“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.

Maestro Michael Recchiuti and soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs listening to a performance

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.

The Opera Master Class by Maestro Michael Recchiuti and soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs may be viewed in its totality by clicking the image that follows: 

GALLERY OF PARTICIPANTS:

Grace Kim

Elisabeth Papageogiu

Patrice Easton

Melanie Davis

Kirsten Norwark

Rachel Pike

Margaret O’Connell

 GALLERY OF THE CLASS:

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To all our readers…

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Comfort Ye…, The 23rd Annual Concert To Benefit The Homeless Brings People Together…

Written By: 

30 December 2017

Comfort Ye…, the 23rd Annual Concert to Benefit the Homeless, performed on December 23rd at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, On West End Avenue and 84th Street in Manhattan, was a great success once more, as a proof that great performers and generosity go hand to hand.

Lauren Flanigan opens the evening (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

The public, which donated jackets, coats, non-perishable food and money, was offered a great variety of songs from various opera, musicals and from the classic Christmas repertoire. The evening started with a warm welcome by the organizer of the concert, the celebrated soprano Lauren Flanigan, followed by a rendition of Handel’s Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley from Messiah by the tenor Aaron Blake.

Olga Makarina (Photo courtesy by Lauren Flanigan)

Lauren Flanigan herself followed with Vieni, s’affretta from Verdi’s Macbeth and a song from a musical.

Nadine Benjamin (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

Daniel Sumegi (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

Sophie Delphis (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

The ensuing arias were from Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, Puccini’s La Boheme and Verdi’s Il Trovatore. In the middle there was a marvelous version of Berlin’s White Christmas and a medley of his songs, but also an attention-grabbing If Mary Had But One Child and Old Man River by the baritone Kenneth Overton and a Russian song by the soprano Olga Makarina. The performers were Daniel Sumegi (bass), Raul Melo (tenor), Sophie Delphis (mezzo-soprano), Nadine Benjamin (soprano), and Amy Burton with John Musto at the piano.

These performances were followed by the powerful and warm voices of the Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble, directed by the Rev. Eugene Palmour, which offered a classic and religious set of Christmas songs.

Greg Silverman, from The West Side Campaign Against Hunger, spoke about giving and how his organization works during the intermission.

Amy Burton (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

A section of the Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

The Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble with the Rev. Eugene Palmour, director (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

In the second segment of the concert, the rhythm changed, opening with an exciting interpretation of the Elektra’s Monologue from Richard Strauss’ Elektra. The performer, the renowned soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, left everyone breathless with the strength of her characterization. Ms. Blancke-Biggs was accompanied by the illustrious maestro Michael Recchiuti.

Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)The mezzo-soprano Rachelle Pike followed with the aria Acerba voluttà from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur.

Rachelle Pike (Photo courtesy by Lauren Flanigan)

After this initially powerful set of songs, four arias from Wagner’s operas were performed by the soprano Amy Shoremont-Obra, the mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Stewart, the baritone Mark Delavan and the soprano Kirsten Chambers. The last was accompanied by Keith Chambers at the piano.

Amy Shoremont-Obra (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

To lighten up a bit the atmosphere, Mary Ann Stewart and Raul Melo sang an aria from The Merry Widow, which raised the spirits, a bit low-key after such an impressive but musically difficult Wagnerian combination, and brought back the smiles.

Mark Delavan (Photo courtesy by Lauren Flanigan)

Lauren Flanigan, with a selection of songs from the Gordon/Bernstein’s collections, raised those spirits even more, putting a special effort in her physical portrayal. Most of the arias were accompanied at the piano by the musical director of the night, Kamal Khan, who confirmed to the public who knows him his superior qualities.

Lauren Flanigan and Greg Silverman (photo by Nicoletta Mita-Dossena)

The night ended on the rise with a heartfelt choral rendition of Holy Night by all the performers of the night.

Yet again Ms. Flanigan and her friends have assembled a marvelous show while collecting funds and other necessities for the homeless in NYC, demonstrating at the same time that opera’s performers are always ready to give.

Kenneth Overton (Photo courtesy by Lauren Flanigan)

Please follow their lead and donate at: https://www.wscah.org/

The Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble

The performers get together at the end of the evening for a choral performance.

