Auditioning in Italian: three tools in the text

Auditioning in Italian: three tools in the text

Auditioning in Italian: three tools in the text Melofonetica

Beyond demonstrating language ability, how can good diction help the singer in an audition scenario? Matteo Dalle Fratte, Melofonetica Founder, discusses three tools in the text that can help singers to both feel fully in control of their performance and to sing with greater impact:

 

In sung Italian there are specific tools directly linked to diction that can be very powerful in tackling the challenges of an audition. They are equally as important for performing in other settings, so I really encourage singers to master these.

 

Firstly: first impressions really count. It’s important for singers to use the text to fully engage the panel right from the very first word. That’s why the attacco del suono in Italian, meaning the ‘start of the sound’, is fundamental. This means articulating the beginning of the first line (and indeed subsequent lines) with well connected breath support and clear intention, both musically and dramatically. In the Melofonetica Method, the attacco del suono is usually achieved by using a long consonant at the beginning of a line – or preceding a vowel with a long glottal stop.

 

Secondly, a skilful use of rubato really makes a performance shine. In Italian, this means understanding which sounds in the text can be correctly lengthened to enhance expression without compromising diction. Sometimes this occurs on vowels, other times on consonants. This is where a singer can really add depth and emotion to their performance – and where the distinctive phonetic pattern and musicality of sung Italian truly emerge.

 

Thirdly, when put together, the sequence of long and short consonants that characterises the Italian language creates a roadmap through the score. Once the singer has identified all the long consonants in their text (including written double consonants and those applied for expression or emphasis), they can use these as anchoring points through the piece. These points help the singer to know where they’re heading, create more confident phrasing and make better use of tempo, timbre and dynamics.

 

We know that good diction in sung Italian isn’t just a nice addition but is integral to technique and overall performance. Many methods of singing over the centuries have mentioned the range of technical benefits that singing with good diction brings. As Pacchierotti, renowned 17th century singer and singing teacher famously said in his memoirs, “Chi sa ben sillabare e ben respirare, saprà ben cantare”, meaning he/she who breathes and articulates well, will sing well.

 

In a demanding audition scenario, it’s also reassuring for the singer to be able to draw on very specific tools within the phonetics of sung Italian in order to communicate their aria expressively and confidently to the panel.

 

For one-to-one audition preparation coaching in sung Italian – contact us for full details.

The benefits of vocalising with text

The benefits of vocalising with text

The benefits of vocalising with text Melofonetica

Matteo Dalle Fratte, Melofonetica Founder, explains why vocalising with text is such a valuable exercise for singers:

 

Singers vocalise to warm up, build singing technique and grow vocal stamina and strength. Singers usually vocalise using vowels; consonants are rarely used in vocalising exercises but if they are, they’re typically used without vowels such as exercises with the rolling r and constrictive consonants such as vv and ff. Singers don’t often vocalise using text or lyrics, but in the Melofonetica Method, we believe it’s really useful to practise vocalising with text for a number of reasons:

1. When we perform we need to do so much more than just vowel vocalisation: we use all the phonetic elements of text, even in coloratura arias where there is still text in the ornamentation.

2. By vocalising with text, singers can focus on one combination of phonetic elements at a time, singing notes and intervals across the registers with an awareness of how different vowel and consonant sounds relate to each other and how airflow needs to be balanced and adjusted appropriately across the different sounds.

3. In sung Italian, vocalising with text gives us the opportunity to practise distinguishing long and short consonant sounds, which is fundamental for good sung Italian diction.

4. Singing long consonants well creates more resonant vowels!

5. Using the full range of Italian phonetic elements actually helps singers to maintain a healthy vocal system. The correct production of long consonants in particular helps to:

  • Maintain an active and high tongue position
  • Reduce tension in the tongue root
  • Keep the soft palate flexible
  • Activate the muscles engaged in breath support
  • Optimise the pharyngeal space
  • Find the best formant frequencies for operatic sound
  •  
 

Vocalise like the great Italian singers!

There are some popular lines that have been used by singing teachers for a very long time, some of which have been handed down to me from my singing teacher, the bass Paolo Badoer, who studied with Gilda Dalla Rizza. Dalla Rizza was Puccini’s favourite soprano and a singing teacher at the Venice Conservatoire. She trained many successful singers, including coaching Maria Callas for her role as Violetta in La traviata. Dalla Rizza’s teachings on singing technique were in turn passed down from famous singers before her, such as Adelina Patti and Giuditta Pasta. Popular lines that these great Italian singers would use to vocalise included:

O che bel sole
È primavera
Un giardin di rose

It’s really beneficial to practise these lines, with a simple triad of notes, focusing each time on the different sequences of consonants and vowels. Using lines from famous arias that combine different phonetic elements is also a great way to vocalise, such as the line Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore.

Our Melofonetica courses always include sessions on vocalising using text to warm up and feedback from singers is highly positive – watch this space for a CD of vocalising exercises!

Make sure you’re first to know when we launch new courses and resources for sung Italian: sign up here to join our mailing list.

Veneto Opera Summer School: the inside view

Veneto Opera Summer School: the inside view

Veneto Opera Summer School: the inside view Melofonetica

Lucy Farrimond, mezzo soprano, shares her experiences of attending this year’s Veneto Opera Summer School and performing in Arte Lirica Festival:

 

I have recently returned from a two week adventure in Italy on Melofonetica’s Veneto Opera Summer School and WOW! I simply cannot believe how fast those two weeks passed by… two weeks in which, I can honestly say, I had the time of my life and made memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. I am now a member of the very special Melofonetica family.

 

Application process

I set myself the goal of expanding my solo singing experience and developing my sung Italian. So, after having seen the summer programme advertised online almost a year ago, I hastily sent off my application, including a recording of an Italian aria. I was absolutely thrilled to receive the news that I had not only been accepted onto the course, but had also been offered the principal role of Pisandro in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria.

 

Preparation

In preparation for my trip to Italy, I researched the life and music of Claudio Monteverdi and set about learning my role. This was my first staged trouser role, so I was very excited! Alongside the Monteverdi, I prepared chorus roles for scenes from Puccini’s La bohème, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and additional choruses ‘Brindisi’ and ‘Va Pensiero’ from Verdi’s La Traviata and Nabucco. In addition to these roles, I prepared a solo aria of my choice; this was ‘O Del Mio Amato Ben’ by Stefano Donaudy.

 

Journey to Italy: time in Venice

I had never actually been to Italy before, so I was unbelievably excited to be adventuring somewhere new – to the birthplace of opera! My flight to Venice Marco Polo was early in the morning, meaning I had a few hours of free time before the Melofonetica transfer would collect me and take me to Bassano del Grappa with the other course participants. During this time, I took the water bus into Venice and explored the city. The first stop on my list of attractions was Teatro La Fenice. What a beauty it is! I was lucky to explore the theatre and view the Maria Callas exhibition. After squeezing in as much sightseeing as possible, I made my way back to the airport to meet the other participants before taking the coach to Bassano.

