Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Spring Wedding...Cenerentola at COC

While I am really excited about seeing the upcoming production of COC's Ariadne auf Naxos, I have to admit that La Cenerentola is starting to get the spring juices flowing!  After hearing a lot about tenor Lawrence Brownlee these past weeks, I have to say that here is a tenor that I want to hear live for just his sheer vocal abilities!  Have a listen to his La fille du regiment aria:

Of course it wouldn't be COC without out Canucks on stage - we get to hear one of my favourite baritones Brett Polegato as Dandini - a role he has sung a number of times and a big shift from his recent Wozzeck at the Bolshoi Theatre!

Check out the rest of the cast and crew, production details and ticket information at their website!

La Cenerentola opens at the Four Seasons on Saturday, April 23 @ 7:30 pm.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Diction Book for Singers

Canadian collaborative pianist and Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Mississippi at Oxford Amanda Johnston has just announced the release of her new book English and German Diction for Singers: A Comparative Approach.  A wonderful collaborator and coach, I have no doubt that this text will become a staple in the studios of teachers and coaches of singing everywhere!

Here is the press release:

Innovative Comparative Approach
This comprehensive resource examines English and German diction separately, but also thoroughly compares both languages.  It removes the unnecessary fear of German and also encourages students to look at English in a new light.  Sample topics include the treatment of the schwa, the treatment of monosyllabic, incidental words, the varied use of R, e.g., [ɹ], [ɾ], [r], [ɐ], [ə], and healthy, glottal onsets. 

Complete Resource for Teachers
  • Answer key to all supplementary exercises
  • Removable flashcard containing IPA symbols for both English and German
  • Musical examples throughout, indicating rhythmic timing of voiced and voiceless consonants
Target Market
  • Ideal for Undergraduate Courses in English and/or German Diction: Introductory chapters introduce all necessary IPA symbols for each language, complete with exercises for mastery of IPA
  • Ideal for Graduate Courses in English and/or German Diction:  Advanced chapters focus on concepts such as rhythmic timing of consonants, implosion/explosion, lyric and phrasal doubling of consonants, common consonant blends, and phrasal consonant clusters
  • Ideal for private voice instructors, choral directors, vocal coaches, and collaborative pianists. IPA is provided throughout, as well as many exercises for self-study.
The German Schwa: Vocalic Chameleon
This book offers a clear deconstruction of the controversial schwa, introducing the concept that the German schwa changes colour according to its environment.  It is hence referred to as a “vocalic chameleon”.  It is coloured by the quality of the previous vowel. The German schwa is pronounced in the position of the previous vowel, without any movement of the tongue or lip positions.  It is never stressed, but rather in a constant state of flux, as it continually matches its surroundings.  

Ordering Information: Click on the link to order from Amazon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Canadian Phillipe Sly takes home top prize at MET Audition Finals

Congratulations to young Canadian bass baritone Philippe Sly for being one of the 5 winners of Sunday's MET Opera National Council Audition Finals.

Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times hits the nail on the head when it comes to judging young singers:

But judging singers in their 20s is truly difficult, especially with so much at stake for the finalists, including a $15,000 cash prize for each winner. Comparably gifted pianists in their 20s are much more likely to be technically assured and finished performers. Operatic voices, though, need long nurturing. Most young singers are still working out elements of their technique. Inevitably, the judges for these auditions are assessing the potential of the finalists as much as their actual performances. Moreover, as was made clear by the documentary film “The Audition,” which followed the last round of the 2007 competition, performing in this concert could not be more high-pressure.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Canadians @ the MET Finals on Sunday

There is a lot of buzz this week about the two young Canadian singers that made it to the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition Finals scheduled for this Sunday, March 13.

Joseph Barron, bass-baritone
Deanna Breiwick, soprano
Sasha Djihanian, soprano
Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone
Michelle Johnson, soprano
Joseph Lim, baritone
Nicholas Masters, bass
Philippe Sly, bass-baritone

Each of these contestants will perform in the National Council Grand Finals Concert on Sunday, March 13.  Met star Joyce DiDonato hosts the Finals, 2001 National Council winner Lawrence Brownlee performs, and winners receive cash prizes of $15,000 each!  Purchase tickets now to this exciting event via our website

It should be noted that soprano Sasha Dijihanian also made it to the upcoming finals of Cardiff Singer of the World!  Additionally, bass Nicolas Masters did his MM in Canada at McGill University, the school where Phillippe Sly is currently a fourth year BMus student.

Go Canada!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Songs for a New Generation

If I was totally on the ball, this post would have been up last week in anticipation of CBC playing Marjan Mozetich's new composition for mezzo Susan Platts. Titled "Under the Watchful Sky: Three Songs for Mezzo Soprano and Orchestra" the texts are based on the Book of Chinese Songs and was commissioned by Susan with the support of the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative that she was part of a few years ago (it also paid for her to work with Jessye Norman!).

This video gives you a taste of the piece before it was premiered with the Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec on November 10, 2010.

Now we just need a recording so it can get its much deserved JUNO!!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Do you MAKE UP?

This entry from the Ottawa Suzuki Stings has been flying around the web as of late and so I thought I would share it with fellow colleagues and students alike!

