|Maestro Richard Bonynge
Although each singer received individual instruction on his or her aria, certain themes repeated themselves from one participant to the next. The beauty of the tone should be emphasized far more than the volume. The long legato lines should not be interrupted by unnecessary breaths. The singer should not work too hard but should keep the sound light and expressive. High notes should not be pushed. It is alright to "sit on" the most exciting note but otherwise not alright. Care must be taken with triplets not to emphasize the second note. The recitative must not be sung as if it were an arioso; keep it moving. Portamenti must not degenerate into "scooping". There must be variety of color and an element of surprise. Start a long phrase pianissimo and build it to a climax. Do not cut off the ends of phrases but rather let them float away. Do not give all the beats equal emphasis. Scales must be articulated.
All five singers made us sit up and take notice. Soprano Elizabeth Sutphen negotiated the huge skips, the trills and the even scale passages of Verdi's "Caro Nome" (Rigoletto) with great aplomb. Soprano Hyesang Park was lovely in "Eccomi...O! Quante Volte" from Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Soprano Raquel Gonzalez demonstrated her beautiful bel canto chops in "Piangete voi...Al dolce guidami castel natio" from Donizetti's Anna Bolena, prompting Maestro Bonynge to urge her to learn the entire role for future performance. (We definitely want to be there when she sings it!)
Mezzo Virginie Verrez also chose an aria from the same opera, "E sgombro il loco". She has a lovely sound and abundant stage poise with excellent connection with the text. It always amazes us when a singer comes out on a recital stage and sings an aria that creates, with just her voice and gesture, the presence of invisible sets and the missing characters.
Baritone Takaoki Onishi sang "Ah! per sempre" from Bellini's I Puritani; we enjoyed it so much that we plan to return to Juilliard tonight to hear more of him. He sounded even better when he eliminated some unnecessary breaths, doing justice to Bellini's long legato lines.
No one knows bel canto like Richard Bonynge and it was quite a thrill to be in attendance. We not only had the pleasure of hearing five exemplary singers but we learned a great deal about the finer points of bel canto singing. We could have sat there all night long.
© meche kroop