Besides the Pearl and Dean theme tune, and the potentially cruel There was a young man from Calcutta, another song that might make a suitable anthem for the Stammering Association is Rossini’s Mi manca la voce, or “My voice fails me”, from his 1818 opera Mosè in Egitto:
Apart from the sheer beauty of the music, it reminds me of group therapy sessions I’ve taken part in. Despite their protestations, all four (unusually, both male and female) stammerers seem to have overcome their imp-p-pediment; but again, singing does often offer a temporary reprieve.
The specious connection with stammering didn’t occur to me when I first relished the quartet from the pit at the Pesaro Rossini Festival in the early 1980s. Of course, joking aside, this is an excuse to play an exquisite composition, a departure from our usual diet of Bach, Daoist ritual, and Billie Holiday.
That’s the best version I can find online. I’m sure scholars of Italian opera can discuss at length the authenticity of such a style—one might assemble a less, um, operatic vocal ensemble, but that’s just me and my knit-your-own yogurt purism for you.
Might the aria have been an inspiration for Harpo‘s mute persona?!
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My distinguished friend Hugh in Verona (where long ago I did my time in the pit at the Arena) draws my attention to this sextet (see also here), which might also be part of a group therapy session for stammerers:
Apart from simple consonants, diphthongs can also pose a challenge. But syllabic, rhythmic speech is an outmoded technique that offers only temporary relief…
As Hugh observes, such operatic set-pieces are known as concertato dello stupore—perhaps “ensemble of the nonplussed” rather than the charming “stupefaction ensemble”.
Here’s another wacky and exhilarating Rossini tongue-twister (with dindin for bells, tac-tà for hammer, bumbum for cannon, and so on):