 

Arrival to Bassano

The accommodation and classes were based at the Istituto Scalabrini in Bassano. Upon arrival at the grand institute, participants were greeted by Matteo Dalle Fratte (Melofonetica Founder) and his team in an introductory session, including celebratory welcome drinks. We were all given welcome packs, including the weekly schedule and information about Bassano and Arte Lirica Festival 2019. We were then given a tour of the Scalabrini Institute – our new home for the following two weeks. This wonderful building is situated beside the glorious River Brenta – a very idyllic setting!

An introduction to the Melofonetica Method

The first day of the course consisted of a morning introduction to the Melofonetica Method, including an insight into Matteo’s extensive research and key facts regarding Italian pronunciation. I was able to observe masterclasses with fellow course participants before singing the Donaudy repertoire in my own masterclass. During the masterclass, we were able to use the same stand that Maria Callas had once used, which – alongside the beautiful setting and views from the windows – proved to be incredibly inspiring! The Melofonetica Method was a new concept to me and I noticed a positive difference in my singing by the end of what was a very rewarding session. Matteo was extremely encouraging throughout the masterclass and was always open to questions regarding the method.

 

Life in Bassano del Grappa

On the first night of the course, the group ventured to Poli Grappa Museum for grappa tasting and an insight into how the signature liquor is made. This was followed by a tour of beautiful Bassano led by Matteo.

We were very fortunate to have been provided both breakfast and lunch at the Scalabrini Institute throughout the course. Once musical activities had finished for the day, we were free to venture into town (crossing the Ponte Vecchio) to have dinner – admittedly consuming far too much pizza and gelato!

On Thursdays and Saturdays, Bassano would come alive with its busy market and I managed to also fit in visits to a couple of Bassano’s treasures, the Libreria Palazzo Roberti and Museo Civico di Bassano – which had a Tito Gobbi exhibition!

 

Course structure

Each morning during the first week, vocalising sessions were scheduled with Matteo, in which he would also give advice on vocal health. Following the vocalising sessions, masterclasses with Matteo would run for most of the day and were open for everyone to observe. Alongside the masterclasses, we were fortunate to have individual coaching sessions with Julie Aherne and Bernard Tan and chorus rehearsals with Peter Ford.

 

Concert 1: Friday 16 August

The first concert took place in Chiesa di San Vito. I adored this beautiful setting and the lovely, encouraging Italian audience. During this concert, chorus members took to the stage to perform their independent arias, whilst the entire ensemble performed the Va Pensiero and Brindisi choruses with the orchestra. I was very happy to perform in the trio ‘Soave sia il vento’ from Mozart’s Così fan tutte. The concert was a great success!

 

Concert 2: Saturday 17 August

The second concert took place in Crespano del Grappa, this time outdoors in Piazza San Marco and on the steps of the magnificent church. I performed my Donaudy aria, Mozart trio and Verdi choruses and loved every single second! The square had an incredible acoustic and was jam-packed with eager local listeners! For me, this concert was a highlight of the two week course. It can be easy as a singer to pick a performance apart for faults, yet I was completely calm and happy to be making music in such a beautiful setting with wonderful people and a supportive audience – I will be forever grateful to Melofonetica for allowing me this unforgettable opportunity.

La bohème and Don Giovanni pop-ups: Sunday 18 and Thursday 22 August

Pop-up performances of Don Giovanni and La bohème scenes in the beautiful medieval town of Asolo were a huge success. Seeing the surprised and amazed faces of the locals as we spontaneously erupted into song was priceless!

 

Monteverdi lecture recital: Tuesday 20 August

Having a principal role in the Monteverdi Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria scene, I had the chance to perform my Pisandro aria and ‘Lieta Soave Gloria’ trio in a lecture-recital at the Municipio di Asolo. Performing such repertoire in this historic building was an incredible experience!

 

Villa Lunardi dinner

After the lecture recital at the Municipio di Asolo, we were surprised with the news that we would be dining at Villa Lunardi that evening. This beautiful villa was the summer residence of tenor Giovanni Lunardi and now contains a museum dedicated to the singer. I was very impressed to see Lunardi’s original costumes from Verdi operas and hand-written manuscripts by Pietro Mascagni! The museum was created thanks to Matteo’s research. Matteo is also the author of Giovanni Lunardi’s biography Giovanni Lunardi: un tenore drammatico fra Tamagno e Caruso.

 

Staged scenes at Teatro Eleonora Duse, Asolo: Friday 23 and Saturday 24 August

We are all incredibly lucky to have had the chance to perform our staged scenes ‘Vendette e amori’ at Teatro Eleonora Duse, Asolo. This inspiring theatre is based in Castello Caterina Cornaro which dates back to the 10th Century. It was astonishing to find that opera is in fact rarely performed in this theatre, which I think is a great shame!

 

Maurizio Muraro

Renowned bass Maurizio Muraro travelled to Asolo from London to be interviewed for the Arte Lirica Festival and to attend our staged scenes at Teatro Eleonora Duse. I am so grateful to have met such an inspiring singer and to have him support the festival!

Thank you!

I am extremely grateful to have been awarded a scholarship from Melofonetica’s Badoer Dalla Rizza fund, created by the very generous Mr and Mrs McGuire, and very kind financial donations through GoFundMe. This support allowed me to participate in a life-changing course, that has filled me with knowledge and happiness and will hopefully be beneficial for my future career in the world of opera.

There are many people I would like to thank for making the Veneto Opera Summer School and first ever Arte Lirica Festival so special. Firstly, I would like to thank Matteo and his truly lovely wife, Jamila (Academy Manager), for all of their hard work to ensure that everything ran like clockwork and that each and every one of us was correctly cared for and looked after. They deserve all of their successes and I am certain that their work will only continue to grow and inspire others. A huge thank you also goes out to the fantastic coaches; Peter Ford (Conductor), Julie Aherne (Pianist) and Bernard Tan (Pianist) for their support and dedication. It was an absolute joy to work with them and learn from them. I hope to perform with them again in the future.

 

To be continued:

Alas, I return to Manchester feeling enriched – albeit rather emotional – with not only a deeper knowledge and understanding of Italian opera through the Melofonetica Method, but with connections to a marvellous group of people that I am proud to call my friends. I will no doubt stay in touch with everybody from the course and I hope to have the opportunity to participate in further Melofonetica courses.

 

Look out for details of Veneto Opera Summer School. To pre-register your interest, please contact us here.

The importance of text for instrumentalists

The importance of text for instrumentalists

The importance of text for instrumentalists Melofonetica

While it’s the singer’s job to convey the words with great diction, the importance of text to instrumentalists can’t be underestimated. We chat to our Veneto Opera Summer School conductor Peter Ford and music coaches Julie Aherne and Bernard Tan to get their views:

The importance of text for instrumentalists Melofonetica

Why is text so important for instrumentalists?

