|Seok Jong Baek and Donata D'Annunzio Lombardi|
This was a master class like no other. Italian soprano Donata D'Annunzio Lombardi spent three hours coaching nine young singers in a class devoted to songs by Francesco Paolo Tosti to commemorate the centennial year of his death. Each singer prepared a song (some familiar and some lesser known) and Ms. Lombardi proceeded to use her unique knowledge of anatomy to transform each singer. Had you been there you would not scoff at this extravagant assertion.
She uses various stances and poses to bypass the throat tension that she observes in American singers (although she admits that American singers are far more expressive than their Italian counterparts). This made us wonder whether the English language itself produces this throat tension; we must ask Ms. Lombardi!
The wildest claim she made is that tenors come in two varieties--"the hitchhiker" and "the communist". The former holds the fingers down with the thumb sticking out, like Carreras; the latter holds his hands in a fist like Pavarotti. She avers that the thumb is connected with the intellect and the index finger with the front of the body. She wants the singer to use the back of the body--the rear attachment of the diaphragm, the musculature of the spine, and the tentorium of the brain at the back of the skull.
To our great surprise, we noticed an amazing difference when the singer touched his thumb to the pinkie, which is connected to the back of the body!
She stressed the importance of flexibility and spring and had many of the students stand on a bent leg while flexing and extending the other leg. This too made a difference! So did leaning over to one side. The spine provides an anchor for the sound.
The bent over posture mimics that of Early Man--a natural sound emerges in these positions. And we always believed that singers must stand erect with shoulders down and back to open the chest. Now we know there is a better but counter-intuitive way. Rounding the shoulders like Maria Callas opens the length of the spine. Breathing must come through the back!
There were also various exercises to free up the vocal chords and spaces in the head. Students were instructed to hold their lips or bite down on one side, lest the orbicular muscles block the larynx.
So much of this advice goes against the way American singers have been taught but if you had been there, you would have heard the evidence with your own ears!
The singers comprised sopranos Angela Candela, Elizabeth Perez, and Vivian Yau (the latter two heard at the CLA Gala), tenors Ganson Salmon, Chul Young Kim, Michael St. Peter, and HyunHo Cho, and baritones Sunyeop Hwang and Seok Jong Baek. Each one made a major leap forward.
Glenn Morton (Founder of Classic Lyric Arts, teacher, and coach) was the accompanist for the class which was held at Mannes School of Music.
(c) meche kroop