|GeDeane Graham, Leah de Gruyl, Isola Jones, Hilary Hei Lee Law, Courtney Bray, and Olivia Johnson|
Who better to teach a group of mezzos than a mezzo who had a brilliant career? The much lauded mezzo-soprano Isola Jones conducted a master class for some of the participants in Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance program. Maestro Richard Cordova, the well known coach/pianist/conductor accompanied on the piano. We know Maestro Cordova well from Little Opera Theater of New York but he is best known for touring internationally with various productions of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.
Ms. Jones has had quite a career herself and, of course, has great knowledge of the particular issues facing women in the mezzo fach. Much of her instruction to the students had to do with getting the sound away from the throat and into the head, especially the sinuses. Mixing registers can be a challenge but the resonance must stay forward.
The soft palate must be raised but the sound bounces off the hard palate. Vowels must be thought of as vertical, not horizontal. All vowels should maintain the same color.
She called singing "speaking on a pitch" which is a most interesting concept. Several students were urged to sing less and speak more. Many young singers do not trust that their voices will be heard and tend to push unnecessarily.
We heard Courtney Bray sing the "Card Aria" from Bizet's Carmen; she is covering that role this summer and if you haven't yet secured tickets for the all-too-short season (7/6, 7, 8, and 9) you are well advised to do so quickly. You will probably see the best traditional Carmen ever and a superb production of Puccini's Suor Angelica paired with Gianni Schicchi.
Leah de Gruyl will be performing Zita in the latter and La Principessa in the former. Judging by what we heard, this is a performance not to be missed. Although her voice is perfectly suited to those roles, she was urged to learn some bel canto roles "just for fun" and to develop flexibility.
GeDeane Graham will be covering those same roles but last night she performed "Cruda sorte" from Rossini's L"Italiana in Algeri. She tickled the audience by explaining the aria in colloquial terms but there was nothing colloquial about her singing; it was very classic.
Hilary Hei Lee Law will be covering the role of La Suora Zelatrice but for coaching purposes she sang "Va! Laisse couler mes larmes" from Massenet's Werther. She worked on singing more pianissimo and getting the vowels forward. The instruction was of benefit, as it was to the others.
(c) meche kroop