Peter: “As instrumentalists, we fundamentally imitate the gesture and nuance of the human voice. Clear and correct diction creates strong, characteristic articulationand tenuto, staccato, and martellato each imitate the phonetic qualities of text. Effective use of portamento serves to recreate the connection and fluidity of a vocal line. For string players, as an example, the timbral qualities of the voice are reflected in techniques such as sul ponticello (nasal) or sul tasto (breathy). An awareness of all this is vital to achieving stylistic unity in operatic performance.”

Julie: “Training for instrumentalists is very different from that of singers, and so it’s easy for operatic and symphonic repertoire to feel like totally separate worlds. Often, we are told not to apply for certain roles ‘unless we have operatic experience’ – but how do we get that? The use of language is one of the key differences between vocal and instrumental art forms, and so a thorough understanding of how singers use text is essential.”

Bernard: “Most experienced orchestra players will know that playing for opera is very different from playing symphonic works or chamber music. The main reason being that in operas, the text and voice lead the music. Experience and ability in playing operatic repertoire is very important for instrumentalists, but it takes time to build a sensitivity to the voice and learn to use this under an opera conductor. This is where text and an understanding of what to listen for comes in.”

 

How has a better understanding of text helped you as an instrumentalist/conductor?

Peter: “The pit can be a noisy place! We’ve all been told to listen to the singer, but what are we listening for? If instrumentalists possess an awareness of the workings of the text (not necessarily every single word) then the singer is more freely able to lead, and the orchestra to follow. Clear communication between stage and pit is a hallmark of all great operatic performances.”

Julie: “For me, understanding the role of the text was not just the missing link that helped me work with singers more effectively and holistically, but something that opened the door to new possibilities of expression and interpretation that wouldn’t have occurred to me before. I now look at the text first when approaching a new work. Not only is it a major component of the musical information contained within a score, but in many cases it was the composer’s starting point as well.”

Bernard: “A better understanding of text is fundamental for anyone studying and performing vocal music, regardless of whether you are singing, playing an instrument or conducting. The text makes us understand why the composer writes in a certain way and provides us clear dramatic guidelines as to why the music is what it is and how we should perform it. In my experience, most of the decisions I make in vocal music come from an understanding of the text. This allows me to not only be confident as a pianist and coach but also to fully appreciate how texts work with the accompaniment so that I can make well-informed decisions for the music I perform.”

 

How does the Melofonetica Method help instrumentalists working with Italian text?

Peter: “The Melofonetica Method’s focus on achieving clear diction as the foundation of musical and dramatic expression shines a light on the hidden rhythms of the text itself. I have found myself endlessly fascinated by what the method reveals of how the poetry of the language informs the musical line, providing both cause and control for rubato and musical gesture.”

Julie: “The method helps instrumentalists understand the links, both historical and practical, between text, rhythm, and articulation of sung Italian. It enables them to understand how singers use text to create and enhance expression, including the use of portamenti, how singers might use text to control and dictate rubato (‘why do they take so long there?!’) and how this is all transferable to instrumental playing. They’ll also develop their skills in what to listen for to aid good ensemble between pit and stage.”

Bernard: “The method is a very systematic way for anyone to understand how Italian text works in music. Instrumentalists benefit by gaining a much better understanding of the structure of sung Italian, and the close connection between the music and the idiomatic sounds of the language, as used by singers at the highest levels in the industry. Ultimately, the method helps instrumentalists build a better sensitivity to the text and know what to listen for when they perform.”

 

 

We know that good diction in sung Italian isn’t just a nice addition but is integral to technique and overall performance. Many methods of singing over the centuries have mentioned the range of technical benefits that singing with good diction brings. As Pacchierotti, renowned 17th century singer and singing teacher famously said in his memoirs, “Chi sa ben sillabare e ben respirare, saprà ben cantare”, meaning he/she who breathes and articulates well, will sing well.

 

In a demanding audition scenario, it’s also reassuring for the singer to be able to draw on very specific tools within the phonetics of sung Italian in order to communicate their aria expressively and confidently to the panel.

 

Opportunities for instrumentalists to join Veneto Opera Summer School and Arte Lirica Festival

We have a few spaces left for instrumentalists to join us in Italy this summer to develop experience in playing for Italian opera, with 50% scholarships available for early-career artists. The programme provides the opportunity to:

  • Accompany staged scenes at the beautiful Teatro Eleonora Duse, Asolo and other exciting festival events
  • Benefit from tailored chamber music coaching sessions
  • Understand how the Melofonetica Method helps orchestras to accompany singers more effectively in Italian repertoire
  • Enjoy fabulous accommodation and food

To find out more about the programme, visit the webpage here and for more information on scholarship funding, see full details here. Applications are being accepted on a first come, first served basis. Please contact us if you’d like to know more or apply!

Launching the Badoer Dalla Rizza Scholarship Fund

Launching the Badoer Dalla Rizza Scholarship Fund

Launching the Badoer Dalla Rizza Scholarship Fund Melofonetica

We’re delighted to announce the launch of the Badoer Dalla Rizza Scholarship Fund to support early-career artists in their study of Italian opera repertoire.

 

Thanks to the generous support of our Founding Supporters and Patrons of Arte Lirica Festival, Mr and Mrs B. McGuire, the fund will provide scholarships that will widen access to Veneto Opera Summer School and Arte Lirica Festival, our summer study programme in Italy. The programme provides an excellent development opportunity, comprising expert Italian opera repertoire coaching and preparation for a range of performances including staged scenes at Asolo’s royal opera house. In 2019, participants performed extracts from La bohèmeDon Giovanni and Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria.

In 2019, the fund provided at least one 50% scholarship for singers of each voice type, one pianist/répétiteur and each of the following instrumentalists: violinist, cellist, flautist, clarinettist and bassoonist. There will also be a limited number of smaller bursary awards made to help towards the costs of the programme for those who do not receive a scholarship.

The scholarship fund has been set up in memory of bass Paolo Badoer and his teacher, Gilda Dalla Rizza, Puccini’s favourite soprano.

Paolo Badoer was the beloved singing teacher of Melofonetica Founder Matteo Dalle Fratte, and a successful international opera singer who sang for over 40 years in major opera houses and concert halls around the world. He was the favourite pupil and close friend of Gilda Dalla Rizza, the soprano who inspired Puccini, Mascagni, Giordano, Zandonai and Toscanini.

Gilda Dalla Rizza was one of the greatest opera stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930s, she premiered roles in many operas including Magda in La rondine, and inspired Puccini to create Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, and Liù in Turandot. She received widespread acclaim as Violetta in La traviata at La Scala with Toscanini. As a talented teacher in Venice, she also coached Maria Callas.

The work that Melofonetica does today to promote excellence in sung Italian aims to preserve not only the legacy and teaching of both Paolo Badoer and Gilda Dalla Rizza, but the beauty and heritage of Italian opera as it was handed down through the generations of great performers and composers.

