Two great talents joined forces at Manhattan School of Music for an invaluable master class; universally beloved soprano Martina Arroyo and conducting whiz Jorge Parodi were able to provide complementary instruction to the participants with Ms. Arroyo focusing mainly on character development and Mr. Parodi helping the singers with Spanish diction in both dialects and helping the pianist with some of the finer points.
The stimulating and instructive afternoon was presented as part of the Opera Hispanica Festival, in association with the Martina Arroyo Foundation and Sociedad Internacional de Valores de Arte Mexicano. Naturally, the music was Spanish and we were delighted to have another opportunity to hear these wonderful songs.
Soprano Amelia Berry from MSM made a fine appearance, introducing each song in a way that engaged the listeners. The Rodrigo songs she performed with pianist Hyerim Song, Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios, were sung with a bright sound, long arching phrases and a nice palette of vocal colors. Mr. Parodi pointed out that the melodies of the songs were of a Baroque or Renaissance nature but that Rodrigo's harmonies were of a modern nature, requiring more rubato from the piano. For Ms. Berry, he elucidated some of the expressions in the poetry that a contemporary American might not understand. Ms. Arroyo instructed Ms. Berry to stay active in her thoughts and to let her face reflect what the next phrase had to say.
Mezzo Fleur Barron, a Martina Arroyo Foundation participant with a most expressive face and voice, sang a duet from Torroba's 1930's zarzuela Luisa Fernanda with SIVAM baritone Jorge Espino. Ms. Barron was given some excellent instruction in Spanish diction from Mr. Parodi; Mr. Espino got some fine advice from Ms. Arroyo about staying in character and singing to his partner rather than to the audience; collaborative pianist Kyung Eun Na got some help with the typical Hispanic juapango rhythm.
Tenor Marcos Vigil, another Martina Arroyo Foundation participant, performed de Falla's "El Paño Moruno" which led to a valuable discussion of interpretation and Ms. Arroyo pointed out that the singer must collaborate with the pianist to paint the same picture; the character decided upon must be consistent with the singer's particular gifts. Kyung Eun Na learned how to use the pedal to imitate the sound of the guitar.
We also enjoyed hearing Mr. Espino sing an aria from Luisa Fernanda, a zarzuela which we would love to hear in toto. We loved spending the afternoon in such stimulating company and learned a great deal. Now we know more about Castilian Spanish and Andalucian Spanish; we know that the "V" sound doesn't exist in Spanish; we know which consonants are soft when between two vowels and we know about the distinctive juapango rhythm. And if you want to know what "en cabello" means, just ask us! We heard some wonderful performances and walked out of the hall with a big smile and a feeling of gratitude to Ms. Arroyo, Mr. Parodi, Manhattan School of Music, SIVAM and Opera Hispanica for bringing it all together.
(c) meche kroop