Tag Archives: Jules Massenet

A Cinderella Comeback

This past weekend I had the thrill of singing La Fée with soprano Laura Mitchell as my Cendrillon. We both did our undergraduate degrees in San Diego, and it was such a pleasure to be reunited and to sing together.

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Reunited with soprano Laura Mitchell. NYC, 2014.

Having the opportunity to learn the rest of the role and revisit La Fée’s coloratura-filled aria and eyebrow-raising Act 3 scene was immensely rewarding and validating. After getting through the initial bumps in the note-learning and muscle-coordinating processes, I found that the less I stressed about the hard parts, the more easily and cleanly they came. A year and a half ago the vocal demands of La Fée had left me feeling a bit beat-up, but this year I came away from the performance feeling confident and quite happy. Continue reading

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The Fairy Godmother, a Dream Role

About 3 years ago, a fellow soprano-friend and I were in San Francisco and chatting about repertoire and roles when she suggested I look into the fairy godmother in Massenet’s take on the Cinderella story, Cendrillon. Massenet, I knew, but Cendrillon?

Back then, a YouTube search resulted in only about five Cendrillon clips that weren’t French dubs of the Disney movie, one of which was this recording of Esther Heideman singing La Fée’s aria “Ah! douce enfant.”

One listen, and I was in love.

Over the next few years I learned the aria even though it was on the obscure side and, therefore, not a great audition choice — I wanted to learn it just to learn it and to sing it, even if it was just for myself. I even had the opportunity to learn and perform La Fée’s second big scene, in Act 3, when she works a bit of magic to bring Cendrillon and the Prince together after their first encounter at the ball. Annalise Belnap sang Cendrillon, Kristin Roney sang the Prince, and during rehearsals the three of us would melt into puddles over the way Massenet spun these soaring, pleading lines.

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La Fée with her Cendrillon, Annalise Belnap. ASU Lyric Opera Scenes, 2013.

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Astoria 2014: Singing

One of the many aspects of the Vocal Apprentice program I adored this year was the plethora of performance opportunities we took part in. While Così fan tutte was the culmination of our efforts and our growth as performers, the other singing we did was just as important in our self-discovery and learning.

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Despina rocking the apron look. Astoria, 2014.

Through a series of Apprentice concerts held at various venues around town, we had the opportunity to share our repertoire with others and put into practice ideas from masterclasses, lessons, and coachings. I mentioned last time that the amount of talent in Astoria was astounding, and I can, without hesitation, include the abilities of the Apprentices in this statement as well. Over the course of the Festival I got to hear beautiful singing from my peers, and they introduced me to new repertoire as well as different interpretations of music I was already familiar with. It’s no wonder we had a group of regular attendees at our concerts!

Many of the pieces I used for these concerts I had performed fairly recently at my recital, and I was surprised at how differently some of them felt just a month later. I am very, very thankful for the coaches and teachers who guided me through these developments: Gustavo Castro and Karen Esquivel, Paul Floyd, Allan Glassman, Marie Plette, Mark Robson, and Richard Zeller.

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Shall We Gather: an Evening of Songs and Arias

I’ve made a poster, which means this recital is really happening!

Shall We Gather: An Evening of Songs and Arias
May 18th, 2014
Sunday, 7 PM
Holyrood Church
179th & Fort Washington
New York City, NY
 
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Photo by Still in Motion Photography. School of Music*, ASU, 2013.

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Parting gifts from a teacher

The most recent addition to my music library is a hardcover vocal score of Massenet’s Manon.  It has a green cover with gold lettering, and it was a present from my dear teacher, Enrique Toral.  Manon’s “Je marche sur tous les chemins … Obeisson quand leur voix appelle” was the first aria Enrique assigned me, and it became a go-to piece for competitions and auditions.

After a very happy partnership, we had our last lesson this week.  In the final minutes, I sang “Oh! quante volte” from I Capuleti e i Montecchi, since I’ll be using it for master classes and concerts in San Francisco.  Somehow, it was the best “Oh! quante volte” I’ve done yet despite not having touched it for three months.  All the moving notes showed up when they were supposed to, and there were no stumbling blocks weaving up and through the staff.

Over a celebratory dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant, Enrique left me with the following advice (I should have given into my urge to record our whole conversation!):

  • Search for the easier way to sing rather than the better way.  Singing should not feel like work.  If it’s hard or if it hurts, it’s not good singing.
  • Be happy about practicing instead of worried.  Don’t reinforce bad habits or negative thinking.
  • Resonance is passive – it will happen on it’s own.  Focus instead on breath, vowel, and flow – those are the active components of singing.
  • Technique doesn’t come and go, so don’t be afraid of losing it.
  • Be nice to everyone.  You never know where you will meet them again.

Needless to say it was an emotional dinner.  We both had tears in our eyes as he drank red wine and I white, reliving the mishaps that occurred along the way but didn’t stop us.  Almost exactly a year and half ago, I showed up at Enrique’s for my first lesson.  I wonder what went through his head when I told him I planned on applying for graduate school – not perplexing in and of itself but unusual because 1) my voice was still very confused, and 2) I was crying at the time.  A little embarrassing, yes, but that’s how much it meant for me to be singing again.

As  I sat across from Enrique with my new Manon score in front of me – fresh and waiting to be explored, the full opera rather than just one singular aria – it hit me that I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do; I was going to graduate school as a singer.  In the impersonal and step-by-step process of leaving my job, singing for Musical Merit, and getting ready to move, there wasn’t time to fully relish the outcome of all my preparation.  My brain understood it as factual information, but there were too many items requiring me attention for me to have an emotional response.  This wave of emotion finally crashed into me during dinner – I’m pretty sure some of the other customers probably thought it was a date-gone-wrong with me crying into my napkin.  Then our waiter came over and poured us two shots of dessert wine to celebrate, and I pulled myself together.

Enrique has been my most ardent champion during this long process.  He was more than the teacher I met with once a week.  We sat at his dinner table to discuss schools and faculty.  He suggested music for me to learn.  He lent me scores or obtained rare copies for me.  He was blunt when I needed the honesty and supportive when I needed the comfort.  He enthusiastically agreed with my ambitious goals and found ways to encourage me while watching out for my vocal (and mental) health.  I’m not sure where I would be otherwise.  Thank you, Enrique.