To find out more about Veneto Opera Summer School and Arte Lirica Festival, visit our programme webpage here. Please contact us if you’d like further details.

What’s it like at a Melofonetica Masterclass?

What’s it like at a Melofonetica Masterclass?

What’s it like at a Melofonetica Masterclass? Melofonetica

So far, we’ve trained over 150 singers and accompanists on our courses, with many coming back more than once. But what typically happens at one of our coaching masterclasses and how do participants benefit? Read on for a sneak peek…

 

An introduction to the Melofonetica Method

Our masterclass days are small group sessions led by Melofonetica Founder, Matteo Dalle Fratte. They are designed to give singers and accompanists a good grasp of the key principles of the Melofonetica Method and first-hand experience of how it improves sung Italian. The first hour of the day is an introductory session where Matteo discusses the research behind the method and the science i.e., the key phonetic characteristics of the sung Italian language. He discusses what the key findings mean in terms of correct diction, expression, breath support and voice projection in a performance space, and the important things to keep in mind when performing Italian repertoire.

Vocalising

With the theory summarised, practice is key for the rest of the day! A group vocalising session helps participants to warm up and experience the key principles of the method with their own voices, practising sung Italian sounds, words and phrases with Matteo’s guidance.

What’s it like at a Melofonetica Masterclass? Melofonetica

One-to-one coaching

After a quick coffee break, the intensive one-to-one coaching sessions begin, where each singer works with Matteo on any Italian piece of their choice while the rest of the group observes. Each session is tailored to the level and needs of each singer, and aims to improve the singer’s diction, expression and performance skills.

There is also a focus on how effective use of the text enhances the relationship between singer and accompanist, and the elements of diction that accompanists need to be listening out for. This applies equally to orchestral accompaniment, with a recent participant commenting, “The input I received on my aria really helped me understand not only more about the Italian, but what to think about when performing with an orchestra as well. I now understand a lot more about what a conductor would require from me”. At many of our masterclasses, we are also lucky to have input from conductor and coach Peter Ford who shares valuable guidance in this area.

What’s it like at a Melofonetica Masterclass? Melofonetica

As the one-to-one sessions are packed with tips and advice, singers are able to record their session to take away and use again after the day. There’s no need for singers to know their pieces off-copy, as the sessions are an opportunity to work closely with the score and make appropriate notes. We also provide a repertoire list ahead of the day, so that all participants can bring other scores to follow and make notes on. 

Matteo comments, “We find that participants benefit equally from listening to others being coached, and each one-to-one session demonstrates different aspects of sung Italian diction and expression, in a wide range of repertoire and voice types”.

We find that participants benefit equally from listening to others being coached, and each one-to-one session demonstrates different aspects of sung Italian diction and expression, in a wide range of repertoire and voice types.

Guided listening

After lunch, there’s an interesting guided listening where we listen to performances by well-known singers and some of the great recordings. The session helps participants identify and discuss different aspects of sung Italian diction and how performers express the text and character. Then it’s back to more vocalising to try out different aspects of diction before the one-to-one coaching sessions resume.

Putting it all together

Towards the end of the day, there’s an opportunity for Q&A, followed by a final sing-through of each full piece to put the day’s learning into practice. Everyone leaves energised, inspired and with new practical tools to apply to all Italian repertoire. We’re proud that feedback is always extremely positive, with singers often commenting on how much they have increased their confidence and learnt about sung Italian in just one day (read feedback from previous participants here). Matteo comments, “It’s great to meet singers of all ages and backgrounds who would like to make an improvement to their sung Italian, and these masterclass days are always packed full of learning but fun, friendly and supportive”.

More information

Our masterclasses take place in Spring and Autumn. As well as singers and accompanists, we also welcome observers, such as singing teachers, who would like to know more about the method and see it in action. Find out more about our next masterclasses here. We also work with opera groups and companies to create bespoke masterclasses – contact us for more information.

Melofonetica gift certificates now available!

Melofonetica gift certificates now available!

Melofonetica gift certificates now available! Melofonetica

Looking for gift inspiration this festive season or beyond? Know a singer or other music professional who’d love to focus on their skills in sung Italian?

 

We’re excited to launch Melofonetica gift certificates, available to any value and redeemable against any of our Italian courses or coaching. Gift certificates are valid for one year, but all certificates issued before Christmas 2018 will run until the end of December 2019.

  • Available to the value of your choice
  • Can include a personalised message
  • Can be sent electronically or by post
  • Redeemable against any of our courses or private coaching

Recipients must be aged 18 or over to book onto our courses or coaching, and must be at the required level where a level is specified in course requirements. Check out the Courses section of our website for more details.

Request your gift certificate today

Contact us to request your gift certificate or for more information – and give the gift of learning with a unique and original gift!

Sung Italian: what matters in a large performance space

Sung Italian: what matters in a large performance space

Sung Italian: what matters in a large performance space Melofonetica
Sung Italian: what matters in a large performance space Melofonetica

Melofonetica’s Founder Matteo Dalle Fratte is a Visiting Professor at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) in Cardiff. He discusses what’s important for singers when working in a large performance space, drawing on a recent coaching session with RWCMD postgraduate vocal students:

I did some interesting work recently with a group of singers from the RWCMD. We were lucky to be able to use the beautiful Dora Stoutzker Hall pictured above. This concert hall seats up to 400 and has incredible acoustics. It provided a great opportunity for the students to experience Italian coaching in a large performance space and to work on achieving the connection and energy that are needed in a space of that size. It’s only when you are performing in a larger space like this, as the singers noticed, that you really understand how you need to use your breath support and the text to maintain your line of singing with energy and control.

 

Out of necessity and practicality, singers often need to practise in smaller acoustic spaces where it is less demanding to deliver the text. But it is very useful to be able to work in larger spaces that allow singers to understand the job of a professional opera singer who needs to deliver the text to the audience in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra.

The students each sang an aria and they were able to ‘feel’ the space of a real concert hall. I asked those listening to stay towards the centre of the auditorium, about 20 metres away, where the acoustics could really be enjoyed and where it’s possible to gauge how much of the voice and text are being delivered.

This work really required a shift in acoustic awareness from everyone – I also had to shout quite a lot in my coaching to reach the singers! The singers started to experience how effective use of the text really helps to carry the words to the audience. In Italian, this means creating a very clear distinction between long and short consonants and allowing the consonants to provide a framework to shape the vowels and melodies.

In Italian, this means creating a very clear distinction between long and short consonants and allowing the consonants to provide a framework to shape the vowels and melodies.

