21 August 2010

The Festival at Canari, Part 4: Being There

So what’s on the program for this year’s Festival International du Chant Lyrique de Canari? A surprise guest, for starters: legendary French coloratura soprano Renée Doria will be in attendance. As Stephen Mudge’s interview with her in the August 2010 issue of OPERA NEWS makes clear, Mme Doria is abundantly equipped with insight and opinions, and though she won’t be conducting any master classes, she’s certain to share her perspectives — a rare opportunity to learn, as well as an unexpected treat.

This being an even-numbered year, the Festival will be given over to master classes conducted by soprano Michèle Command and baritone Gabriel Bacquier, focusing on technique and interpretation, respectively. All the classes are open to the public, and culminate in a concert on Friday, 10 September. This provides a remarkable opportunity to watch young artists learning, developing, and displaying their talents over one week of intensive work.

Belle, éternellement: Renée Doria

The program is as follows: Michèle Command will direct the first session with the students (Saturday, 4 September, 3:00 to 8:00 PM), concentrating on vocal technique, breathing, posture, articulation, projection, and placement of the voice, range, and tessitura. You will never again take good singing for granted.

Gabriel Bacquier will guide students toward repertory choices best suited to their vocal quality, color and character, their personalities, timbre, and vocal strength. Throughout the classes, he’ll instruct them in the best ways to interpret the selected repertory. This is a show in itself.

La Master Class
Photo by Rita Scaglia©
Used with permission.

For the next few days, students will work closely with both teachers in morning (9:00 to 12:00) and afternoon (4:00 to 7:00 PM) sessions. Typically, Michèle Command holds forth in the sanctuary of the Convent, while Gabriel Bacquier presides over the cloister. (Sunday, 5 September, through noon on Thursday, 9 September.)

The long break between morning and evening classes is absolutely necessary, not only to the stamina of the artists involved, but also because lunch in Corsica is not (and should not be) a quickie affair.

On Thursday afternoon, rehearsals begin for the big concert (3:00 to 8:00 PM), with a dress rehearsal beginning at the ungodly hour of 9:00 on Friday morning. Most professional singers I know are unaware that there is such a thing as 9:00 AM on the day of a performance, but these young artists are a hardy lot, and they’re not trying to blow the roof off the Convent. Not yet.

Le Concert
Seated in the front row: Jacques Scaglia, Michèle Command, Gabriel Bacquier
Photo by Rita Scaglia©
Used with permission.

At 4:00 PM on Friday, 10 September, the closing concert begins. Seating space is limited, so you’ll want to get there early.

Afterward, there’s a cocktail party (usually in the cloister, weather permitting), where you can compare notes with your fellow audience members and congratulate the young artists, as well as the indefatigable pianists, Sylvie Lechevalier-Bartoli and Olivier Cangelosi, who will have played, hour after hour, day after day, repertory from Gluck to Gershwin, Mozart to Massenet.

What the official program doesn’t fully suggest is how much fun all this is. The physical beauty of the setting — the man-made convent contrasting with the natural wonders of the rocks, trees, and sea — corresponds to the beauty of music, in which natural sound is shaped and directed by art. The air is invigorating, the personalities captivating, the experience pretty much unforgettable. Do you wonder that I’m so enthusiastic?

WVM with Gabriel Bacquier.
I know I’ve used this picture here before,
but it’s one of my proudest possessions. Deal with it.

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