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Comfort Ye… 23rd Annual Concert to Benefit the Homeless in NYC

Friday Evening December 22nd 2017 at 7pm 

Acclaimed American soprano Lauren Flanigan joined by world-class opera singers, sings and hosts this annual event to raise goods and awareness for New York’s Homeless

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St. Paul and St. Andrew Methodist Church

At the corner of 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue 7pm

 

Admission:

1 bag non-perishable groceries OR

1 brand new toy suitable for a child under ten OR

1 clean used overcoat or blanket OR

3 packages of baby diapers OR

$40

The proceeds of this concert immediately benefit

The West Side Campaign Against Hunger

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An evening of Music with Nora Mooney, Gilad Paz and Felix Jarrar

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Masterclass with Mo. Michael Recchiuti and Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs

La Sirena Productions presents a

Masterclass

with Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs & Mo. Michael Recchiuti

Gurari Studios @ The National Opera Center
Friday, January 12, 2018 7:00 to 9:00pm
330 7th Ave. NY, NY 10001

And streaming LIVE ONLINE

Six singers will be selected to participate in this exciting, and unique performance and learning opportunity with one of today’s leading Dramatic Sopranos and an award winning International Conductor and Pianist. The class will be live-streamed in real time on Facebook and YouTube. Places available for six participants, 2 alternates, and 60 auditors. Application deadline is December 28, 2017.

Application fee is $25.00. Chosen participants will pay an additional $50.00 tuition. Auditors are chosen in order of applications received. Please click on link below to send application, video or audio submission, and application fee.

About Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs

Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs is recognized as one of the most exciting spinto- drammatico sopranos on the international scene today. Critics have praised her virtuosic bel canto technique, the beauty of her voice, her pyrotechnic coloratura, and her unerring theatricality. A brilliant interpreter of the most demanding roles in the spinto-drammatico soprano repertory, this past season she had triumphant appearances as Bellini’s Norma, opening the season at Rio de Janiero’s Teatro Municipal, and Puccini’s Turandot at the Gala Grand Opening of the Opera House in Xian, China. 2015/16 was her “Year of the Princesses” beginning with Salome with the Orchesta Sinfonica Nacional at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico, continuing with her debut as Strauss’ Elektra in the “Premio Abbiati” award winning production of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and ending with Andreas Homoki’s production of Turandot at Den Norske Opera. Recent seasons have included Verdi’s Lady Macbeth in Montevideo, in Nabucco at the Grand Théâtre de Gèneve, and Nancy, France, and the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica. She was the featured artist opening the Verdi Bicentennial Concerts at Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes in a solo aria concert and the Messa da Requiem, followed by her critically acclaimed role and house debut in Strauss’ Salome at den Norske Opern in Stefan Herheim’s reprise of his Salzburg production. She then appeared under the baton of Lorin Maazel as Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West at his Castleton International Festival. She was heard internationally at the Metropolitan Opera as Tosca on a live Sirius Satellite broadcast with the tenor Marcello Giordani.  Hailed as one of the best young Verdi singers by Placido Domingo, she appeared with him at the Washington National Opera as Giordani’s Fedora in a gala performance. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Violetta in the Zeffirelli production of Verdi’s La Traviata under the baton of Marcello Viotti with Lado Ataneli as Germont, and her Italian debut was the title role in Jonathan Miller’s production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at Torino’s Teatro Regio, conducted by Evelino Pidó.

elizabethblancke-biggs.com
elizabethblancke-biggs.com/cd

About Michael Recchiuti

Michael Recchiuti is active internationally as conductor, pianist, and accompanist. He has collaborated with artists of the international opera stage, and Grammy and Tony award winners such as Carlo Bergonzi, Giuseppe Giacomini, Placido Domingo, Justino Diaz, Roberta Peters, Adrianna Maliponte, Renee Fleming, Ceclia Gasdia, Ghena Dimitrova, Fiorenza Cossotto, Dolora Zajick, Chris Merritt, Paolo Gavanelli, Roberto Scandiuzzi, Stuart Neill, and Vanessa Williams.

