The first participant, baritone Takaoki Onishi, sang "Ah per sempre" from Bellini's I Puritani. It sounded just fine but after a half-hour of coaching on Bellini's particular style, Mr. Onishi sounded far more performance-ready. Ms. DiDonato focused on grounding Mr. Onishi physically by teaching him to be more aware of his body, encouraging him to sing from his core. She shared some tips on how to practice, breaking each phrase down, practicing it with different rhythms to gain flexibility. She demonstrated connecting the notes from one phrase to the next to emphasize Bellini's long lines. She offered suggestions on the mastery of triplets. She discussed
how to get the brain to control the voice. She advised knowing more about who the character is.
The second participant, soprano Courtney Johnson, sang "Signore ascolta" from Puccini's Turandot. Ms. D. taught her how to be even more expressive with her magnificent instrument by coloring every word with its underlying emotion. She coached Ms. J. on how best to articulate the "EE" sound so that "Liu" and "piu" sounded better. We were surprised to learn that that vowel, when correctly placed (narrow and deep) offers the most room in the throat.
The final participant, tenor Adam Bonanni, sang "Una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's L'elisir d'Amore. Ms. D. advised going back to the score instead of imitating famous tenors; we were surprised to learn that those famous tenors often departed from what the composer wrote! She told Mr. B. that he could "make it new" and by the end of the coaching, indeed he did. He created a Nemorino that was not like any other. We look forward to hearing him sing a role that seems tailor-made for him.
We could have listened to Ms. D's advice all night long. It is always so rewarding when a master class makes a real difference to the participants.
(c) meche kroop