Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vancouver Opera Guild Career Development Grant

This just in....

The Vancouver Opera Guild will disburse a $6,000 Career Development Grant in June 2010. This Grant will be available to Canadian Citizens and those with Landed Immigrant status between the ages of 20 and 33. The deadline for the receipt of completed applications is April 15, 2010. This year’s grant is available for singers only.

The purpose of the Grant is to help people involved with opera, or those preparing for a career in the operatic field, to improve their skills or to work on a personal project related to opera. The grant is not available to students for the completion of a music degree, but is designed to assist those not yet fully established in a professional career.

Grant applications will be judged by a jury of three members of the operatic/artistic community on the following points:

- potential of the
- merit of the project
- artistic/operatic background

The Grant will be made available at the start of the successful candidate’s project. The recipient must send a report on the project to the Vancouver Opera Guild not later than three months after its completion.

Further information and application forms available from:

Mrs. R. Michael LePage
9531 Neill Place
Richmond, BC
V7E 5J6 Tel: (604)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lois Marshall Memorial Vocal Competition

This just in from the London Kiwanis Music Festival:

1 st Place $2,500, 2nd Place $1,200

SUNDAY, APRIL 25, 2010
795 Dundas Street East , London, ON

For Open and/or Senior Voice Students (male or female).
Competitors to be 18 - 28 years of age.
Entries close Friday, January 15, 2010

THREE Selections from the Classical Repertoire:
ONE Own Choice Aria from an Opera or Oratorio (sung in Italian, French or German).
TWO Own Choice Songs (No Broadway or Film, or Musical Theatre).
Limit 20 minutes. Overtime singing will be stopped.

- Competition is Open to students residing or studying in Ontario.
- All entry applications will be reviewed.
- Any changes to repertoire must be submitted no later than Monday, February 15, 2010
- You will be notified if any material is unsuitable.
- Any unsuitable material will result in disqualification.
- For amateur singers only.
- Singers earning money from singing or teaching full time, not eligible.
- Singers who consider themselves professional, not eligible.
- Each competitor is responsible for providing his/her own accompanist.
- Original and complete scores must be made available for the adjudicator(s).
- Photocopied music will result in disqualification.
- At the discretion of the adjudicator(s), sing-offs may occur.
This Competition was established by Raymond Spencer Vacchino (pianist)
M.Mus., A.Mus. (honorary), L.R.S.M.
Contacts:Charlotte Cleland 519-432-5183

Monday, November 23, 2009

Where there are singers...

...there is going to be excited chatter and high notes!

Saturday of this past weekend was no exception! Ontario Chapter of NATS held their annual Student Auditions at York University and what a great event! Organized by Michelyn Wright with on-location coordination by Catherine Robbin, this was a smoothly run day that made it possible for singers of all levels perform in a positive environment and receive feedback from teachers working with singers at their level. Thanks to everyone who attended, sang, adjudicated and supported a singer on Saturday!

If you are interested in joining NATS, now is the time! NATS has streamlined their application process to be completely on-line. And right now is a great time for Canadian teachers to pay their dues - with our dollar at almost par, you will not only get 1 month free membership from NATS but a "discount" with the exchange rate! I urge you to join today...lets have a strong Canuck presence in Salt Lake City at the National Conference!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spotlight on Deh vieni, non tardar

The soprano aria "Deh vieni, non tardar" is truly one of the the most sung aria in auditions for YAPS and beyond...which makes it required learning (in my books) for young sopranos wishing to have a career in opera!

Sung by Susanna in Act IV of Mozart's opera Le Nozze di Figaro, Suzanna is disguised as her mistress the Countess in order to trick the Count (who is acting like a bad, bad man!) and get back at him for wanting to be unfaithful to his wife the Countess. While Susanna is singing this aria, Figaro is hiding because he suspects Susanna to be unfaithful to him. Susanna knows that Figaro is there because his mother, Marcellina, tipped her off that he was raging mad over her lack of fidelity. So....Susanna decides to let him suffer a bit longer by singing "this at last is the moment...I have longingly awaited...soon he will come here and embrace me..." Of course at the end of the aria Cherubino enters looking for Barbarina and mistakes the Countess for Susanna and all hell breaks loose! Read the whole synopsis to see what happens!


To pull this aria off is no small task! The recitative needs attention to phrasing and diction of course but, you also have to decide how far to take the "hoax". Is Susanna really singing sincerely to Figaro or is there more needling going on? I always like to say to my singers that regardless of how you want to play this, this is the first time Susanna has had her own moment in the whole opera and is just so darned relieved to be alone with Figaro (albeit dressed as her mistress) that she takes this opportunity to really relax and just BE.

