On top of the fun of singer-pianist telepathy, I've gotten pretty good at the game of guessing which are the auditioners will ask for. In most auditions, opera singers present a list of about 4-6 arias; they choose which they want to start with, and after that the panel selects a second choice. The goal is for the singer to start with something they do very, very well, and for the auditioners to learn as much about that singer as possible in a two-aria span.
For the next in our series of Aria Guides, we're nodding to all the mezzos (and a few sopranos) with "Una voce poco fa" from Il barbiere di Siviglia. This is a cornerstone aria for many young mezzos, and one of the few chances they have to show off coloratura and play a girl. It's also an aria full of options. Ornamentation, cadenzas, high or low keys; there's no "right way" to sing rep like this.
We're continuing our new series of Aria Guides with more Mozart, this time for the men: baritones, it's your beloved Count's Aria from Le nozze di Figaro. Like all you aspiring Counts, I too love this aria to bits. It's got a recit that's both textbook and full of life. The aria is wild soliloquy, full of unnatural mood swings from a powerful man who realizes that he can't buy intelligence.
Readers, we've got a new treat for you! Welcome to our new series of posts that take you through popular arias of all voice types, step by step. We'll point out tips and tricks for making the learning process efficient, and try to answer as many FAQs about the repertoire as we can.
Pianists, when you're playing orchestral reductions, it's all a complicated system of smoke and mirrors. Rather than on getting every note under your fingers, your priorities lay in creating a broader palate of sound, representing the different sections of a hypothetical orchestra. There's a difference in sound between a viola and an oboe, and a group of strings can have a different collective rhythm than a group of winds.
What I've found is that rolled Rs in a singer's text can act as a sort of litmus test for where that singer is maintaining their resonance. As a coach, if I ask for more consonants in an Italian aria, and a rolled R seems difficult to project, the problem usually lies in the preceding vowel.
Technically, a singer's deadline for learning and perfecting a role is opening night. In reality, the ubiquitous deadline for opera singers is the first day of music rehearsals with the conductor. In this rehearsal, most singers want to a) sing incredibly well, b) make the conductor happy and c) not embarrass themselves in front of colleagues.
Some folks have an inner pulse that rivals most metronomes. Others have to work for rhythmic perfection. Singers, we know you all get bad reputations among classical music circles for not being able to count, and frankly, sometimes you earn the stereotype. Singers who work regularly have excellent rhythm, and they know how to make music within a beat structure.
Répétiteurs, rehearsal pianists, the ones who repeat sections of music over and over; they're a special breed of pianist, with an insanely focused set of skills. Being a répétiteur is one of those jobs that can feel thankless, where people only notice your playing when you mess up. It's about checking your pianist ego at the door, and facilitating a rehearsal for others: singers, conductors, and directors.
If you go to hear Claire de Sévigné in an opera, there's a good chance she's the one singing the highest. The Canadian coloratura is a graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio, a recent finalist of the Montréal International Music Competition, and soon to be a member of the International Opera Studio at the Zürich Opernhaus.