Meryl Streep: From Miranda to Margaret, Julia to…Sills?

February 24, 2012

Oh, Meryl.  Not only can you embody Margaret Thatcher and voice Julia Child, but you’re an opera singer too?

Well, sort of.

During an NPR “Fresh Air” interview on Monday, February 6th (summarized in this LA Times article the next day), Streep revealed that she studied voice with Estelle Liebling, who also taught America’s soprano-sweetheart Beverly Sills.  Though she hated opera as a teenager- admitting she didn’t feel comfortable performing opera because it was often in a language she couldn’t quite grasp- the actress went on to explain how her vocal training influenced her versatile speaking voice, stating

  “I learned the importance of breath. There was a thing I learned in my lessons from Estelle — to breathe from your back. She would always say, there’s room in the back — that you expand three dimensionally. … I use it all.”

Still, Streep confessed that she loved singing and “had a very good coloratura voice.”  Too bad she didn’t keep it up.  She should have something to fall back on in case her career doesn’t take off.


Composers and the Voice 2011/12 – Workshop Day 1

September 16, 2011

And they’re off!  Monday, September 12 was the first day of the Composers & the Voice 2011/12 Workshop Series, and it was a long invigorating day.  More on that below.  This blog post, and the ones that will follow more or less every 2 weeks, are intended to serve two purposes.  First, they will provide an ongoing forum for discussion and reflection by the 8 Composer and Librettist Fellows, as well as the Artistic Team— a place where ideas and questions that came up during the workshop session can be investigated further.  Second, these blog postings will provide the greater AOP family, and new opera enthusiasts everywhere, a glimpse into our workshop room.

The workshop day began at 3:00 with a quick orientation session, but then dove right into the fray with the first of our 9 Improvisation and Theater Games sessions, led by Terry Greiss of the Irondale Ensemble.  I first met Terry 23 years ago (yikes!) when I began a semester-long internship with Irondale– the final part of my undergrad degree at Drew University.  I ended up working with Irondale for close to 5 years, and so much of what I learned through my immersion in the company’s use of improv and theater games as tools for generating theatrical material, as well as building strong cooperative teams, continues to have a profound influence on my day to day work today.

In Monday’s 2-hour session Terry led us through the following games:

Terry Greiss

Instructor Terry Greiss leads an improv session while composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and C&V Artistic Director Steven Osgood listen.

Zip Zap Zop

Mind Twist

Chair Tumble

One Word Story

One Word Fairy Tale

String of Pearls

Upside Down Drawing

One Word Letters/Scenes

Tell Me about the Time

My advice to the Composer/Librettist Fellows going into this course of Improv study was to dive in, play the games, and not to worry about how this all relates to the writing process.  It was great fun to sink into the high-energy full body challenge of Zip Zap Zop, and Mind Twist.  I found Chair Tumble to be an intriguing look at how difficult it is to TRULY risk falling down.  One Word Story, One Word Fairy Tales, and String of Pearls had our group of 10, who had just met an hour earlier, building stories together with the freedom to respond intuitively.  I think I was messing with the CD player when Terry was giving instructions to Upside Down Drawing.  While everyone else copied surprisingly skilled portraits of Igor Stravinsky, I was having a blast more or less coloring mine in.  Ah well….  One Word Letters/Scenes and Tell Me about the Time got us all out of our heads, and investigating a greater freedom of telling a story.

Soprano Andrea Arias-Martin sings

Soprano Andrea Arias-Martin sings for the 2011-12 composers & librettists.

After the dinner break we were joined by the Music Directors and Singers who we will be working with throughout the season.  Each of the singers had about 25 minutes to sing and dissect three arias that they feel are perfectly suited to their particular voice.  I love this session, and the look it gives into how each singer approaches singing, how difficult it can be to express in words this most elusive of physical acts, and how wonderfully these particular singers can articulate the process.  It is the crash-course part of Composers & the Voice, after which things relax a little as each composer gets to write for the singers one by one.  Once 10:00 rolled around, it was time for a glass or two of Riesling.

Next Session– September 26.  Just composers and librettists.  Improv 2, and Acting 1.


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