He was head of the musical staff at Venice’s Gran Teatro La Fenice, and Consulente Musicale for the Ente Lirico in Cagliari Sardegna, where he presented the first French language performance in Italy, of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, starring Chris Merritt. He was a Guest Conductor at the Budapest State Opera in the Spring Festival, and for the Summer Festival production of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino starring Giuseppe Giacomini in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

After winning the International Competition for Opera Conducting at Siena’s prestigious Accademia Chigiana, where he studied with Franco Ferrara, Carlo Maria Giulini, and Bruno Bartoletti, he was awarded the Diploma di Merito, and chosen to conduct performances of Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda with soprano Cecilia Gasdia. He has assisted many conductors, including Nicola Rescigno, Giuseppe Patanè, Placido Domingo, Bruno Bartoletti, and Alfredo Silipigni, who engaged him as Associate Conductor of the New Jersey State Opera, and invited him to conduct Puccini’s Le Villi, and Mascagni’s Zanetto. He also prepared productions of verismo rarities such as Mascagni’s Iris, and Lodoletta.

In North America, Mo. Recchiuti is the Artistic and General Director of the American Opera Theater, founding Principal Conductor of the New Jersey Opera Theater, and founding Music Director of Opera de las Americas, the national opera of the Dominican Republic. He has been a frequent guest conductor for many organizations including: Orchestra of St. Lukes, the Long Beach Opera where he collaborated with director Hugo DeAna, the Orlando Opera, the Korean Symphony of New York, the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, the National Lyric Opera.

His discography includes the newly released “Vaghissima sembianza”, a collection of the Arie di Stile Antico di Stefano Donaudy with soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs; “Chris Merritt dal Vivo”, where he conducted the orchestra da Camera di Padova e del Veneto, and was awarded the Palme d’Or, and chosen as “Best CD of the Year” by Opera News, and CD Classica; “English Art Songs” featuring Britten’s the Holy Sonnets of John Donne and Roger Quilter songs, with tenor Paul Austen Kelly; and Alberto Mizrahi’s “Voice of a People” a collection of Cantorial Showpieces, Ashkenazic and Sephardic art songs.

michaelrecchiuti.com

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A very colorful Magic Flute at the Seattle Opera

flute_Title

By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

seattlelogoCOLORFUL FANTASY. Mozart’s utterly unique extravaganza blends myth, magic, and a remarkable variety of wonderful music to deliver its life-affirming message: love conquers all. A handsome prince and his comical sidekick are given enchanted musical instruments and tasked with rescuing the Queen of the Night’s daughter from a mysterious group of priests. Undergoing trials of virtue, discretion, and charity, they realize that all may not be as it seems in this magical land. Award-winning costumes from the fabulous Zandra Rhodes (The Pearl Fishers) add to the many delights of one of the most fantastic entertainments ever created.

In German with English subtitles | at McCaw Hall
Approximate Running Time: 3 hours, with 1 intermission
Evenings at 7:30 PM. Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM.

CAST

cast

SYNOPSIS

Long Story Short

Distressed queen sends prince (and feathered friend) off to rescue kidnapped princess. But instead, they undertake initiation into the kidnappers’ brotherhood of light and truth.

20_gallery_magicflute-heroWho’s Who?

Tamino is a handsome young prince.
Papageno is a good-natured birdcatcher who travels with Tamino.
Papagena is a pretty girl who likes Papageno.
Sarastro is a wise wizard and the benevolent ruler of a holy brotherhood.
The Queen of the Night is Pamina’s mother and Sarastro’s enemy.
Pamina is a beautiful princess and the Queen of the Night’s daughter. When the opera begins, she is a prisoner in Sarastro’s temple.
Monostatos is a Moorish temple guard in Sarastro’s community. He has the hots for Pamina.
The Three Ladies are servants of the Queen of the Night.
The Three Boys are spirits who guide Tamino and Papageno.

In the land where fairy-tales take place, a dragon is chasing young Prince Tamino. Three ladies kill the monster, then show the prince a picture of Pamina, the Queen of the Night’s daughter. He falls madly in love, and the Queen asks him to rescue Pamina, who has been kidnapped by the wicked Sarastro. The birdcatcher Papageno is enlisted as Tamino’s sidekick; Tamino is entrusted with a magic flute and Papageno with a set of magic bells.

Our heroes make it to Sarastro’s citadel, where Papageno protects Pamina from Monostatos, an amorous guard, while a wise priest explains to Tamino that the Queen is really the evil one: Sarastro kidnapped Pamina to rescue her from her mother’s evil influence. Tamino and Pamina undertake the series of tests and trials which will grant them entrance to Sarastro’s community. Monostatos, too, switches sides when the Queen of the Night offers him Pamina in exchange for betraying Sarastro. And Papageno fails all Sarastro’s tests, but runs off with the girl of his dreams.

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GALLERY  copyright

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