Archive for the ‘RWCMD Life’ 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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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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 We’ll be getting out our best spots on Friday as we welcome Children in Need  going out live to the nation from our foyer, presented by Wales Today’s Lucy Owen and Jamie Owen.

Singing live will be a choir of local school children, who will then take part in a live link-up with choirs from around the UK, led by choirmaster extraordinaire Gareth Malone. Watch out for a Pudsey somewhere as well, trying to get in on the action.

Please note, this event is for an invited audience only, but you can watch it on the TV  on BBC One Wales from 7.30 pm, and give online to this amazing cause: http://www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey/donate/

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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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The Independent came to visit our new facilities recently. Here’s what they thought.

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Multi-award-winning Indie film Weekend, featuring RWCMD Acting graduate Tom Cullen, is released in selective cinemas this week. This unconventional love story between two men trying to make sense of their lives, is attracting its two lead actors plenty of critical attention.

Claudia Winkleman, and critic Danny Leigh rave about the film on the latest Film 2011: Danny calls it “a genuinely brilliant love story…a brilliant piece of film-making”, and compares it to Beyond Sunset and other classic love stories.

Tom, and his co-star Chris New, were both nominated for the BFI London Film Festival Best Newcomers Award.

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Uncle Bryn In The House

The house was packed last night for the homecoming of past student Rob Brydon as part of his current UK tour. It was Rob’s first visit to the college since the opening of the new buildings earlier this year, and he was amazed by the transformation. “It was perfectly adequate before,” he said, “but now, well, this is incredible.” He couldn’t quite believe that the original building had been preserved behind the stunning contemporary additions, “It’s like St Fagan’s,” he mused during the show – a reference to Wales’ national heritage museum, which the local audience certainly appreciated. The show, based on Rob’s recently launched autobiography, Small Man in a Book, also included his best loved impressions of Ronnie Corbett, Michael Caine, Alan Bennett, Anthony Hopkins and of course, the ‘small man in a box’. One of the highlights was a bizarre rendition of the children’s book The Gruffalo in the style of Al Pacino, which had the audience roaring. He went on to provide an entertaining summary of his extensive voice-over work, leaving the audience nodding in suprise recognition and wondering if there were any brands he hadn’t worked for.  Rob also talked fondly about his time at the college with classmate Dougray Scott, whom he describes in the book as being “much more serious than me”. Well Rob, it takes all sorts and we love you just the way you are!

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