We worked on different pieces by Handel and Mozart and it was interesting, in particular, to work on Handel’s aria Svegliatevi nel core, furie dell’alma offesa. In this piece, we focused on the alliteration of the long fs: in furie (the f is lengthened for emphasis, what we call a ‘melo-gemination’ in the Melofonetica Method®), offesa (a double f, written in this case) and far di un traditor (a co-gemination between the a and f, creating another long f). We tried to make the listeners aware of the pattern of these three long fs and it was challenging to begin with. The singer needed to make them more audible and she initially felt she was doing too much. But after we worked a bit further and she achieved this, she felt that she was able to anchor her singing, control the sound of her voice and play with dynamics in a much better way. Additionally, those long fs also created a particular colour in the melody which was perceived by the audience in the auditorium. With a real focus on the the three long fs as implosive long consonants, each with an agogic accent, the audience was impressed with how much they could enjoy this alliterated pattern of sound.

We also worked on other pieces where we had the typical elegant Italian effect of a long consonant on an upbeat and short consonant on a downbeat (what I call the ‘Michelangelo effect’), where we needed to make the upbeat really accented and smooth instead of the downbeat. This needed a lot of care and attention from the singers to make sure they were really long on the long consonant and very, very short on the short consonant. This is a key characteristic that makes sung Italian so beautiful but also really effective in a performance space. It seemed exaggerated to the singers themselves at times but those listening said the distinction was just enough to be audible!

As opera singers, we need to remember that using the phonetic structure of the Italian language properly – in particular all of the long Italian consonant sounds – not only helps us stay connected and deliver the text effectively in a performance space but also helps us with emphasis, interpretation and characterisation. When we do this, we not only achieve the idiomatic sound of the language but we also create an exciting and enjoyable experience for the audience, even in a large acoustic space.

Thank you to the RWCMD and well done to the students involved in the session.

Interested to know more?

The Melofonetica Method® is a method of improving sung Italian, based on Dr. Matteo Dalle Fratte’s research into the phonetics of the sung language. It helps singers to achieve better diction, expression and projection in a performance space. Find out more here.

To receive news on our courses and resources for sung Italian, and a free article with tips on Italian diction, sign up to our mailing list here.

We welcome your feedback and queries about the content of this blog post and sung Italian in general – get in touch with us at info@melofonetica.com.

Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project

Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project

Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project Melofonetica
Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project Melofonetica

In his introduction to the recently released recording of Monteverdi’s ‘Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria’,  Sir John Eliot Gardiner discusses the work of Melofonetica Founder Matteo Dalle Fratte on the Italian diction in the award-winning Monteverdi 450 project.

The poignant and vivid new recording of Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria, performed by the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestra and English Baroque Soloists and conducted by Gardiner, was recorded as part of last year’s Monteverdi 450 trilogy project. The acclaimed project saw Gardiner conduct a world-class cast of singers in their performances of L’OrfeoIl ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and L’incoronazione di Poppea, in locations around the world. Matteo was honoured to work closely with Gardiner as Italian Coach on the project, and as part of his introduction to the new recording, Gardiner provides fascinating insight into Matteo’s work on the text and how this enhanced expression in the three Monteverdi works:

 

“Our language coach, Matteo Dalle Fratte, went to great lengths to point out to the cast the mesmerising beauty of sung Italian when consonants are projected percussively and expressively in counterpoint to the smooth legato flow of the vowels. This applies not just to double consonants but to comma punctuation, agogic accents, word repetitions and exclamations. Only once the technique has been fully mastered by the singer-actors (as opposed to the dreaded ‘singerese’ – the disease of so many opera singers), can this produce a frisson in the way words will be received by the listener; but it also enhances the expressive vocabulary of Monteverdi’s word-setting and his cunning way of imitating the accents of speech. The slight anticipation of the incoming consonant and a minuscule delay before the vowel mirrors the thought processes of the narration. To me this is analogous to the ways Monteverdi uses both rhythm and counterpoint. In his operas Monteverdi habitually uses an alternation of duple and triple metre against an implied tactus (a regular unvarying beat). That is where the rhythmic frisson originates.”*

* Gardiner, John Eliot. 2018. ‘The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland’, sleeve note for Monteverdi, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, cond. by John Eliot Gardiner (Monteverdi Productions, SDG730, 2018), 6–11

It is thanks in large measure to the insights of language coach Matteo Dalle Fratte that this performance is every bit as vivid (in many respects more so) as any DVD production might be.

Europadisc review, October 2018

Reflecting on the project, Matteo comments, “It was a privilege to work with such talented artists and the inspirational Sir John Eliot Gardiner on the Monteverdi trilogy. The detail of the sung Italian was given a huge amount of importance and focus by everyone involved. My work on this project showed me just how powerful great diction in Italian opera can be, ensuring that all the emotions of the text are truly delivered with impact in a performance space – and fulfilling Monteverdi’s own vision that opera should stir the emotions.”

Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project Melofonetica

We highly recommend listening to the new recording of Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria to enjoy both the excellent sung Italian and an opera that, despite being composed almost four centuries ago, remains musically and dramatically so powerful today. Visit the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras website to find out more.

Image above: the final bow and live recording at one of the ‘Il ritorno di Ulisse’ performances at the National Forum of Music in Wrocław, Poland, September 2017.

Feeling inspired?

We have opportunities for singers, pianists and instrumentalists to join us in Italy next summer to be coached by Matteo Dalle Fratte and perform in scenes from Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria at our inaugural Arte Lirica Festival in Asolo. Find out more here.

Diction from the conductor’s perspective: views from Matthew Kofi Waldren

Diction from the conductor’s perspective: views from Matthew Kofi Waldren

Diction from the conductor's perspective: views from Matthew Kofi Waldren Melofonetica

We talk to acclaimed opera and orchestral conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren about the importance of good diction in opera.

 

As a conductor, how does a knowledge of correct diction affect what you do?

Text, for an opera conductor, is key. It is the element that conductors don’t have at their disposal in the symphonic repertoire, and in opera text can unlock everything. It necessarily provides narrative, and also the psychological intent of the characters. And, it is the reason a composer might choose a particular orchestration, articulation and harmony.

Knowledge of the language of the opera you are working on is vital, as are the sounds of that language and how those sounds are formed. The physical formation of the sounds of the language and how they are delivered have a huge impact on rhythm, cross-rhythm, and articulation. Correct use of diction is fundamental to guiding the music, guiding the singer’s phrasing and helping the singer be proactive in showing the conductor where they are heading.

 

Can you give some examples of this from Italian repertoire you’ve worked on?

There are so many examples! Italian opera composers knew exactly what they were doing with text; they understood how it was formed, the rhythms of the text, and how it should be sung.

There are countless examples of l’accent d’insistance, for example, where the composer clearly wants the text rhythm to play against the dominant musical rhythm, to create intricate cross rhythms. Try making the conversational beginning to Puccini’s La rondine work without the accent d’insistance and you’re doomed to failure! The bar lines would be far too much in evidence and you would kill the music!

