Friday, November 13, 2009

Midwest Musings

This part of the tour is always too much of a whirlwind. Too many good singers, and too few hours in the day. It was a quick 8-hour turnaround from Wednesday night's arrival in Cincinnati to our morning departure from the hotel. And Thursday was dense, with only a half-hour for lunch, and a dash to the airport at the end of the day.

So, befitting our scattered state of mind, some random observations:

Chicken and Egg

I have a slight resistance to a certain Britten opera that shall remain nameless. (Normally I adore Britten, but I have a specific block about this one.) Anyway, an aria from said opera was offered the other day, and since I knew the singer very well, I allowed myself the atypical luxury of a groan. The end of the story? He sang the spots off the scene, and I was won over. I've thought a lot about it, and I have a theory.

So often this opera is sung by young singers whose technique and artistry are still developing, and as a result, I've gotten used to hearing it sung without a lot of legato, expressive flexibility, or finely tuned pitch center. And I've begun to equate those student performances with the piece itself. Sung with detail, accuracy and sensitivity, it took on a whole new aura.

The Delight is in the Details

Our Studio Artist candidates offer a brief contemporary monologue as part of their audition package. Some of them dread being asked for it, as their training and confidence as actors tends to lag behind their musical development. But I'm here to tell you that even though many of them aren't thrilled to perform their monologues, we find a lot more detail in those brief scenes than we do in the arias they've been working on for months or years.

The take-away here? Please please find as much detail, interest, and context in your singing as possible. A single generic emotion spread out over 5 minutes of music does not cut it, even if that emotion is extraordinarily strong and heartfelt.

It's Not About You

Don't sing for yourself.

Or to yourself.

It's not about you. It's about the audience, the music, and the characters that connect the two. I know that you feel it deeply, otherwise you probably wouldn't still be at this crazy game. But you have to get out of your head (and your heart) if you want us to come along with you. Don't be indulgent and selfish

I don't know if this makes sense, but this distinction is a big one.

LA: Epilogue

I said I'd post on Sunday after the MONC competition finals, and I failed. It was a marvelous weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to make a small contribution to the marvelous talent discovery machine that is the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. But the process of adjudicating those auditions is necessarily very different than what we do in our casting for Wolf Trap, and I'm happy to be back in my comfort zone.

While I was in LA, I heard the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel in Verdi's Requiem, and it was an unforgettable experience. All forces were on the top of their game - newly engaged by, it seemed - this piece of standard repertoire. There's a lot of buzz around this new music director, and (is not always the case) it's so lovely to discover something behind it. And on top of that, I adored being in Disney Hall. Too many times one tolerates the physical space in order to hear a performance - in this case, it was completely comfortable and aesthetically pleasing to be there. What a refreshing change.

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