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.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Richard Leech surrounded by Prelude to Performance singers
The major excitement of this week's Prelude to Performance Masterclass was witnessing some remarkable growth in the singers we heard a week ago and then observing even further growth based on the instruction by master teacher and renowned tenor Richard Leech. Mr. Leech's major point was the importance of communication with the audience; with that point we could not agree more.  He began by urging the students to build their craft to the level that they know their voice, know the role, and then to "just do it" by trusting that the voice will respond when the singer has something to say.

He quoted Kirsten Flagstad: "Singing is just speaking on pitch".  He further quoted his own voice teacher who told him to "be adequate" with adequacy being defined as fulfilling the task at hand.  Do the necessary work and then just set it aside!

Then Mr. Leech got down to the nitty-gritty with each student.  Over and over again he made the point of the importance of the words and counseled the students to give each vowel and consonant its full measure, especially in the recitatives.  He wanted each student to include the members of the audience and to let them into his/her inner thoughts.  The thought should precede the phrase that is sung.

Tenor James Knight sang "Una parola, o Adina" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore with the excellent Maggie Sczekan.  The instruction to have him stop briefly and change the color between his calling out to her and the more internal aspect of speaking her name with great feeling worked wonders.

Tenor Javier Bernardo, so fine last week, had managed to incorporate Mr. Owens' lesson to great advantage and this week was instructed to establish a chain of little moments with frequent breaths in between; each moment must have a specific meaning.

Ignacio Gama, singing Dulcamara, was told that the bass is the heartbeat of a duet (or trio, or quartet) and must establish a strong rhythm.  The clarity of his character was emphasized.  When James Knight (who dropped the "Edgar"?) sang "Una furtiva lagrima", he was taught to let the audience into his private thoughts; this really made a difference!  Major WOW factor!

Halfway through the class, the performance of  Les Contes d'Hoffman was addressed.  We were impressed by the growth of tenor Won Whi Choi who gave a riveting interpretation of "Kleinzach", having been instructed to engage the audience and to think more about communicating than about making pretty sounds.  In this aria, rhythm is important in the storytelling.  Later, the tenor brilliantly sang a duet ("Malheureux, tu ne comprends donc pas") with silvery-voiced Tamara Rusqué who was advised to exaggerate the commas in order to separate Giulietta's thoughts.

In the duet "C'est une chanson d'amour", sung by tenor Joseph Brent as Hoffmann and soprano Janani Sridha as Antonia, Mr. Leech explained that in an extended duet such as this one, both singers must stay committed and remain in the same physical posture for a longer than average time.

It is enormously gratifying to hear each singer improve over such a short period of time.  Each master teacher has something different to offer.  We are eagerly anticipating next Wednesday's master class with Ken Benson who always makes valuable contributions.  The final master class will be given by Tito Capobianco on Friday 6/28, also at 6PM.  If you love singing, if you love singers, if you love learning--you should be there.  Furthermore, there will be a free taste from this lavish buffet table on Saturday at 3PM in Lang Hall of Hunter College.  And finally, you would be well advised to save the weekend of July 11th.  Both operas will have two performances with two different casts.  We are sufficiently impressed by the talent to want to hear both casts.

© meche kroop

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