There are simple yet detailed examples of rhythm, too. Looking at Mozart’s autograph scores, we can see the speed at which he wrote, and can surmise that he wanted final crotchets to be short – he just didn’t write them as a quaver followed by a quaver rest as it would have taken longer to write. The written note values are not always verbatim; they are a guide. The composer knew that some things make sense musically and don’t need to be spelled out.

The same happens with text. There are many examples in Mozart operas of the orchestra having dotted figures while the singers are seemingly set against them without dots. But, when we look at the text, the correct use of the diction means that those seemingly undotted figures for the singer must be sung inégales (near enough dotted). If Mozart had written the figure as dotted for the singers, this would have become over-dotted with the correct Italian diction in place (as he would have expected). So, he wrote an undotted figure, assuming that the correct use of text and diction would make it sound naturally dotted, thereby aligning with the orchestral dotted figure.

Puccini, on the other hand, notates every dash of articulation, every detailed dynamic change, every tempo change (he has a wonderful array of descriptions telling us to slow down!) Sometimes, though, a simple ritenuto should be viewed as a reminder rather than a command. If you look at the text, there would be no way of singing it with the correct diction without slowing. Puccini writes these indications as a reminder that the text needs attention. If we impose a ritenuto on top of the time needed for the text, we can find that the music becomes overly indulgent – not something of which Puccini himself was a fan.

Correct use of diction is fundamental to guiding the music, guiding the singer’s phrasing and helping the singer be proactive in showing the conductor where they are heading.

Diction from the conductor's perspective: views from Matthew Kofi Waldren Melofonetica

Which aspects of Italian diction are most important for you as a conductor?

I am very clear that the text is our primary job in opera, so all aspects of diction are incredibly important. But the correct use of long consonants and the accent d’insistance are particularly important to me in Italian.

 

In your experience, what are the aspects of Italian diction that singers most need to focus on? 

One of the reasons that my answer to the previous question focused on long consonants and the accent d’insistance is that these are the aspects of singing in Italian that often get overlooked by singers in the quest to achieve legato and line. However, we can maintain connection to the breath and actually find it easier to sing when we really employ these techniques. Not only that, but with clear and correct articulation, the music comes to life and the audience comprehends the text. In singing any language, line and legato do not mean the absence of text. Singers often focus on vowels, specific vowel choice and vowel modification. While these are important, my job is often to introduce the proper use of consonants, and earlier onset of long consonants to aid the vocal line, helping us to bring the composer’s intentions to life, and actually make it all easier to sing!

Photo credits: Dave Myers (header image) and Robert Workman (image in article)

About Matthew Kofi Waldren

Matthew Kofi Waldren studied at the Royal College of Music‚ Guildhall School of Music and Drama‚ and Fitzwilliam College‚ Cambridge. After a 10-year career as an opera singer, he swiftly gained a reputation as a dynamic young conductor‚ receiving plaudits for his collaborative approach and his detailed‚ dramatic readings. Matthew Kofi was a ‘Newcomer’ nominee in the International Opera Awards 2017‚ and held the ENO Mackerras Fellowship 2016-18.

Matthew Kofi has a long-standing association with Opera Holland Park, for whom he has conducted many critically-acclaimed productions. He has also conducted the City of London Sinfonia‚ the orchestras of English National Opera, Opera North and Scottish Opera, the National Festival Orchestra and London Mozart Players.

Matthew Kofi’s most recent and upcoming engagements include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Linbury/Royal Opera House and Opera Holland Park)‚ Texting Heer (workshop – Linbury/Royal Opera House)‚ The Marriage of Figaro (English National Opera)‚ Paul Bunyan (ENO at Wilton’s Music Hall)‚ Don Giovanni (Opera North)‚ Un Ballo in Maschera‚ La Traviata‚ La Rondine (Opera Holland Park)‚ Les Mamelles de Tirésias‚ Gianni Schicchi (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and Pelléas Unwrapped (Scottish Opera). His acclaimed studio recording of Will Todd’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Signum Classics entered the official specialist classical chart at number one. You can find out more about Matthew Kofi on his website.

Recitative: three top tips

Recitative: three top tips

Recitative: three top tips Melofonetica

Recitative moves the plot along and is one of the most exciting features in an opera. If you’re looking to improve your skills in Italian recitative, keep these three top tips from our coaches in mind …

 

Pacing is key. Consider the trajectory of each section: is there a particular point that the rhythm of the music or text is driving towards, or that the content of the words, or perhaps the harmony, indicates is a highpoint? Know where each section is headed, and you’ll create more excitement for the audience and give more structure for your continuo player to work with.

Speed isn’t an end in itself. Recitativo is a sung musical line much the same as any other, requiring the same attention to phrasing and cadence. You have near unlimited scope to play with tempo, timbre, and dynamic, but recitativo secco feels its most fluent and engaging when the exchange of line between singers makes musical sense.

Recitative is not the same as speech. Recitative is still sung language that needs to be clearly expressed and projected in a performance space, and it should be approached in the same way as an aria. While recitativo secco may not have melismas and coloratura, its syllabic, fast pace still requires advanced and controlled articulation of the language, particularly the correct articulation and sequencing of long and short consonants. Meanwhile, simpler tessitura means there is more flexibility for singers to experiment with the brightness or darkness of vowel timbres as an expressive tool.

Keen to know more?
If you’d like to develop your skills in Italian recitative, why not attend one of our biannual Art of Italian Recitative weekends? They include one-to-one coaching sessions focusing on diction, expression and phrasing, and the preparation and performance of well-known recitative opera scenes to put your learning into practice. Find out more here.

We welcome your feedback and queries about the content of this blog post and sung Italian in general – contact us at info@melofonetica.com.

The three musical effects in sung Italian

Matteo Dalle Fratte, Founder of Melofonetica, shares insight into the musicality of the Italian language:

As part of my research into sung Italian, I’ve come to realise that while the beauty of the sound of the language may seem to lie in the sound of its oral and pure vowels, it is, in fact, the pattern of consonant sounds – and the effects they create in combination with vowels – that create the unique musicality of the language.

To understand this, firstly we need to understand that in Italian, meaning is made through the length of consonants. For example, if we say mamma with a long m, this means mother, while m’ama with a short m means he or she loves me. Unlike in English, German or French, lengths of vowels don’t change the meaning of words in Italian. The correct sequencing of long and short consonants is therefore fundamental for meaning in Italian – but it is also what gives Italian a specific phonetic pattern and musical rhythm.

The correct sequencing of long and short consonants is therefore fundamental for meaning in Italian – but it is also what gives Italian a specific phonetic pattern and musical rhythm.

