional singers in the development of their vocal classical repertoire.


Singing in Russian focuses specifically on helping voice students understand, master, and perform Russian vocal music. It begins by giving an overview of the Cyrillic alphabet and the basics of Russian grammar and diction, and then goes on to explain how singers can use the music to guide their pronunciation of this language. The author provides many linguistic and musical examples to explain techniques, provides exercises, uses English sounds to compare their Russian alternatives, and recommends songs. The book includes a CD that gives concrete examples of how to sing vowels, words, and phrases. (American Reference Books Annual)

This volume is an outstanding guidebook for anyone who is interested in Russian lyric diction. Before the publication of this volume, the resources for learning to sing in Russian have been sparse, and Olin points out inaccuracies in the books that are available. While some singers may lament the lack of IPA transcriptions in the volume, this book is intended as a tool to singing Russian both intelligibly and intelligently-that is, with accurate pronunciation and an understanding of the text. Additionally, the suggestions for repertoire, and the historical perspectives on literary and musical figures are invaluable. For the student of lyric diction, Singing in Russian is highly recommended. (Journal of Singing)

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