|René Fleming and Elina Garança
Guest Review by Ellen Godfrey:
One of the most eagerly awaited events this year was the Song Studio program in the Weill Music Institute /Resnick Education Wing of Carnegie Hall. The renowned American soprano, Renee Fleming, is the Artistic Director. In the second year of this program, she continues to help mentor singers and collaborative pianists. The program focuses on art songs and refreshing the art of vocal concerts. The emerging young singers receive voice training through a week-long series of workshops, master classes, private coaching, and performing opportunities.
On the last day of the program, a recital is held in the Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall (review forthcoming) to showcase the talents and progress of these gifted singers. The Song Studio program builds on the legacy of the great Marilyn Horne’s program, “The Song Continues,” which supported young artists in the repertoire of song recitals.
Renee Fleming brought several famous artists to this year’s Song Studio to help mentor the young singers; The great Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca; the multi-talented young American vocalist, Julia Bullock;, and the renowned and most sought after German piano accompanist, Hartmut Hall.
On Thursday afternoon, Elina Garanca gave a wonderful masterclass to five of the singers. She was born into a musical family and her whole life has been spent in music. In 2013 she was given the honorary title of Kammersangerin by The Vienna State Opera. She is a major star throughout the world in both opera, symphonic concerts, and song recitals. Her life long love of opera has made her a great master teacher as well. She works gently but seriously with each of her emerging singers. Her focus is mostly on improving their technique, but she is also attentive to their pronunciation.
The first singer on the program was mezzo-soprano Kady Evanyshyn, who was accompanied by pianist Nara Avetisyan .She sang a song by Clara Schumann. Ms. Evanyshyn has a beautiful sweet sound to her mezzo voice. She also has a charming personality and relates well to the audience. Ms. Garanca begins her work with each singer first asking them what they are looking for in the song. Ms. Garanca told her to put all the love into the music and at certain spots slow down and let the audience take in the singing. She was given some technical hints to make the sound vibrate behind the neck. The fine pianist was Nara Avetisyan, who set up the scene at the beginning of the song.
The second singer was baritone Laureano Quant, who sang a jaunty song by Francis Poulenc. He has a big, lovely baritone sound and he acquitted himself quite well in the rapid singing at the beginning of the song and the A la la la la in parts of the song. However, his tone was a bit raw, without a lot of high resonance. Ms. Garanca told him to sing while holding his nose so that the resonance would be higher by sounding in the back rather than pushed down on the lower front part of the body. This made his voice sound richer and less stressed and Mr. Quant was pleased with the sound. Toni Ming Geiger was an excellent pianist who supported Mr. Quant very well.
The third singer was tenor Eric Carey, who sang a Spanish song by Joaquin Turina. His accompanist was Tomomi Sato, who played very delicately. Mr. Carey has a beautiful sounding big voice and good diction. Ms. Garanca told him that he should see the picture of the song in his head and take as much time as needed. He was advised to slow down and not to push but rather bring the air up from the bottom and release the pressure from high notes.
The fourth singer was mezzo-soprano Xenia Puskarz Thomas, who sang a Gustav Mahler song. She has a good voice which can produce beautiful sounds. Ms. Garanca's coaching was to prepare better for the high notes. She worked with the singer to get the sound she wanted to hear; finally in the middle part of the song Ms. Garanca told her that the twelve notes she had just sung were the most relaxed for her and produced a beautiful sound. Ms. Garanca said she should try to get this sound throughout the whole song. She added that every singer should find a phrase in the music that helps get through the whole song with a beautiful sound. Her pianist was Richard Fu, who supported her singing very well.
The final singer was baritone Dominik Belavy, who sang a romantic song by Maurice Ravel. He has a nice baritone sound, however, he had some problems in the lower part of the voice. Ms. Garanca had him hold his nose, as did an earlier singer, and it helped to relax him and make the lower part of his voice sound better. She told him to let his voice out gently and not to press on the larynx too hard. His supportive pianist was John Robertson.
Ms. Garanca congratulated all of the singers and pianists for their good work. Later this month she will be performing in Berlioz' La Damnation de Faust at the Metropolitan Opera.
The day after Ms. Garanca’s master class, the great pianist and accompanist, Hartmut Holl, gave a master class. He is known for his sensitivity to sound and his ability to think beyond the notes to create atmosphere and lyrical emotions. For ten years he was the performance partner of the great German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. They presented acclaimed lieder recitals for major festivals in Europe, Japan, and the United States. For almost 20 years he toured with Renee Fleming in Europe, Australia, Asia and the United States. He has also recorded more than 60 CDs.
Mr. Holl’s first singer of the day was baritone Dominik Belavy, accompanied by pianist John Robertson. Mr. Belavy sang a song by Franz Schubert. His voice has a nice quality and he had lots of personality. He was also quite relaxed. Mr. Holl worked with the pianist, John Robertson. He used his arms, like a conductor, at the beginning of the song, showing John how to make the music more sweeping. He worked with the baritone to get certain phrases to have the right tone and the right meaning.
The second singer, Meghan Kasanders, is a wonderful soprano. She has a shimmering sound and good resonance and is able to float a tone. She sang a song by Joseph Marx. Mr. Holl made some minor changes in the size of the tone for parts of the song and Ms. Kasanders picked up on his corrections. The pianist Cameron Richardson-Edwards accompanied her and he was also attentive to all the suggestions given by Mr. Holl.
The third singer was the tenor Randy Ho, and his accompanist was Celeste Johnson, who is a fine young pianist. Mr. Holl, played the piano to show her how to make the music start softly and then get louder. He played the notes that he wanted her to work on and she absorbed his teaching. Mr. Ho has a sweet tenor sound but at the beginning seemed to push too much. Mr. Holl worked with him to relax and have a softer sound. He also worked with him on pronunciation of vowels .
The fourth singer was soprano Natalie Buickians, who sang a song by Edvard Grieg. She was accompanied by pianist Sandy Lin. Ms. Buickians has a nice lyric soprano voice with easy production. Mr. Holl worked with both of them to speed up the music in certain places and worked on some phrasing.
The final singer was Laureano Quant a dark-voiced baritone with good diction who is capable of making good pianissimi. He sang a song by Schubert. Mr. Holl worked with him to get some phrases to go from from loud to soft and also went over some of his corrections several time until it was the sound he wanted.
Both Ms. Garanca and Mr. Holl gave excellent master classes. Each of them had different ideas of what they wanted to present to the singers. Ms. Garanca concentrated more on the technique of singing whereas Mr. Holl worked more on diction and phrasing. Both of them also gave valuable advice to the accompanists. One of the great attributes to Ms. Fleming’s Song Studio is giving the young artists the opportunity to be exposed to different styles and techniques.
We look forward to following the progress of these young and talented singers.
© meche kroop