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Friday, June 17, 2011

Brevard Week One!

It's Friday, and I'm done for the day. The week has been filled with new faces, returning faces, and lots of music making. My days have been filled with our daily Opera Classes (David Gately, Dean Anthony and I are the Brevard versions of Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Simon Cowell -- it's a bit of a debate who's who!), coaching Traviata (two tremendous young ladies are going to sing the title role here in July), coaching Alcina arias, and rehearsing the chorus for Traviata.

The chorus rehearsals have been very intense, but I hope fun and a learning experience. I've been concentrating on getting a nice rounded "cupo" sound, getting some play in the text, getting punctuation into the vocal phrases, making the men sound like MEN and having the ladies put out a bit more sound than they might think they should. Once I talked about singing with their own individual voices - as opposed to "blending" - things really changed! Chorus masters who "blend" an opera chorus, particularly an Opera chorus by Verdi, sometimes end up making the sound BLAND and uninteresting (yet BLENDED!)

I'm very proud of my Traviata chorus experience, having played for THE great American chorus master, Donald Palumbo, back in 1992 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. There is still a part of me in Act One, rehearsal #1. He was so picky -- no, make that he was the most intense musician I'd ever worked with up to that point, and still is 20 years later. He's at the Met and you can tell already the difference he's made there. The chorus is beginning to sing with dynamics and seems to be creating phrases that shift colors and textures, at least in my humble opinion.

His secret? He would rehearse a phrase over and over and over and over and over and over again. Seriously, I'm still shocked that he moved past "Dell'invito trascorsa è già l'ora" after rehearsing those 2 seconds of music for about 30 minutes one night. ("No, No, that isn't it!" and "It's simply NOT possible" were muttered under his breath many nights.) What I learned from him was, MAKE IT RIGHT and then move on. Don't just rehearse something and allow it to not be what you want.

Maestro Palumbo had the best ears as well - he could pick out an errant open "e" vowel from a crowd and he also had unbelievable rhythm -- detailing dotted 16th notes and keeping them away from becoming triplets was a specialty. I have thought of him SO much during the last week. I was so lucky to play 15 shows with him in the room - everything from Cosi to Wozzeck.

I was very lucky to have worked with some amazing people - Palumbo, Christopher Keene, Hal, Stewart, Robert, Buck, Bill - and am thrilled to be back working with two other amazing people: David Gately and Dean Anthony. David is just terrific - he cares AND he's talented! Dean is a master of helping a young singer out physically to create a character or shape an aria. We have a great time together here.

My wife, "Liz" (I simply just don't call her that, but that's how she's known here and in Montreal) is also at Brevard. She's the Voice Whisperer here.

Blogging out from gorgeous Brevard,