Yesterday I attended a masterclass with Rosa Lamoureux, a popular DC-area soloist. Hosted by the National Philharmonic at the Strathmore Music Center, the masterclass featured 5 university students – 4 from George Mason and 1 from Montgomery College – who sang pieces by a diverse selection of composers including Bach, Handel, Paisello, Gluck, and even Rogers and Hammerstein. Each singer had a very lovely voice and seemed energized about the experience.
Ms. Lamoureux, considered a Bach and oratorio specialist, was gracious and supportive to each student as well as efficient (considering they packed 9 songs into 2 hours, there wasn’t much time to spend on each piece, but she managed to hone in on the most important issues.) She stressed the importance of expression in text and its role in informing the music. So many of us voice students hammer away at technique, it’s easy to forget that we are actually telling a story! Not that technique isn’t important -it absolutely is! – but sometimes a moment of unique expression can lead the voice where it needs to go. Consider, for example, the tenor aria from Bach’s Mass in B minor. How many times can we sing the word “Benedictus” and make it sound different? Well, perhaps the way to make it sound fresh each time is to really mean it: benedictus as “blessed.”
Another important point she made was how to bring out the action of an operatic aria without moving around and physically acting it out. A singer’s eyes can do a lot of the work. What is your setting in this aria? Can you see the room you’re in? If you can see your surroundings, the audience will understand. How can you react from one line to the next? Acting is re-acting, remember, but you don’t necessarily need other players to react to. React to the words, and that will be enough.
Finally, I love that she addressed the shaping of Italian and French “o” sounds. It is easy for us Americans to complicate the simplicity and subtlety of vowel sounds in different languages, but it helps to remember that the face should not fall when shaping an O. Many tend to cover the O just a little too much, and while it should be round and dome-like, the face and lips should stay in a slightly high position, with a little bit of front teeth out there to achieve a forward, bright sound.
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