We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Eric Owens and Julia Bullock (photo by Ken Howard)
Every master class seems to have its own theme and Eric Owens' class Wednesday afternoon at Juilliard did not depart from the program.  The engaging bass-baritone has a folksy manner that puts students at ease; he was never critical and never insisted that his way was the right way.  He just suggested other options to see if they worked for them.  Students were reassured that their performances were excellent (which they were) and that he was just being "nit-picky".

The theme for the class seemed to be various means of establishing a legato line while keeping the voice centered.  A useful exercise is to sing only the vowels and to keep them all aligned.  Yes, you can try this at home!

Baritone Takaoki Onishi sang "Hai gia vita la causa" from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.  We think he did just fine conveying the arrogance of the entitled (pun intended) Count but Mr. Owens moved him even further in that direction, suggesting that he "see the wheels turning" in the character's mind.  All this, of course, while sticking strictly to the rhythm of the recitativo.

Soprano Julia Bullock sang Wolf's "Der Knabe und das Immlein" from the Mörike Lieder.  Teacher and student worked together as only two perfectionists could on bringing a bel canto technique into the German language by singing through the consonants and easing into the vowels.  Once the technique becomes incorporated, it can be forgotten.

Önay Köse, with the same type of voice as Mr. Owens, sang "Che mai veggio" from Verdi's Ernani.  Mr. Owens persuaded him to stop going for color and to stop trying to sound older. He was encouraged to not worry about making a pretty sound but to use a simple uncolored and non-operatic tone.  The two of them worked on placement of the sound in the mask.

Soprano Mary Feminear sang "Sempre libera" from Verdi's La Traviata.  They worked on keeping the sound centered throughout the range without "spreading".  One useful trick that helped was to bend the knees when going for the high note.  Keeping the trill in the same place was stressed.

The accompanists for the class were Dimitri Dover, Daniel Fung and Art Williford.  One couldn't help but admire the way they could just pick up at any point of the aria.    Time was left at the end for a Q and A.  Mr. Owens had the opportunity of telling a very young singer to enjoy his Mozart in the "Here and Now".  Bass-baritones have long careers and should not rush into heavier roles.

It was a most enjoyable and educational class, not only for the four singers but also for the audience.

© meche kroop

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