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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fall opera auditions

The fall opera this year is Donizetti's delightful THE ELIXIR OF LOVE, sung in English. Performances are November 20-21 (with a possible daytime performance/dress rehearsal on the 19th, TBA). Our conductor will be the wonderful Dr. Paul Dease, as our beloved Les Filler will be playing oboe this time! I know you'll enjoy working with this fine conductor, as many of you have had the joy of working with him in recent choral projects.

Auditions will take place Thursday, August 28 in Hulsey 308 (the choral room) from 3:30-5:30. See below for requirements to audition for a leading role. An accompanist will be provided. If you would like to rehearse with the pianist and/or do a "dry run" of your audition aria, with or without an audience, come to class on Tuesday, August 26 in Hulsey 308. I'm happy to work with anyone who would like guidance during that time.

This year, we are doing a co-production between Opera Workshop and Chamber Singers: if you are in the chorus, you only need to register for one of the classes, not both. Rehearsals will be Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-6:30 for principals, and the chorus will rehearse during Chamber Singers time on Mondays and Wednesdays. We'll negotiate how best to use everyone's time once we're in the theatre starting in late October, but the idea is to keep everything reasonable so no one feels overburdened!

Principal roles and the arias to prepare to audition (in English, please) are as follows. I can email you music if you need it, but you can also find it on IMSLP, here.
Nemorino, a simple peasant, in love with Adinatenor"Una furtiva lagrima" (A furtive tear)
Adina, a wealthy landownersoprano"Prendi, per me..." (Take it, I have freed you)
Belcore, a sergeantbaritone"Come Paride..." (Just as the charming Paris)
Dr. Dulcamara, an itinerant medicine manbass"Udite, udite..." (Listen, listen...)
Giannetta, Adina's friendsopranoanything in English
We may choose to audition Gianetta separately during Chamber Singers time.

Following is the synopsis. Please note we are updating this show: the action will take place in a hotel.

Act I
Italy, 1836. While peasants rest from work, Nemorino, a young villager, watches the beautiful farm owner Adina read a book. He loves her but wonders if she is now beyond his reach. The peasants ask Adina what her book is about, and she tells them the story of how Tristan won the heart of Isolde by drinking a magic love potion. A drum roll announces the arrival of Sergeant Belcore and his men. He promptly introduces himself to Adina and asks her to marry him. Adina declares that she is in no hurry to make up her mind but promises to think over the offer. Left alone with Nemorino, Adina tells him that his time would be better spent in town, looking after his sick uncle, than hoping to win her love. Or he should do as she does: change her affections every single day. Nemorino reminds her that one can never forget one’s first love.

Dulcamara, a traveling purveyor of patent medicines, arrives in the village, advertising a potion capable of curing anything. When the doctor has finished his routine, Nemorino shyly asks if he sells the elixir of love described in Adina’s book. Dulcamara claims he does and pulls out a bottle of Bordeaux. Though it costs him his last ducat, Nemorino buys it and immediately drinks it; Dulcamara explains that he has to wait until the next day for results (by which time Dulcamara will be gone). When Adina appears, Nemorino begins to feel the effect of the “potion.” Certain he will be irresistible to her the next day, he feigns cheerful indifference. To punish him, Adina flirts with Belcore. The order arrives for the sergeant to return immediately to his garrison, and Adina agrees to marry him at once. Shocked, Nemorino begs her to wait one more day, but she ignores him and invites the entire village to her wedding. Nemorino desperately calls for the doctor’s help.

Act II
At the pre-wedding feast Adina and Dulcamara entertain the guests with a barcarole. Adina wonders why Nemorino is not present. She doesn’t want to sign the marriage contract until he appears. Meanwhile, Nemorino asks Dulcamara for another bottle of the elixir. Since he doesn’t have any money with him, the doctor agrees to wait at the inn for an hour so Nemorino can borrow the cash from someone. Belcore is bewildered that Adina has postponed the wedding. When Nemorino tells him that he needs money right away, the sergeant persuades him to join the army and receive a volunteer bonus of 20 scudi. Having bought more of the elixir, Nemorino returns to find himself besieged by a group of girls. Unaware of the news that his uncle has died and left him a fortune, he believes the elixir is finally taking effect. Adina enters, feeling responsible for Nemorino’s enlistment, but when she sees him with the other girls, she reacts jealously. Nemorino and the girls leave, and Dulcamara boasts to Adina about the power of his elixir, offering to sell her some as well. She replies that she will win Nemorino in her own fashion.

