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at Danny Kaye / courtesy of the Richard Tucker Foundation
- by Charles Handelman
Dear fellow opera-lovers,

Although I still hold to my staunch opinion that we no longer find a large number of truly "great" opera stars on the order of a Tebaldi or a Gigli, I nevertheless continue to thrill to the voices and artistry of several young people I have been hearing lately, particularly those who have been performing at various auditions and master classes. Last night, at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse in New York City (Hunter College), Regina Resnik, a famous alumni of this institution, offered one of brilliant master classes under the auspices of the Richard Tucker Foundation.

It was the first event of this kind I have ever attended, although I have seen several on video, most of which were simply superficial attempts on the part of some well-known opera singers to "instruct" young singers in their craft; however, what I viewed last night was a masterful lesson in vocal technique, style, and interpretation even within a brief two-hour time frame.

We first beheld the very beautiful soprano Meagan Miller, who performed the grueling "Come scoglio" from Cosi Fan Tutte with remarkable beauty of voice,brilliant top tones, and total command of the extremely rangy aria that only an Eleanor Steber could pull off with success. After hearing the aria in its entirety, Regina spent some time on the recitative in particular, discussion the various "vocal moods" and the necessity to color the vocal tone according to the text and mood a la Mozart/DaPonte. She later offered some further suggestions on the need to expend less on the attacks on certain florid passages, allowing the voice to "ride more easily." (I only hope I am phrasing this properly, since there was so much offered, and I did not take notes.) Regina also requested that Ms.Miller use a bit more "chest voice" in certain areas, not fearing that this would do damage... it certainly did not, as one could hear the change for the better, and one could realize that Ms.Miller's technique is so solid that she could make these extra effects with no harm done.

We then heard the excellent lyric baritone, Troy Cook, whose "Avant de quitter" from Faust was sung with beauty of tone and a most engaging depth of emotion. My,they surely make this all look easy..and those of us who have studied KNOW how difficult this all is! I began to watch Regina on the repeats, attempting to anticipate where she might interrupt with suggestions, especially since I study this aria. She slowed the pace down, feeling that the conductor "would approve" if it were sung well (I guess she never sang for Muti!!!). She asked for a certain tone or two to be sung more "roundly"or "in line" and there was an improvement as Mr.Cook, like all these artists, took it in so beautifully and showed great understanding of what was required.

I was then bowled over by the amazing resonace and beauty of tone of bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi, who sings small roles at the Met (at least now he does.) He chose the "drunk aria" from Bizet's Jolie Fille de Perthe, "Quand la flamme d'amour," which allows the singer to make all sorts of interesting sounds. Even before Regina offered her suggestions, this young man made me wonder when he was going to give a New York recital. This is one of the most beautiful voices I have heard, and he seems to have a limitless amount of volume that is capable of giving those old-time "goosebumps." Regina suggested he sing one section "like a tenor" and then asked for a low note to be attacked in such a wonderful way that it caused audible laughter, a perfect reaction to this semi-comical piece. In the "Aprite un po" from Le Nozze di Figaro, Regina asked for less characterization and more "square singing" which I agree,brought out the sheer beauty of Mr.Carfizzi's voice more appropriately.

I must pause here and remark that Mr.Carfizzi might "look like a Leporello but sound like a Don Giovanni" and this brings to my mind the question of appearance in opera. Suppose Thomas Quastoff sounded like Titta Ruffo? Suppose Josef Schmidt was among us today? Tetrazzini? Suppose Enrico Caruso was four feet tall and 6 feet wide? Would opera impresarios DENY audiences these singers? I submit that most theatres today would say a big "NO" to these hypothetical inquiries, in favor of "bare-chested sexy tenors" or " adorable little soubrettes."

Ezio Flagello rarely go to do "basso heroes" and Mr. Carfizzi,whose voice reminds me in part of this wonderful artist SHOULD SING more than merely buffo roles. I am not saying this will necessarily occur, but I wonder where it is written that when a composer wrote music, it was written for a certain "visual image." I'll take Caballe and Pavarotti in Boheme any day!!!!!

Now to the last but far-from- least artist, the magnificient mezzo,Jill Grove. What's she doing in small roles? She tore into the Principessa aria from Adriana like the great mezzos I have heard, and since I saw Regina in this role, I was anxious to watch her reactions. She did ask for a "smile' on the "O vagabonda stella" section and requested a more swelled last tone. Ms.Grove possesses a truly rich true mezzo voice of stunning quality. After a season of Zajick and Blythe, this young lady is no less effective!

Then Ms.Grove began the great Fricka Monologue,another of Mme.Resnik's great roles. Regina spoke of the need to "use the text and the pronunciation" to enhance the vocal elements, and spoke of the alliteration in words like "Walse, w´┐Żlfish, in Walde" and when she arrived at one of the sections I have always noted in Regina's own interpretation (Bayreuth 1961 recording) on the words "Namen gefielen," as I might have suspected, she asked for a more insinuating tone. You see, my friends, this is a TRUE master of the vocal art. Regina Resnik, who appears to "know everything about everything" (well,almost) and these young people took it all in and rewarded the appreciative audience with floods of beautiful sound and superb artistry.

Perhaps in this new Millenium scientists could discover a way of cloning a Resnik or a Moedl or an Olivero or a Bergonzi and "spread it all around"so that more and more young people could benefit from their genius. Thanks to Mme. Resnik and these remarkable young artists for a joyful evening of song, and most of all, an education!!!

© Charles Handelman 2000
This article was also posted on Opera-L, rec.music.opera, Opera Oasis (AOL), and Met Standing Room.
Photo: ©FanFaire1997

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