Archive for the ‘Opera and Vocal Studies’ Category

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.

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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… 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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We were cosied up in the Vue cinema on Saturday night for the live screening of Phantom of the Opera from the Royal Albert Hall. And while we were munching our popcorn and trying not to sing along to All I Ask of You, we spotted a fair few RWCMD graduates on the big screen.

We spied not one, not, two, not even three, but six of our former students in the cast: Christian Jon Billet, Siani Owen, Katy Treharne, Tabitha Webb, Howard Ellis and AJ Callahan.

And with our first cohort of MA Musical Theatre students about to perform their London showcase in front of a theatre full of agents and casting directors, we should be spotting plenty more graduates in the West End over the next year. Watch this space!

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We’ve been up at the Eisteddfod in Wrexham for the past week, meeting the great Welsh public and generally enjoying all things Welsh and cultural (and a bit of sunshine too).

And our students and graduates have been flying the flag for the college by winning various awards and accolades.

From our Acting courses, Non Davies, Sion Ifans, Ceri Elen and Gwawr Loader were winners in Sherman Cymru‘s annual Eisteddfod Script Slam.

In music, two vocal studies graduates – Llio Evans and Eirlys Myfanwy Davies took second and third places in the W. Towyn Roberts competition.

And we loved hearing about current students Meilir Jones and Jessica Robinson, who practised their winning duet over Skype.

Congratulations everyone! Llongyfarchiadau i bawb!

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Director Martin Constantine and MA Opera Performance students discuss their approach to updating Die Fledermaus on Classic FM.

Come and see this exuberant masterpiece from Tues 29th – Thurs 31st March at Weston Studio in the Wales Millennium Centre.

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