Nemorino, having noticed a tear on Adina’s cheek when she saw him with the girls, feels sure that she cares for him. When she returns to tell him that she has bought back his enlistment papers, he again feigns indifference. Finally, she confesses she loves him. Belcore appears to find the two arm in arm and takes his leave, declaring that thousands of women await him elsewhere. Dulcamara reveals to the crowd the news of Nemorino’s inheritance and brags about how his miraculous potion can make people fall in love and even turn poor peasants into millionaires.

Plan your auditions wisely!

Folks, this planner is a great way to keep you on track. Now go out there and get 'em!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

If you want to sing opera...

...learn German. Click here for the NEWSWEEK article.


I've just finished reading a fabulous book by Steve Pressfield called THE WAR OF ART. We'll be exploring it this coming semester, hopefully during performance class. Go ahead and start it if you wish. A quote to whet your whistle: 

The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble will keep her from doing her work...the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: fabulous new CD of Dring songs

"Songs of Madeline Dring," released in 2013 by Cambria, features mezzo-soprano Wanda Brister, tenor Stanford Olsen, and Timothy Hoekman, piano. Dring, a British composer who studied composition with Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells and orchestration with Gordon Jacob, only published four songs during her short lifetime. Her husband Roger Lord, principal oboist of the London Symphony Orchestra for over 30 years, championed her work, even transcribing some pieces by hand. Slowly, they have become part of the standard repertoire, and are well worth the wait. 

This two-CD set compiles all of Dring's songs and presents them largely in the order in which they were composed. Interestingly enough, the poetry is largely from the 15th and 16th centuries, ranging from well-known Shakespeare texts to Herrick. The notable exception are the Five Betjeman Songs and Four Night Songs, set to text by John Betjaman and Michael Armstrong, respectively.

Brister's mezzo-soprano is both clear and warm, with a lovely lyrical quality all too often missing in lower voices. Limpid tones are the hallmark of her middle voice, and bright, easy top notes are a welcome surprise, particularly in "I feed a flame." The cabaret song "Snowman" was actually written for Dring herself, and is charmingly composed and sung. "Song of a Nightclub Proprietress" from Five Betjeman Songs has hints of her cabaret style as well.

One of the standard-bearers of the lyric tenor repertory, Olsen's singing is a delight in every way. Perfectly balanced and with an uncanny immediacy of text, his affinity for the music of Britten and English poetry serves this repertoire well. His "Melisande" is particularly haunting, and "To Phillis" is brilliantly engaging.

Hoekman's collaborative work at the piano is outstanding. Here is true partnership between singer and pianist. A seemingly endless variety of colors and dynamics are at his disposal, and there is an admirable synergy between him and both singers.

The liner notes, written by Brister, reveal her scholarship and depth of research on Dring. Having corresponded with many from Dring's past and having been given access to a great deal of her letters and diaries, she is a primary source on the composer.

This CD is unique and replete with gorgeous singing and top notch pianistic work. It is a treasure for those in search of English art song that is far from being overdone. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Reading List

Worthwhile reading, dear students!
  • Year of the King, an actor’s diary and sketchbook – Anthony Sher (A wonderfully authentic account of the experience of creating a performance.)
  • Audition Success – Don Greene, PH.D. (Gives musicians a concrete set of skills to achieve the concentrated focus needed in these critical moments.)
  • The Best of You, Winning auditions your way – Craig Wallace (Craig’s no-nonsense approach and love for actors shines through every page of this practical and concise guide to auditioning.)
  • The Obstacle is the Way - Ryan Holiday (The timeless art of turning trials into triumph.)
  • The Open Door – Peter Brook (Thoughts on acting and theatre.)
  • Reading for the Plot – Peter Brook (design and intention in narrative.)
  • Acting for Singers – David Ostwald (Creating believable singing characters.)
  • A Good Talk – Daniel Menaker (The story and skill of conversation.)
  • You Are Enough – David J. Walker (Self explanatory and a great read.)
  • Performing in the Zone – Jon Gorrie (Unleash your true performing potential.)
  • The Empty Voice – Leon Major with Michael Laing (The means to examine characters, plot and the conflicts in any scene in depth.)
  • Aria Ready, The Business of Singing – Carol Kirkpatrick (Gain the personal and business skills and tools needed to build and sustain a singing career.)
  • The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle (The book that explains how talent grows in the brain, and how you can grow more of it.)
I have several of these in my personal library. If you'd like to borrow, let me know.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jump-start your creativity

Here is a great TED Talk on the subject. In talk 2 of 5, he talks about guided mastery, which is used to help people overcome phobias. How could we use this in terms of our own fears, even those related to creativity and performance?

I also was moved by this talk (number 5 of 5). Embracing our limitations can actually expand how we make art...in any medium. How liberating!

Final performance class

We will all meet together in HRH today. If Mr. Byrd or Dr. Mosteller is playing for you in lieu of Dr. Steele, be sure they have your music!...