Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Props to Opera Singers (cool quote)

Abby is reading a book about opera called "What's All the Screaming About" by Roger Englander, and though it is a little dated it's a lot of fun. It's a good one to recommend to someone thinking about getting into opera but isn't sure where to start.

She read a quote to me that I thought really captured what it means to study to be an opera singer:

"Great opera singers are worthy of public acclaim. Consider their training and their responsibilities. They must study all facets of music: not only its literature, but also its theory and history. They must learn vocal production and breath control. They must learn many languages, master good diction, know stage deportment, and acquire acting techniques. They must learn how to create character makeup. They must be able to memorize lengthy musical scores and texts. They must maintain hearty constitutions to sustain themselves through daily work that is physically and mentally strenuous. The amount of energy expended in the performance of many operatic roles is equal to that expended by an athlete in the Olympics."

I always get a kick out of people who give me that funny look when I tell them I'm a singer--that look that says, "really? all you do is sing?". Well, guess what, I have a heartier constitution than those people! And I've worked hard to get it!

Here's the book:

Have a good one!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ideas for Chldren's Art Songs?

I am in the process of programming a recital for children, and I am surprised by the lack of art music that I can use. There are, of course, the children's songs by Russian composers like Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, etc. But other than that it seems like I am on a wild goose chase.

I have found the few German Art Songs I think would be appropriate (I read through the entire Fischer-Diskau book), and also found several French songs. Does anyone know of any American Art Songs that would be great for kids?

In general, the rules I set for myself were that they have some kind of narrative, and also some kind of character. So songs about an animal behaving in some human way are great (i.e. Die Forelle), or songs in which children could use their imagination. I am trying to steer clear of some of the scarier pieces like Erlkonig.

So, let me know if you have any ideas.

Also, I am brainstorming how to pull off a performance for kids and make it interesting. Any ideas? I know I am going to make it a Saturday afternoon recital so it won't be so late. Also, I was thinking about using power point slides of illustrations/paintings that would play during each song. I will be singing all of the pieces in English, otherwise I am sure that the pieces will go right over their heads.

I think this will be a really fun exercise in performance practice and diction, as the most important goals for me are understandability, entertainment, and communication. And seriously, shouldn't those always be our goals anyway?

I look forward to seeing your ideas!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Salzburg 2005 - La Traviata (Netrebko, Villazon) Review

I am usually not a big fan of minimalist works when it comes to opera. I think all too often the director is using the production as an opportunity to shine the spotlight on his/herself and not on the work. But I recently saw one of the most amazing modern productions of La Traviata ever!

Anna Netrebko sings the role of Violetta and Rolando Villazon sings Alfredo, with Thomas Hampson singing Germont. The cast is already great, and Willie Decker's staging puts the work into a light all its own. It may not be what you are used to, but it is certainly worth your time. The test for a modern production for me is if I leave thinking about the piece are just scratching my head because it went so far above it. In Decker's production, the message is made so much clearer with the staging.

The singing is fantastic with all three of the leads doing a phenomenal job. Netrebko may be my new favorite soprano! She does such an incredible job in this opera, and never misses a beat. Her "Sempre Libera" is unique in that she delivers it in death's face with such defiance. When she turns and shatter her champagne class against the wall right below the doctor (who represents death in this production) it paints a picture of Violetta that I had never seen before.

Here is the aria:

You've got to check this one out. Amazon has it on sale (click below).

Happy watching!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sing for the Summer

Hello readers!

I wanted to let you all know about a summer program I am running called "Sing for the Summer". I originally designed this program to give high school age singers an opportunity to keep their skills sharp while they were away from school. However, I soon realized that it was also a wonderful opportunity for beginners of all ages to get a taste of how lessons work and decide whether or not they would like to take lessons themselves.

Since I have a special program for children many parents have seen this as a chance to get their kids started. I have also had many mothers and fathers use this program to finally take those voice lessons they have always considered.

The course is intense and lots of fun, designed to get you started or keep you going. The fundamentals we focus on apply to any style. In other words, not everyone comes out of the eight lessons sounding like an opera singer (unless that is what you want). We work on fundamental techniques that every singer needs to work on, and then apply those techniques to whatever style you are most interested in.

The program also includes two master classes (taught by two of Florida State's finest singers), and for my students in Tallahassee, a recital on August 9th. One of my students will also win a free iPod nano!

An exciting new development this year is I am also offering this program online. I have been successfully teaching online for about a year now and have found it to be quite effective. So, if you have a webcam and a good internet connection this can be an option for you as well. You can use the eight lessons to see if it works for you, then go from there later.

If you have an interest, you can email me at eric@erichansontenor.com and I can discuss this with you more. Again, it's a lot of fun, and slots are filling up really fast so let me know if you are interested ASAP!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sabbath Songs - Examples on My Site

Just as an update, I am starting to put musical examples from my upcoming album Sabbath Songs. Just click on the media link on my site, or CLICK HERE. I only have one clip up right now, and more will be coming shortly.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bach - I've made a new friend

Yesterday I had the opportunity to perform Bach's "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben" from the Christmas Oratorio in Florida State's bi-weekly vocal seminar. It was my first time performing Bach in public, and I have to admit I was quite nervous. I am used to believing that in my fach I wasn't able to move my voice at those kinds of speeds. But now that I have pulled it off successfully, and seen what working on this piece did for the rest of my technique, I have decided I have to explore Bach further.

It appears that there is some truth to the idea that if you can sing Mozart and Bach, you can sing anything. I would encourage all "bigger" voices to look at ways to make your sound more flexible. I for one am tired of listening to heavier Verdi and Wagner being sung by voices that have vibratos wider than a mack-truck. One of my favorite recordings is Ben Heppner singing Idomeneo, flying through the coloratura. He is probably the most important American Heldentenor around, and yet listening to him sing Wagner is a delight because his voice still has such vibrancy.

So, though I spent most of my career thinking that Bach simply wasn't for me, I have changed my tune - literally :).