Within this phonetic pattern, we find three specific musical effects: tenuto, martellato and staccato – terms that are well known in the instrumental world. While we can now identify these instrumental effects in the language, it’s interesting to note that at the time when opera was born (in the 16th and 17th centuries), instrumentalists were in fact seeking to imitate the complex sounds of the voice! As Barthold Kuijken says, “Instrumentalists were always required to take singers as their model, and indeed they will have needed to listen attentively to the singer in order to imitate or accompany well at appropriate places”.[1]

Tenuto effect: a vowel followed by a short consonant
Examples: 
Coraggio; Unaura amorosa

In Italian, short consonants allow the preceding vowel to be as long as the whole length of its note; the short consonant is then very short and pronounced very quickly at the beginning of the following note. The short consonant is so fleeting that there seems to be almost no interruption between the two vowels in the sequence. This effect is called tenuto, which means ‘held’. The first vowel sound is sustained and smoothly connected to the subsequent vowel sound via a very short consonant. This tenuto effect, when it occurs across a downbeat in music, creates an elegant way to sing through the important beat with an almost imperceptible articulation. Drawing a parallel to visual art, this would create a curve instead of an angle.

Martellato effect: a vowel followed by a long sonorant consonant (e.g., long l, m, n or r) or long sibilant consonant (e.g., long s or f)
Example: 
Gli anni assieme

Martellato literally means ‘hammered’; if you think about the way we would imitate a hammer, we would use a sound such as ‘tang’ or ‘pang’. These sounds end with an ng that is a diminuendo, like the reverb of a hammer’s sound. This effect is what happens when we hear the sudden diminuendo of a sonorant or sibilant consonant following the active and supported preceding vowel.

Sonorant consonants are formed by a voiced sound and sung without any interruption, such as long l, m, n or r. Sibilant consonants are formed by a ‘hissing’ unvoiced sound with no interruption, and include long s and f.

Staccato effect: a vowel followed by a long stop consonant
Example: 
Tutto acceso

Staccato is the most common effect in Italian, and the one that adds the most colour to the musicality of the language. It is simply created by a stop consonant which creates an occlusion, i.e., a stop to the airflow. The preceding vowel is interrupted by the onset of the stop consonant. The staccato effect is one of the easiest effects to identify in sung Italian because of the clear difference between sound and silence. In a group of consonants, a martellato often combines with a staccato effect to create a martellato-staccato effect, for example, in the word quanto.

Putting it all together
Let’s take the well-known line Bella siccome un’angelo. This includes a martellato effect on the double ll in bella, a staccato cc in sicc followed by a tenuto in ome, a combined martellato-staccato in the ang of angelo and finally another tenuto with the short l in elo.

The right pattern of musical effects comes naturally into place in Italian when singers learn to correctly articulate Italian sounds and, in particular, distinguish correctly between short and long consonants. However, an analysis of the text to find these different musical effects is a useful way to identify mistakes and polish the diction in order to achieve idiomatic and even more expressive sung Italian throughout the piece.

[1] Barthold, Kuijken, The notation is not the music: reflections on early music practice and performance, Indiana University Press, 2013, p.41


Comments or queries?
We welcome your feedback and queries about the content of this blog post and sung Italian in general – contact us at info@melofonetica.com.

A standing ovation at Chiesa San Vito, Bassano

On Sunday 19 August, singers on the second week of our Veneto Opera Summer School gave a wonderful final concert to a packed Italian audience at Bassano’s historic Chiesa San Vito.

The evening was presented by Matteo Dalle Fratte, Melofonetica’s Founder, who gave insight into each singer’s background and the pieces performed, including arias by Handel, Mozart, Donizetti and Verdi.

Excitement started to build early with audience members arriving up to an hour before the concert to get the best seats. Throughout the evening the audience was warm and engaged, giving resounding applause after each aria performed. It was clear that they not only understood the lyrics but they were also moved by the emotions expressed in each piece, a true test of clear and expressive sung Italian!

Verdi’s Va pensiero provided a rousing finale and ended with a standing ovation – testament to the hard work put in by all singers and coaches during an intensive week of coaching in sung Italian diction, expression and musicality.

At the post-concert celebratory dinner in the historic centre of Bassano, soprano Amie described the experience, “It was so beautiful that the audience were so uplifted, even though I was nervous, when I was walking on stage they were all smiling at me and that put me at ease – I really enjoyed it!”

Fellow soprano Bouchra also commented, “I wouldn’t have imagined such a reaction from the audience when I sang, it was marvellous!”

Graham, baritone, added, “The experience here in such a beautiful town at the foot of the mountains, and in such a beautiful church with such an appreciative audience, it’s tingling!”

Well done to all the singers, conductor and music coach Peter Ford, and music coaches and pianists Julie Aherne and Bernard Tan.

A glittering evening at Asolo’s royal opera house

On Saturday 11 August 2018, participants on the advanced and professional level week of Veneto Opera Summer School gave their final performance at Asolo’s historic royal opera house, the Teatro Eleonora Duse – inside the castle that once belonged to Queen Caterina Cornaro.

Serata lirica al Castello was the culmination of a week of Italian opera coaching for our group of international singers and pianists from countries including Canada, China, Ireland, Malta, Sweden and the UK. They performed a magical selection of Italian arias and ensembles for an Italian audience, including pieces by Mozart, Gluck, Handel, Puccini and Donizetti, and a moving performance of Verdi’s Va pensiero as a finale.

Asolo’s Head of Culture took to the stage at the end of the evening to thank the performers, highlighting the clarity of the singers’ Italian diction in particular. One member of the audience commented, “Even though it was a very warm evening, I didn’t need anything to keep me cool as I had goosebumps throughout the concert!”

The evening was presented by Melofonetica Founder, Matteo Dalle Fratte, who gave background and context to the pieces performed and explained the preparation that the performers had undertaken to perfect their skills in sung Italian diction.

Shortly after the finale, one of the singers described the experience: “It went really well, the crowd was amazing, they were very appreciative, they seemed to really enjoy being here and listening to the music and that brought a lot of energy for all of us, so we had a lot of fun.”

Well done to all the performers, conductor and music coach Peter Ford, and music coaches Julie Aherne and Bernard Tan.

Rolling the r in sung Italian – a tried and tested fix

We are often asked about rolling the r (a vibrant consonant) in sung Italian as many singers find this challenging. But with regular practice and specific exercises, everyone can achieve a rolled r (provided that there are no physical impediments to the tongue). Here’s a very effective exercise that will help singers to quickly achieve a good, energised rolled r:

If you sing attro [at: tro] or a similar combination of a long t and r with a long stop before the r, this will trigger the air pressure to start flicking the tip of the tongue. Notice that the place of articulation of the t is already where the rolling r should be (alveolar/dental), therefore the pressure built will go straight to the right place.

Don’t forget to check that the stop before the r is done correctly, i.e., that it is long and connected. You’ll see that a flick and then maybe a couple of flicks will happen quite quickly. Practising this for five minutes each day should give you results within about a week.

When practising this exercise, it helps to relax the tongue but maintain strong breath support and a steady airflow to allow the vibration to happen easily at the tip of the tongue.

It’s better not to move onto different exercises for rolling the r before feeling comfortable with this one, in order to avoid creating tension in the wrong place.

