|Hyona Kim and Carol Vaness|
The Prelude to Performance participants selected for Carol Vaness' master class Monday night had the benefit of some tough love. The highly esteemed soprano has a great deal to offer a young singer; she approached each one with loving support and very intense criticism. She began with the old "I'm just offering some suggestions that may be useful or not"....but her authoritative and persistent approach yielded impressive results in just 30 minutes or so.
Each and every master class seems to have a theme, generally depending upon a special concern of the teacher. Ms. Vaness is a stickler, and rightly so, for accurate Italian diction--singing the correct vowel as well as observing doubled consonants. A deficiency in Italian diction seemed to plague all the students and it is well that they were made aware of this early in the training. By "showtime", they should all be perfetto.
Two lovely ladies worked on the Flower Duet "Tutti i fiori" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly which will be performed July 8th and 9th. The voices of soprano Xela Pinkerton (what a coincidence!) and mezzo Marisan Corsino blended beautifully. The astute coaching worked on the dramatic requirements of the scene--the excitement of Pinkerton's arrival--and how to put more energy into the scene with the use of hands and body. Puccinian style was also covered with the desirability of rubato, stretching out certain lines. The two vocal lines must intertwine and each character relate to the other.
Tenor Taehwan Ku profited by some coaching on Lt. Pinkerton's "Addio, fiorito asil", which he will sing in the performance. His character needed to be more self-centered and motivation maintained in between the sung phrases. More color was encouraged as well as a more flexible phrasing with "money notes" extended. More portamenti were called for. Double consonants must be observed.
Continuing with Puccini, baritone Hangzhi Yao (who will be singing Bonzo) offered "Minnie, dalla mia casa son partito" from Fanciulla del West and Mr. Yao was encouraged to consider Sheriff Rance's motivation (more lust than love). He began singing too sweetly but after the coaching sounded more like a horny sheriff. He also learned not to close his eyes lest he lose contact with the audience. There was more work on Italian diction and also on word coloring, all of it helpful.
Mezzo Hyona Kim, who will be singing Suzuki, got some coaching on Verdi. Her electrifying performance of "Condotta ell'era in ceppi" from Il Trovatore did not prevent her from getting some very strict coaching including vowels, maintenance of tone through to the end of the phrase, and awareness of what the orchestra is doing. We liked the stretching out of "figlio mio".
Baritone Young Kwang Yoo, whose role will be Sharpless, sang one of our favorite baritone arias "Io morro, ma lieto in core" from Verdi's Don Carlo. It was pointed out to him that Rodrigo is dying and the therefore not moving around much. He worked on taking his time and staying "on the voice" even when singing pianissimo.
Finally, Lindsay Mecher, who will be singing Kate Pinkerton, sang "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. She learned to make the rhythm snappier, to correct the vowels, to put energy into the repetitive phrases and, above all, to be playful, using both body and face.
Each singer brought to the class an excellent voice and a willingness to accept criticism. Each singer worked hard in the class and changed significantly. We are in a state of high anticipation to hear how these gorgeous voices, heard at the beginning of their intense training, will sound by the time of the performance.
(c) meche kroop