Make-up Lessons From An Economist's Point of ViewI'm a parent of children enrolled in Suzuki music lessons.  I'd like to explain to other parents why I feel - quite strongly, actually - that it is unreasonable of we parents to expect our teachers to make up lessons we miss, even if I know as well as they do just how expensive lessons are, and, equally importantly, how important that weekly contact is with the teacher to keeping practicing ticking along smoothly.  I think that it is natural for we parents to share the point of view that students should have their missed lessons rescheduled, but if we were to 'walk a mile' in our teachers' shoes, we might change our minds about what it is reasonable for us to expect of our teachers. 
Like many parents, I pay in advance for lessons each term.  In my mind, what this means is that I have reserved a regular spot in the busy schedules of my sons' teachers.  I understand - fully - that if I can't make it to the lesson one week (perhaps my son is sick, or we are away on holiday, or there is some other major event at school) then we will pay for the lesson, but that my teacher is under no obligation to find another spot for me that week, or to refund me for the untaught lesson. And this is the way it should be.
In my 'other life' I am an economist and teach at our local university.  Students pay good money to attend classes at the university; but if they don't come to my lecture on a Monday morning, then I am not going to turn around and deliver them a private tutorial on Tuesday afternoon.  When I go to the store and buy groceries, I may purchase something that doesn't get used.  Days or months later, I end up throwing it out.  I don't get a refund from the grocery store for the unused merchandise.  If I sign my child up for swimming lessons at the local pool, and s/he refuses to return after the first lesson, I can't get my money back.  So there are lots of situations in our everyday lives where we regularly pay in advance for goods or some service, and if we end up not using what we have purchased, we have to just 'swallow our losses'.  On the other hand, if I purchase an item of clothing, and get home and change my mind, I can take it back and expect either a refund or a store credit.  
So why do I believe that music lessons fall into the first category of 'non-returnable merchandise', rather than into the second case of 'exchange privileges unlimited' (which I think is one of the advertising slogans of an established women's clothing store!)?  Speaking now as an economist, I would claim that the reason is that items like clothing are "durable goods' - meaning, they can be returned and then resold at the original price - whereas music lessons are non-durable goods - meaning, once my Monday slot at 3:30 is gone, my son's teacher can't turn around and sell it again. The only way she would be able to give him a lesson later in the week would be if she were to give up time that she had scheduled for her own private life; and that seems pretty unreasonable - I can't think of many employees who would be thrilled if their bosses were to announce that they couldn't work from 3:30 to 4:30 this afternoon, but would they please stay until 6:30 on Thursday, because there will be work for them then! 
Many teachers hesitate to refuse our request to shift lesson times (because our busy schedules do change), because unless they keep us parents happy, we will decide to take our child somewhere else for lessons (or to drop musical study), and they will lose part of their income.  This is particularly true in areas with lower average income, where it can be particularly difficult to find students. So rather than telling us that 'well, actually, the only time when I'm not teaching and that you can bring your son for lesson is during the time I set aside each week to go for a long soul-cleansing walk, and I can't do that on Monday at 3:30 when you should have turned up', they agree to teach us at a time that really doesn't suit their schedule.  Teachers who are 'nice' in this way often, in the long run, end up exhausted, and feeling exploited; they try to draw a line in the sand.  However, too few parents ask to switch only when absolutely necessary, and too many parents want lesson times when it suits them this week, which is not the same time that suited last week.  If the conflict arises because my child is in the School play, and they have their dress-rehearsal during his lesson time, then I feel that I must choose between the two activities, and if he attends the dress rehearsal my private lesson teacher doesn't owe me anything. 
During May, my eldest son will be missing three lessons because he is going to accompany me on a trip to New Zealand to visit his great-grandparents.  I do not expect my son's teacher to refund me for those missed lessons, or to reschedule them by 'doubling up' lessons in the weeks before or after our departure.  Since there will be lots of advanced notice, I might ask her to consider preparing a special 'practice tape' for that period, or to answer my questions via e-mail, but if she doesn't have the time (the second half of April is going to be really busy for her, and she wouldn't be able to do the tape until more or less the week we left) and so has to refuse, then that's fine. I certainly don't expect her to credit me with three make-up lessons; there is no way for her to find a student to fill a three-week hole in her schedule during our absence.  Instead, I hope that she will enjoy the extra hour of rest during those three weeks, and that we will all feel renewed enthusiasm when we return to lessons at the end of the trip.
Article Copyright © 2001Vicky Barham

Thursday, March 3, 2011

COC @ the BAM

COC's Production of Stravinsky's Nightingale and Other Short Fables (2011)

Puppets, water, Robert Lepage, COC and the BAM - too many acronyms and how do they connect?  The Canadian Opera Company took Robert Lepage's production of Stravinsky's Nightingale on the road to the Brooklyn Academy of Music this week:

As Mr. Lepage continues to unveil his production of Wagner’s “Ring” at the Met, he is sure to win some new admirers with this Canadian Opera Company production. Whatever one thinks of his “Ring,” and opinion has been mixed, that he is an enormously gifted director cannot be denied.
Read the rest of the review in the New York Times here.

UPDATE: Read about the company's time in NYC on their blog Parlando. Lots of backstage photos and cast info!

From the voice of....