Not long ago I was at a party and was introduced to a famous Canadian diva.
“How nice to meet you”, I said. “I still have the sound of your pianissimi in my ear. You marked an entire rehearsal of Don Carlo with orchestra when I was singing in COC chorus, and it was the most ravishing thing I had ever heard.”
“You know, I got the secret of those pianissimi from Caballe.”
“Yes, it was after dinner, and we were in the kitchen doing the dishes. She showed me her pianissimo”.
“Let me guess,” I said, feeling knowledgeable. “Did it have something to do with placement and with abdominal support?”
“No, quite on the contrary. If you support the pianissimo you won’t get it at all. The placement is important, of course, but over-supporting will never get you there”.
To sing pianissimo, you have to float the tone without undue pressure. In my experience, pianissimo takes less support than forte, but you won’t get there without a spacious, relaxed throat and a tremendous lightness.
Pianissimo study is a great way to learn the feeling of the relaxed throat. Visualization of the round relaxed resonance cavity of the throat will give you the space you need (include the area around the root of the tongue); just suspend the breathing comfortably in the onset. Feel the voice very high… and don’t over-support!