Composers & the Voice – 2013-14 Librettist Fellows, Jason Kim
American Opera Project’s Composers & the Voice program has been well under way during what’s turning out to be a chilly New York fall.
At the fourth session, held on October 28th, the group began the evening with an improv workshop led by the fantastic Terry Greiss of the Irondale Ensemble. Terry guides us in fluid, relaxed, enjoyable improv sessions, and this one was no different. Our musical brains were immediately engaged when Terry asked us to pick a song that everybody would know and then to sing the song out loud while walking around the rehearsal space. The goal: have every single person sing the same song under three minutes’ time. After some failed attempts, including a botched rendition of America the Beautiful, we were able to settle into a lovely chorus of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
In addition to being sheer fun, the improv sessions help C&V think about performance three-dimensionally. Through improv, we are able to experience what it might feel like to be a performer and to think critically about space, tension, and interconnectedness.
The second half of the evening was dedicated to discussing a handful of topics related to our opera curriculum. For the past several weeks, we have been busy analyzing two scores: Puccini’s La Boheme and Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. By mapping out each singer’s range, we are able to gather what Puccini and Mozart had in mind both musically and thematically. Why for instance does Marcello sing syllabically when Musetta sings melismatically at a very high register? In what ways does Despina’s role change when she is in disguise?
Despina’s disguise in the opera Cosi fan tutte (at 1:15:36)
Because we are writing for six different voice types – bass/baritone, baritone, tenor, mezzo, dramatic soprano, and lyric coloratura – investigating Puccini and Mozart has been tremendously clarifying in thinking about the various needs and expectations of each voice. Speaking of voice type, Steve Osgood, Artistic Director of AOP, directed us in a fun exercise: listing an array of adjectives that come to mind when thinking of each voice. Many patterns came to surface. Composers often write heroic roles for baritones while leaving the romantic parts to tenors. Coloraturas are often coquettish, young, and flighty whereas dramatic sopranos tend to play passionate, intense, powerful roles.
During the final stretch of the evening, the composers discussed their progress with the final projects. Needless to say, we have a very exciting slate shaping up for our fall 2014 concert! Hope to see you there!
Jason Kim, librettist
October 28, 2013