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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022


 Emmanuelle de Negri

Every time Opera Lafayette makes their way north from our nation's capitol to The Big Apple, they have something unique to offer; it is always educational as well as entertaining. On this occasion, they brought Emmanuel de Negri to coach some young singers in the art of singing Baroque arias. The coaching was meticulous, worthwhile, and offered with humor and warm support. If anyone knows more about this art form than Ms. de Negri, we would be astonished to hear it. 

At the end of the masterclass we felt in a position to appreciate music that has seemed to us heretofore as pleasant but uninvolving.  Au contraire, dear reader! When properly performed it is as exciting as bel canto. It seems as if the more techniques singers have in their toolbox, the greater variety and interest they will be able to bring to their selections. We learned that in the Baroque period, singers improvised their own decorations of the vocal line, which was, in the Bel Canto period, written down by the composer. We believe that the cadenze of arias are, to this day, devised by the singers, an interesting holdover.

Many performers of Baroque music hew to a dry style of singing which sounds boring to our ears. Who's to say what it sounded like several centuries ago? We prefer to agree with those who achieve a dramatic and involving style of singing, as we heard the other night.

The first singer to be coached Grégorio Tanaguchi chose an aria from a cantata by Monteverdi in which Amor and Bacchus have an argument. (Somehow, this made us think of the singing competition in Mahler's lied "Lob des hohen Verstands".) There is plenty of back and forth and opportunities for dramatic voicing. It sounded quite good at first, but with some of the finer points shared by Ms. de Negri, it became dramatically valid and vocally more interesting.

Soprano Rachel di Blasio was coached in "Di misera regina" from Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria and we observed how some finer points could express Penelope's complex emotions more effectively.

Mezzo-soprano Naomi Steele received coaching for "Iris, hence away!" from Händel's Semele. We appreciated her crisp diction and enjoyed hearing how variations in the decorations could be used playfully to make the performance more interesting.

All three singers were superb in their initial run through; and yet we were impressed with Ms. de Negri's coaching that took these excellent performances to an entirely new level. What a feel this artist has for Baroque.  We don't think we will ever hear this music the same way as we did before!

© meche kroop

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