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Dare to do more! – Natalie Dessay

The College was delighted to welcome French soprano, and one of the star’s of contemporary opera, Natalie Dessay, to give a Masterclass to MA Opera Performance students. Here’s opera student Jan Caplinski from his blog, on what the experience meant to him and his classmates. The photo shows Natalie with MA student Joe Bolger:

“We’d known since last year that she was coming, but it seemed too good to be true. Even as plans changed at the last minute I found myself worrying that it might not actually happen… but it did! Today we were visited by Natalie Dessay, who spent half a day working with our sopranos (and Joe). Originally we were all to have had the chance to sing to her, however circumstances forced her to shorten her visit, which was a shame, but still, we got a rare opportunity handed to us!

She insisted that the class be closed and straight away said she was probably more nervous than we were. All nerves were soon forgotten once she started working with our girls though. I’m not going to write a long spiel about what an incredible person she is, but I will confess to being surprised at how friendly, down-to-earth, genuine, unassuming and warm she was. Watching her work just put a smile on my face, and the fact that every now and again we were treated to her singing was an added bonus! In fact, everyone left the room with huge grins on their faces 🙂 (or should I say: 😀 )

I could go on about how amazing it all was, but I don’t want to come over as star-struck (even though I admit I actually am!). I’d rather post some quotes from her that I jotted down during the class. Perhaps some of you will find them helpful / insightful or funny, I will personally probably find myself revisiting this post to refresh my memory of a great day.

The one thing that she said to almost everybody, referring to many different aspects of performance, was this: Dare to do more! (Dare to be pianississimo; Dare to move; Dare to do it faster; Dare to take more time; Dare to use more ornamentation; etc) I think that sums up what I felt her approach is all about: never holding back anything, infusing every word, every note with intention and energy, heightening every contrast to the extreme, etc. Cliches? Perhaps, but hey!, if it works, it works.

Quotes:
Accompany yourself with your body! – on posture/stillness, not getting stuck and allowing your body freedom to move
You can’t think and plan to the end, because you’re not supposed to know what you’re going to say. – on recit
If you have an aria on 1 idea, you have to work harder to add contrast to keep the audience surprised.
It’s easier to sing if you’re in control of the orchestra, than when being controlled by the orchestra. – on daring to ‘drive’ the piece rather than sit in the back seat
Using vibrato protects the voice. – on vocal hygiene, she also was an advocate of as round a sound as possible without losing clarity of text
If you want us to follow the text, you have to build it for us by using the punctuation.
Coloratura is not a question of voice, it’s a question of articulation and precision.
In French music almost NEVER portamento. And even when it’s written… think again!
Dare to go as far as possible with interpretation, even if you don’t keep it when you go to perform. – on daring to deliberately sing flat and ‘ugly’, or just to not sing on ahs and ohs
Because you’re able to do it so fast… maybe a bit faster? – on coloratura
Dare to add everything you want… but in style! – on ornamentation
Do you have a cadenza for this? (…) I don’t like it, it’s too simple.
Invent something that I wouldn’t invent myself. – again on ornamentation, which allows you to show your personality and imagination
What is better for your voice, to go up, or to go down? Up? Well then go up! – on cadenzas

And finally our favourite quote, when working on Manon’s aria Adieu, notre petite table:
I know it’s written forte, but I think that’s stupid. I called Massenet on the phone and told him it can’t be like that.

The best thing about today was that everyone enjoyed it, including Natalie Dessay. In fact, there’s another quote: Now that I see you are good, I will come back, which was a joke of course, but she mentioned returning a couple of times, so fingers crossed!”

You can read more about Jan on his blog: http://singerjournal.blogspot.com/2011/12/dare-to-do-more-natalie-dessay.html

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Rachel Podger, International Chair of Baroque Violin at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, accepts her Honorary Fellowship after performing in the College’s new Dora Stoutzker Hall

“The new concert hall in Cardiff is a truly inspiring place for performers and listeners alike- it has a lovely warm acoustic and feels intimate even though it holds around 300. It’s a beautiful space and a joy to be in – still smells of fresh wood! An amazing addition to the music scene in Wales and the UK and I can’t wait to go back and play there again!”

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Music student Toks Dada enters the Welsh dragon’s den today as he takes part in the final of the Quality Centre Wales Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Earlier this year Toks won the RWCMD Young Entrepreneur award, which qualified him to go through to the final. He has ten minutes to present his idea to the dragons, made up of five business experts, at the Atrium, Cardiff.
The finalist and two runners-up, who will receive a cash prize, and business mentoring for a year, will be announced on 8 December at the Quality Centre Wales Annual Awards dinner, presented by BBC Wales Today’s Lucy Owen.
Among the many strings to his bow, Viola-playing Toks was recently Orchestral Manager of Mega-Messiah, a scratch performance of 1000 singers, at the Millennium Centre.

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… some of Only Men Aloud being photographed in the RWCMD foyer this morning. They even treated us to a few impromptu Christmas carols around the Steinway.

 

The boys were being photographed modelling outfits for the Christmas issue of Cardiff Life, which will be out on 8 December. You won’t be able to miss them – they’ll be on the front cover!

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Just popped into the early band rehearsals for next month’s musical Merrily We Roll Along. Sounding rather swingtastic and marvellous. 

The show opens on Dec 2nd – have you booked your tickets yet? It’s your last chance to catch our first cohort of MA Musical Theatre students before they graduate and hit the big time!

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 The College is delighted to welcome two new members of staff this term: Neil Ferris joins the College as Head of Choral Conducting, and Caryl Thomas has been appointed as the new Head of Harp.

 “I am delighted to have the opportunity to build on the successes and reputation of the choral department at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama,” said Neil.  “The postgraduate programme set up by Adrian Partington already has an international reputation and in conjunction with the Jane Hodge International Chair in Choral Conducting, Simon Halsey, I am looking forward to fostering the next generation of choral conductors at such a thriving institution.”

 Caryl Thomas adds, “It’s wonderful to be taking up this position at such an exciting time for the College, with its new world-class performance and rehearsal spaces. I’ve been on the teaching staff here for several years, working with the current Royal Harpist Hannah Stone, who is continuing her postgraduate studies here, and Gwenllian Llyr, who is studying for her Masters at the Juilliard School, New York. I welcome the chance to head up such a strong and vibrant department, working with such excellent students, and with all the exciting and varied opportunities on offer at the College.”

 With a reputation as a conductor equally at home with choirs and orchestras, Neil Ferris will combine his conducting engagements with his new post at the College. He is also on the tutorial panel for the Association of British Choral Directors National Conducting Courses and has been a guest teacher for the Association of Irish Choirs and at Birmingham Conservatoire.

 Caryl Thomas is a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and New York University. Widely recognised as one of the most accomplished solo recital harpists of her generation, she has performed to great critical acclaim throughout Europe, the United States, Scandinavia, Russia and Japan. In 2007, Caryl was Chairperson of Arpa Viva Cymru, the 7th European Harp Symposium.

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Would you just look at what The Guardian have been saying about the weekend’s chamber music spectacular in the Dora Stoutzker Hall?

Four stars – huzzah!

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