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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Renée Fleming and Lindsay Mecher
The Song Continues 2018

Renée Fleming Master Class

The Marilyn Horne Legacy at Carnegie Hall

(All photos by Richard Termine)

The Song Continues will continue with Renée Fleming at the helm.
Boya Wei and Ms. Fleming

 What we observed at her master class last week reassured us that the program is in excellent hands.

Ms. Fleming's master class was fascinating for the audience and participants alike.  The audience got to see how much hard work goes into taking a song from an "8" to a "9".

Cameron Richardson Eames and Brea Marshal

Each participant received a highly personalized set of tools with which to work, some of which will improve their singing in general and others which were specific to a particular song.

We liked the way she asked each young singer to introduce herself and to tell why she chose a particular song. In nearly every case, the choice had particular value for the singer and informed her performance.

So many of the practice techniques could be picked up and used by the numerous singers who were in the audience. We personally had never heard of vocalizing through a drinking straw but were impressed about how successful it was in achieving a pianissimo in the upper register.

Another tip was to vocalize with a pencil between the upper and lower teeth. One singer, bothered by tightness in the tongue was helped by vocalizing with her tongue stretched way out.

A good way to convey the meaning of a song was to recite the text in colloquial English and then to sing it.

Students who ignored the composers markings gained a great deal by exaggerating the markings. Often, when they thought they were exaggerating, it sounded just right to our ears!

Young singers tend to put too much effort into their singing and they were shown how to lighten up.  Not every word is important and the singer should not give it all up at the beginning but rather must save something for the important word in a phrase.

A lieder is like a 3-minute opera and the singer must tell a story.

Soprano Brea Marshall opened the program, accompanied by Cameron Richardson-Eames. Ms. Fleming worked with her on bringing out the nostalgia and eroticism of Joseph Marx' "Selige nacht". We have always wondered why Marx' lovely songs are not heard on more recital programs!

In Ricky Ian Gordon's setting of Emily Dickinson's "Will there really be a morning", some playfulness is called for and each questioning phrase needed a different value.

Soprano Boya Wei was accompanied by Christina Giuca and performed the lovely "Apparition" by Debussy.  She was encouraged to "taste" the French. This reminded us of performances we have thrilled to in which the singer did seem to savor the flavor of the language being sung.

Ms. Fleming urged her to take the risk of floating the high note. Here's where the drinking straw technique came in handy as a means of practicing.

Mezzo-soprano Lindsay Mecher followed with Richard Strauss' "Befreit" in which pianist Richard Jeric produced some wonderful arpeggi. Ms. Mecher was urged to say something instead of trying to create a sound. In facing a challenging vowel, the tongue exercise was used to get the muscle tension out of the way.

This is an incredibly difficult song and the singer must listen for the harmonic changes and establish a feeling of intimacy.  Breath control is very important here and it is helpful to substitute resonance and color for over-breathing.

Soprano Isabella Moore, accompanied by Andrew King, worked on Richard Strauss' "Ruhe, meine Seele".  The portentous piano seemed to create the storms  of the soul and the singer can paint a picture of the calming elements of nature.

It seems to us that with master teachers like Ms. Fleming and with talented and hard working young singers, the future of art song is promising.

As we mentioned in our last review, Marilyn Horne has devoted a lifetime to championing the art of the song. Ms. Fleming seems to be the perfect choice to carry the mission forward.

(c) meche kroop

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