Sunday, August 22, 2010

Merola Finale

One of the purposes of Merola training at the San Francisco Opera Center seems to be acquainting the young people with the nooks and crannies of operatic repertoire.  Thus at last night's Merola Grand Finale 2010 we were treated to...

A Handel Aria (Kevin Ray, tenor)

A substantial amount of Romantic French, including
·         an aria from Mignon (Robin Flynn, mezzo)
·         an aria from Thais (Rebecca Davis, soprano)
·         a duet from Hamlet (Abigail Santos Villalobos, soprano & Dan Kempson, baritone) and
·         a duet from Romeo et Juliette (Nadine Sierra, soprano & Daniel Montenegro, tenor).

An even richer selection from the bel canto, including
·         an aria from I Puritani (Ao Li, baritone)
·         a duet from La Fille du Regiment (Abigail Santos Villalobos, soprano & Eleazar Rodriguez, tenor)
·         a duet from Lucia di Lammermoor (Valentina Fleer, soprano & Sidney Outlaw, baritone)
·         an aria from Norma (Renee Rapier, mezzo) and
·         a duet from Don Pasquale (Janai Brugger-Orman, soprano & Benjamin Covey, baritone).

 “O du mein holder Abendstern” from Tannhauser (Ryan Kuster, baritone).

Two bits from R. Strauss that included
·         bit from Die schweigsame Frau, something I’ve never seen but now am curious (Kevin Thompson, bass)
·         duet from Ariadne auf Naxos (Hye Jung Lee, soprano & Colleen Brooks, mezzo).

Scene from The Rake’s Progress (Janai Brugger-Orman, soprano, Alexander Lewis, tenor, Kevin Thompson, bass).

Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hye Jung Lee, soprano, Thomas Florio, baritone and others).

The Finale from Nozze di Figaro.

Not one thing from Verdi or any verismo composer.

Now I know that opera singing is hard.  The lesson of my own extensive education was that it was far easier to learn music as music instead of as rows of notes with words attached.  In other words, learn the notes and the phrasing together.  Never fall prey to the idea that I'll save the phrasing for later.  I'll learn how to phrase music when I'm getting gray hair.  No.  If necessary, learn the phrasing first and save the notes for later.  I'd 100 times prefer a few mistakes in phrased music than endless robotic performances with absolutely no musical clue.

Who knew, e.g., that the finale to Figaro was so repetitious and monotonous?

Giving credit where it is due:  the duet from Romeo et Juliette was charming and very moving.  This opera is growing on me.  The duet from Don Pasquale wasn't too bad.  That's about it.  Even the obscure corners of opera have something musical to say.  The scene between Zerbinetta and the Composer, for instance, is utterly charming.  Normally.  Not here.  You won't fool me with acting.  In other words, the presence of acting will not distract me into not noticing the absence of phrasing.

Post Script:  Obviously if they are all doing it, it isn't the singers who are at fault.

PPS:  When I pointed out that the Merola final concert included no Verdi or verismo, I meant this as no criticism. And "O du mein holder Abendstern" cannot be considered killer Wagner. In a comment about the Santa Fe opera I said I did not think Merola tried to push young singers into heavy repertoire or vocal production, something that might be happening in Santa Fe. Selection of lighter repertoire is a factor in this process. The aim is to work very hard, learn a lot about repertoire, languages, acting, etc., but leave the technique pretty much in tact. They should be praised for this.  

No comments: