“In opera, we like to breathe…”. How a great Master Class can change the views on opera…
By Tiziano Thomas Dossena
From my perspective, having neither reputable vocal capability and experience nor any sizable knowledge of music other than a deep appreciation of opera, attending an Opera Master Class would have been an unthinkable and irrational action until recently. Thanks to Maestro Michael Recchiuti, this experience turned out to be fulfilling, rewarding, interesting and definitely educational. Can I sing any better? Can pelicans sound like songbirds? No to both, I guess, but since that was not the goal of my attendance, it’s irrelevant. What can be said is that I understand a lot more the process of singing on stage and what it takes to make a good voice a great one. That alone would be sufficient, but I learned a lot more just by observing and listening to the various students’ performances and their revised ones after Maestro Recchiuti and renowned soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs had pointed out the possible corrections, be it change of posture, movements, vocal extension or suitable loudness required for that particular aria.
It was a gentle process most of the time, although Recchiuti could at time lecture so as to get the most out of the experience for these already well-trained singers. He wanted them to get the essence of the criticism, so that it would be constructive and bring to a proper change. Sometimes these changes were subtle and probably undetected by most listeners but for the veterans of the stage; however, most of the time these changes were dramatic and easily captured by everyone present, a classic ‘magic wand’ situation. That an apparently simple suggestion could bring such modifications was an utter surprise to me until I realized that these were not simple suggestions but instead ‘tricks of the trade’ that could only have been learned through extensive studies and performing experiences. The magic wand was therefore a real magic one because the teachers certainly had plenty of both and their coaching methods demonstrated it.
The Master Class I attended was at the National Opera Center of America in New York City, on January 12, 2018.
The attendants were all women and came from various American cities: New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The cordiality that was displayed among the participants was also possible because of the openness that Maestro Recchiuti demonstrated throughout the Class; his tendency to place a bit of humor at the times when the criticism could have been the harshest certainly made the process easier (“In opera, we like to breathe…”) and the singers seemed extremely pleased with the outcome of the evening.
At the piano, Eric Malson was a prodigy that allowed for a smooth process to everyone, teachers included.
The students learned how to improve their stance and pronunciation as well as to balance their vocal usage so as to obtain the most with their voice for a particular aria but also for their approach in general. Uses of sensuality in their body posture as well as in the articulation of the recitative were taught in order to allow the singers the creation of the proper environment on stage. Timing, tempos, intensity of movements, and why not? breathing patterns, were taught in an impressive manner, more so considering the time constrains of the evening class.
A wonderful educational experience, attending a Master Class of this type, with a compressed albeit detailed approach, is something that I suggest to live through ─ although, maybe, the correct term should be savor─ to anyone who loves opera.