It was a symphonic weekend, starting with guest soloist Renee Fleming on Thursday evening. The concert opener was Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and in the 12 minutes that elapsed from downbeat to cutoff, we went from stagnant 95-degree heat to a full-blown meteorological event. As the final notes died away, the storm reached its peak and we were plunged into darkness.
Well, it wasn’t really that dramatic, but continuing the show with backup power was a challenge. Emil entertained the crowd for a few minutes (including a plug for the upcoming Wizard of Oz that encouraged folks to come and enjoy “If I Only Had a Brain – a song you wish you’d hear more often in Washington, DC.”
Friday night brought a “Video Game Symphony” – about 6,000 concert-goers, many many of them first-timers. My son’s a gamer, so this stuff isn’t all new to me. And some of the scores aren’t bad at all. It’s film music for a new generation and it certainly has a fighting chance to re-invent the Symphonic Pops audience. I’m not one of those folks who believes that the Pops audience will ever migrate to mainstream symphony in any significant numbers, but I’m still all for this. (A scene from Mario Bros. on the giant screen above)
I did appreciate Tim Page’s article in yesterday’s Post about the passing of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. Most particularly this paragraph:
The best evaluation of Schwarzkopf remains that of the English critic J.B. Steane in his invaluable book “The Great Tradition”: “The thought and art are so marvelously exact that one wants to call them calculated, which immediately suggests something unfeeling and insincere; yet this is self-evidently absurd, for insincerity, like sentimentality, betrays itself by inexactness and distortion. What one has in Schwarzkopf is a high degree of awareness — of colors and styles, and of the existence of choice.”
Indeed, that’s something that we’re too often willing to overlook when we work with aspiring singers. We could do worse than to cultivate a high degree of awareness of the power of choice.
(Postscript: I must confess, though, that I was among those young musicians terrified during a master class with Miss Schwarzkopf in the 80’s.)
Passing It On
Speaking of such things, I’ve forgotten to report that three of our singers did a Non-Master Class a few weeks ago with some aspiring high school and undergraduate singers. The idea is to allow the younger singers to ask questions of artists who are just a few steps beyond them in their career paths. And who are likely to have more detailed, current answers to their burning career questions than the teachers/coaches/parents. Things like whether or not it’s essential to go to a big name conservatory for undergraduate study (emphatically no), whether it’s OK to move your arms at all in an audition (yes), and how critical it is to develop a full character in order to sing an excerpted aria (very).
Other topics included language fluency and study, the difficulty in performing baroque da capo arias, ways to deal with preludes/postludes/interludes, and how important it is to keep one’s perspective in this wacky industry.