The aria itself dips into the low register for a soprano (E3) which needs some chest voice but it also ascends to a high A5 by the last page after sitting around the passaggio so one needs flexibility and real spin to keep the sound going.

Have a listen to a few examples:

Lucia Popp from the 1980 production at the Palais Garnier with Sir George Solti conducting. Listen to how slow Solti takes the tempo (the aria is almost 6 minutes long!) and how Popp just SPINS out those lines!

Now fast forward to 1991 in Salzburg with Dawn Upshaw...a little faster, a singer with a totally different colour of voice and vibrato...and check out the Figaro - totally crushed!

And finally the 2006 Salzburg production with Anna Netrebko...obviously a "concept" production that one needs to see the whole thing to get it (not sure about the dancing angel). Whatever you think of Netrebko, she sang sing anything...and check out the change of tempos over the generations of singers and conductors!

For more information...

Aria Database for a translation

The Wiki entry on Nozze di Figaro

Opera Today articles on various Figaro topics

Download the orginal 1784 Beaumarchais work and other study topics on the opera

Monday, November 16, 2009

Summer Program: Opera on the Avalon

There is a new program on the Canadian scene! Opera on the Avalon is located at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. Started by Canadian soprano Cheryl Hickman, this year's program includes fully staged productions of Britten's Albert Herring and The Rape of Lucretia.

A stellar cast of coaches, directors and conductors are committed to this month long program dedicated to training the next generation of Canadian opera singers.

Their deadline for application is Friday, November 27 so check it out!

How Do I Make That Sound?

The University of Iowa has created a fantastic website detailing the shapes and sounds of all the different IPA symbols in the English, German and Spanish alphabet. You can access it on-line and watch and hear a human speak the sound. You can also watch an animated cross sectional head (like the one in the photo) make the sound and detail what the tongue, lips, soft pallate and vocal folds are all doing.

This is a great resource for the studio teacher to use as an aid in teaching proper vowel formation, for the student to connect the IPA symbol with the correct sound and for anyone studying linguistics and pronunciation!

Thanks to Camilla Smith of Accent Pro Academy for the link!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Reading Materials by the Fire

One of my favourite activities in fall is sitting beside the woodstove with a great fire and a good book. Today I traded the book for my laptop and found some really wonderful blog articles that should be shared!

Avocational Singer is a blog written by a stay-at-home mom who has been learning to sing for years! Yesterday she wrote about getting the voice in balance and used some fantastic analogies. Many of you know how much I love a good analogy!

Once More with Feeling is written by voice teacher Susan Eichhorn-Young who is based in New York with a satellite studio in Toronto and Los Angeles. Her post on Sunday really hit home for me as she discusses the importance of allowing a student to make their own career choice and set of goals. At the same time she challenges the student to commit just as the teacher is committing to the work necessary to fulfil the goal!

And finally, one of my favourite, intelligent bloggers Jean-Ronald Lafond of Kashu-do (previously known as Toreadorssong Blog) writes a thoughtful and passionate article about the impatience of the American opera market in the development of voices.

Pull up a chair, enjoy the fire and happy reading!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Spotlight on Lascia ch'io pianga

The aria Lascia ch'io pianga sung by Almirana in Act II of Handel's opera Rinaldo is one of the loveliest and most frequently sung pieces in the literature.

The translation:
A section: Let me weep my cruel fate, and let me breath freedom!
B section: Let sorrow break these chains of my sufferings, for pity's sake.

While the tune is quite simple (and why you hear so many crossover artists are doing it), the range only a 9th and a standard ABA structure, it is the rests that make it sublime. Imagine trying to sob while singing. That seems to be the point Handel was trying to make in the A section. In the B section the vocal line ascends to the 9th as if to imitate the breaking out of the octave of the A section.

If you listen to the other "crying" aria Cara sposa sung by Rinaldo you hear a different type of lament - more controlled with almost a hopefulness or wistfulness that Almirana will return in the A section then a defiance and refusal to accept that she is gone.
The plot of Rinaldo

The basics:
Libretto by Giacomo Rossi, based on the story of Rinaldo and Armida from Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata

ClassicalTV program notes detail:

Composed in just two weeks and premiered at the theatre in the Haymarket on 24thFebruary 1711, Rinaldo - Handel's first opera for London - was a triumph. The title role was penned for the great castrato Nicolini, who had recently arrived in England, and Handel aimed to test his range to the full. The piece includes some of his most perfect melodies, including the tender 'Cara sposa' and the bravura 'Venti, turbini'.

