Where to start?

Hello, everyone – study and coaching are glorious, but it’s an effort due to the heat and mosquitoes, which follow us to the school where we have classes.

Here is a typical day – in fact, this was my day today (Francesca, the scheduling coordinator, sends out the schedule around 9:00 pm for the next day):

  • 10:30 – half hour vocal coaching with Giovanni
  • 12:30 – half hour vocal coaching with Felice
  • 13:30 – 15:00 (1:30-3) – lunch
  • 15:00 – lecture by Jack
  • 16:30 – voice lesson with Nelly (that’s 4:30)
  • 18:30 – half hour dramatic coaching with Dona
I try arrive at the school where we have classes (about a 12 min. walk from my flat) at 8:30 in order to warm up…finding a place to warm up for the day is problematic, as it was last year in Sicily…however, we have about half the number of singers this session (22 compared to 44) which makes it easier. Walking to the school in the morning is very pleasant because the sun is not shining directly on the pathway. Coming home (especially if one is carrying a shopping bag full of groceries) is another story.

Let me say now that my mobility and pain level are about a 7.5 on a scale of 1-10. Even the short walk to school is problematic, and in order to get from the school to the restaurant where our pre-paid lunch is served (as well as getting to the local pharmacy and grocery store, called the “Coop”) requires descending 56 stairs (yep, I counted them), and of course, ASCENDING the same stair case to return to school. 

What next? I get my knees replaced, and now I have tendon/ankle issues. I am not above begging for rides home at the end of the day from Vittorio, the Italian teacher (beginner, intermediate, and advanced Italian classes are taught in the afternoons between 4:00 and 6:30 but I don’t attend due to (a) voice coachings or lessons, or (b) no energy to concentrate! I hate not taking advantage of this, but by late afternoon I am wiped out, as are most of the participants.

Anyway, I wear my ugly orthotics, ice every night, and do my best to sit and rest my feet whenever possible. Bottom line – I am not letting these physical issues prevent me from getting the most out of my trip!

Now…here are some vocal technical things that you civilians might not want to read.

I am preparing for our first concert (scheduled for Friday, August 21) “Voi lo sapete” from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana (I performed the character role of Mama Lucia from this same opera in western MA in May…this aria is sung by Santuzza, the tragic heroine).

I have performed the role of Santuzza, and spent a lot of time preparing this short, very dramatic piece before my departure. I THOUGHT I was prepared, but the level of detail that Nelly and the Italian vocal coaches I am working with have been eye-popping. (Or voice popping).  Every vowel, every consonant, every gesture has been examined and re-worked. Nelly especially has dug deeply into the approach to the vowels and use of consonants to further the drama and angst of Santuzza.

I have also worked the following with Scott Crowne, the one American coach on staff:

  • Befreit (the Strauss song I performed at Janet & Eric’s on 7/19)
  • La Seduzione (Verdi song that Eric has worked on)

I am here to tell you that these pieces are also TOTALLY reworked, and I plan to pass that on for the Verdi to Eric.

Note to Eric:  we will be reworking this song in the fall; no more pleasant little, sad Floriana…I want you to approach this song from the standpoint of her outraged father who is relating the tragic story of his daughter’s ruin by a scoundrel with as much temperament and anger you can muster for a mid-westerner.

Next – Befreit. I coached this with Scott, who has played it many times in concert for his wife Leah Crowne. He encouraged me to think of it in 2 rather than 4…it keeps the forward momentum going that I always harp on to you all. He asked me my views on the poem, and I basically told him what I spoke about at the 7/19 concert…a loving couple about to split, uncertain whether due to divorce or terminal illness. He liked my take on it. He also pointed out that the opening phrases in the accompaniment (C minor triplets) are reminiscent of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, and that Strauss admitted he used that piece as his inspiration.

Scott and I had a great coaching on Befreit, and I hope to sing it for the Jennifer Larmore master class on August 24. I am taking advantage of these great coaches to work on some of the recital music for Max and Janet’s and my 9/20 recital.

Finally, from 3:00-4:00 every afternoon, Jack gives a lecture. Today’s was the most helpful…it was all about support, the basis for vocal production. Some of it it still a mystery to me but I am working through it and hope to bring back to my wonderful students a treasure chest of vocal wisdom…I will do my best!

Ciao for now!

PS – because of my ankle pain, I have cancelled my weekend in Venice…just can’t manage it. My friend Simone (who had reserved a nice, free flat for me for Sunday night and Monday night) has told me that Venice is also VERY hot, and I just couldn’t manage walking around a favorite tourist spot clogged with people. However, Simone and her handsome Venetian husband Alessandro are spending this weekend here in Tuscany at a resort, and I will be meeting them Friday at 13:00 (1:00) for lunch. Then, on Saturday, they will pick me up here at my apartment and we will go on a 10 hour wine tasting tour through Tuscany. Yay – wine! So…I will get to see them and spend time with them, just not in Venice (Jack says that Venice is about 5 hours by train from Florence…and I would have to get to Florence first (another 45 min from Greve)…I would be totally exhausted with the travels not to mention missing 2 days of classes…Monday and Tuesday…so I am glad that I made this decision not to go to Venice.

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