The original production was, by all accounts, spectacular in the tradition of the English masque. "Rinaldo is filled with Thunder and Lightning, Illuminations and Fireworks," wrote The Spectator of the day. David Alden's production for the Bavarian State Opera, designed by Paul Steinberg and Buki Shiff, took up the gauntlet thrown down by Handel with the razzle-dazzle of his London coup and this creative team succeeded magnificently in inventing a similarly explosive staging. There are myriad arresting images and special effects.

Because Handel falls into the category of "early music" there can be some discussion on how one sings this aria. I have linked two very different voices singing. Canadian soprano and early music singer Suzie LeBlanc and American soprano Renee Fleming. Two sopranos, two very different sounds and very different ornaments! (please note that they are both appear to be singing at A=415 in original key of F+)

Susie LeBlanc

Renee Fleming

Watch Act I of Rinaldo on ClassicalTV
Get a synopsis from the Academy of Ancient Music
Read what Wikipedia has to say
Aria Database on Lascia ch'io pianga
Buy the aria from Sheet Music Plus

Spotlight on Repertoire

Welcome to Spotlight on Repertoire!

The goal of this section is to discuss repertoire that is currently being worked on in my studio and in studios across the country. Each week I will highlight an aria or art song with links to plot synopsis and/or poet information, composer information, translations, video and audio clips and any other relevant information that a singer might find informative.

It is easy as a singer to become complacent about the amount of information s/he can access when the Internet is so handy. Unfortunately what I am noticing is that there is not more research but even less. We can get things in quick bites but don't take the time to sit and read through a collection of criticism or discussion on the oeuvre of the composer in question or really spend the time looking up the word-for-word translation! We aren't looking at political and social impacts at the time of composition or how they reflect current culture. No one is asking the questions so students don't feel the need to answer them.

Why am I doing your homework for you? I'm not...I am pointing you in the direction of information and showing how much more there is to the 2 or 3 page song you are singing then just the notes and words.

If you have repertoire suggestions or if you have sung the song/aria being discussed and have information or opinions, please leave a note. The more discussion the better informed we will all become!

Cheers to intelligent singing!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A posting yesterday on the Clyde Fitch Report Blog titled Who is David McIntosh and Why is He Charging $267.67 a Ticket? made me sit up straight and take notice. Starting with a discussion of recent National Arts Endowment budget increase in the US (from $155 M to $167.5 M) in relation to the rest of the world and how they support the arts and why. Brian McIntosh of battery opera in Vancouver recently figured out what it would cost per ticket to produce his current show: $267.67. This is why:

Yet you’re still charging this enormous sum for each ticket, which makes it clear how much you’ve needed your state subsidy in order to make your work.
I’m trying to provoke a re framing of the discussion, not to ask for pity for not funding a show, as I’ll figure out how to make art, regardless of whether I’m funded or not — that’s my reality. Yes, there’s a tendency with the threat of less funding to try to get sympathy from audience, to get them to say, “Gee, this is terrible.” But I am more curious about re framing the discussion to ask: What does this funding do? I can say it helps me make my work, but I could re frame it and say that what funding does it help the public gain access to my work by making it safe for them or easy to find me
and easy to partake in for quite a reasonable price. In other words, I think subsidies are subsidizing audience access to art and artists. It’s about society. It’s not about me.

Read the whole interview here. You can also check out David's blog for more thought provoking ideas about state-funded arts.

Friday, November 6, 2009

ClassicalTV...the joys of opera from your couch

Many of you may have already discovered ClassicalTV online but today, it was a revelation to me! In my search for information on Handel's opera Rinaldo, I (virtually) stumbled across this station where I watched the opera FOR FREE! Next up was a scene from Mozart's Entfurhung with Christine Shafer singing Konstanze's aria "Martin aller Arten".

Registration is free and you get access to lots of free video clips but the real bonus for me is the inexpensive access to MET broadcasts and European broadcasts. You can always find stuff on YouTube but you only get clips. This is the full production without having to leave your house for a fraction of the cost! Additionally there are program notes, optional subtitles, cast list and links to other related videos.

For all of you students out there:
If you haven't performed the opera from which you are singing the aria in an audition, then the next best research (besides practice) is watching that opera to really see what is happening on stage (albeit through the lens of the director)!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sparks & Wiry Cries

Canadian singer Martha Guth and her collaborative partner Erika Switzer are committed to the art of the song recital...but in ways you might be surprised! While both of them perform constantly on the "normal" stage for recitals they have also launched onto the web. Their podcast, Sparks & Wiry Cries is a revalation. Part recital, part audio book and all fun, they bring their thoughts and research to various songs, song cycles and thematic programing.

Have a listen to their thoughts on Schumann's Myrthen and while you are at it, subscribe on what is more convenient than that!

Thanks Martha and Erika!

From the voice of....