Feel free to contact us to let us know how you or your students get on with this exercise, or if you have any questions or feedback.

Veneto Opera Summer School: alumni insights from April and Susanna

We talk to sopranos April Goss and Susanna Heard, who attended last year’s Veneto Opera Summer School.

What are your favourite memories from the summer school?

April: There were so many memorable and glorious moments but I think my favourite has to be the concert at the end of the week. The experience of singing for an Italian audience was so incredible, and a fantastic way of putting into practice the skills we had gained throughout the week.

Susanna: I loved every minute of it – from the masterclasses and concerts, to discovering Bassano del Grappa’s rich history. The course felt like a holiday too!Veneto Opera Summer School: alumni insights from April and Susanna Melofonetica

How has attending the course helped you in your singing career?

April: The masterclasses helped so much in terms of how to approach new Italian repertoire. The coaching really helped make my Italian clear and crisp, which has allowed me to focus on the interpretation and characterisation of my Italian roles.

Susanna: It has really helped me with my sung Italian and also helped me secure a place in the chorus for Verdi’s Falstaff, performing with Sir Bryn Terfel and the European Opera Centre last year.

Veneto Opera Summer School: alumni insights from April and Susanna Melofonetica
Enjoying a glass of prosecco and dinner in Bassano

What advice would you give others who are considering applying for the summer school?

April: This course is an amazing opportunity for all levels of singers, it was one of the most enlightening Italian courses I’ve been on. All the staff were so helpful and encouraging which made for a very comfortable and friendly learning environment. The break mid-week to visit the Prosecco Valley and the surrounding areas was also a great way to bond with everyone as well as enjoy and appreciate the local culture.

To get the most out of the experience, I would advise singers to prepare fully, for example, learning pieces off copy, getting translations of repertoire and fully understanding the plot of the opera that each piece is from. This will help singers give a well-rounded performance at the end of the week.

Susanna: If you’re looking to improve your sung Italian and have a holiday in Veneto, this is the course for you!

What are your current singing projects and what’s on the horizon?

April: I’ve just graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in London with a Bachelor of Music degree and in September I’ll be starting my postgraduate studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Susanna: I’m looking forward to attending the Studio Program with the Berlin Opera Academy this August.

Find out more about this year’s Veneto Opera Summer School and how to apply.

Read more about the Melofonetica Method.

Veneto Opera Summer School: alumni insights from Eleanor and Óli

We talk to Eleanor Wood, Australian soprano and Óli Rúnarsson, Icelandic tenor, who both attended the advanced and professional level week of last year’s Veneto Opera Summer School.

What are your favourite memories from the summer school?

Eleanor: Performing under the stars in the courtyard for an audience of Italians was an experience that will always stay with me. It was so thrilling to put what we had learnt into practice, and hope that our language passed the test for the Italian audience! Also, the prosecco. All the prosecco. 🙂

Óli: I have many great memories, but my favourite is probably the moment when everything that was being taught through the Melofonetica Method suddenly clicked with everything I’d previously learned. For the first day or two, I was starting to think that what I had learned before was somehow wrong, but by the end of day two it all clicked into place, and I realised that I was building on my previous knowledge.

How has attending the course helped you in your singing careers?

Eleanor: I use the skills that I learnt on the course on a daily basis in my singing. It informs the way I sing Italian, and my overall technique generally. It was also a great opportunity to meet like-minded singers and form friendships and networks that I will keep throughout my career.

Óli: It has helped me a lot both in my teaching and singing. The way the Melofonetica Method was presented was very clear. To work on my sung Italian like that for an intensive week was very helpful, it somehow got the messages into the muscle memory. I’m now applying the method to my old repertoire and it’s remarkable how everything sounds better and is easier to sing and perform. I have also used the same approach successfully in other languages and it works even in Icelandic too!

Veneto Opera Summer School: alumni insights from Eleanor and Óli Melofonetica
Eleanor and Óli performing in the final concert in Bassano on 5 August 2017

What advice would you give others who are considering applying for the summer school?

Eleanor: Don’t hesitate. Matteo, Jamila and the team have put so much thought into crafting an experience that is musically and artistically enriching, but also one that gives a great insight into Italian culture. This was made all the better by Matteo’s insider knowledge of Bassano, including where to get the best gelato!

Óli: Go for it, this was hands down worth every single penny. You can only benefit from this course, it should be mandatory for all young professionals who are seriously thinking of going into the profession. I even think my career would have been different if this course had been on offer 15 years ago!

What are your current singing projects and what’s on the horizon?

Eleanor: I’m currently singing as part of the chorus in Thaïs at Cadogan Hall, and have several concerts around London coming up over the summer.

Óli: At the moment, as well as my teaching work, I’m rehearsing a new opera called Brothers by Daniel Bjarnason and have just finished conducting my two choirs in five concerts. Next winter, La traviata is my biggest project, alongside a series of Christmas concerts and working as a conductor and vocal coach on a production of the musical Man from La Mancha.

Find out more about this year’s Veneto Opera Summer School and how to apply.

Read more about the Melofonetica Method.

Diction from the accompanist’s perspective: views from Bernard Tan

We chat to Bernard Tan, award-winning collaborative pianist, vocal coach and répétiteur. Bernard joins us as a coach on this year’s Veneto Opera Summer School.

How important is it for you as an accompanist to have a good knowledge of diction?

Just as flour is the foundation of pasta, text is the foundation of vocal music. Delivering the text well in vocal music is fundamental, also for the accompanist. A good knowledge of diction is really important for accompanists – perhaps as important as understanding the meaning of the text itself. Understanding the sounds and rhythm of a language and how it works phonetically enables the accompanist to listen to and collaborate much more effectively with the singer, and also to play according to the style and character of the piece.

Can you give some examples of this from Italian repertoire you’ve worked on?

An example that immediately comes to mind is the beginning of Tosca’s aria Vissi d’arte, where the orchestra’s part is so simple that the accompanist will need an understanding of Italian diction to know when to place the chords precisely with the singer. There is also the ending of the beautiful song O del mio amato ben by Donaudy where the final chord would be the warmest one when the accompanist understands that the word ben has a beautiful stopped b at the beginning.

Which aspects of Italian diction are most important for you?

The long and short consonant sounds of the language are definitely the most important aspect. Consonant lengths really matter to accompanists because all the notes we play are percussive, and there is no way to ‘hide’ misplaced notes. We always aim to place our notes on the vowel, so we need to understand the length of the consonants in order to judge when to place the notes or chords with the singer.

Diction from the accompanist's perspective: views from Bernard Tan Melofonetica

Just as a knowledge of diction helps the accompanist collaborate better with the singer, a good level of diction from the singer will help the accompanist to be more sensitive and musical.

From your perspective, why does the singer need good diction?

Just as a knowledge of diction helps the accompanist collaborate better with the singer, a good level of diction from the singer will help the accompanist to be more sensitive and musical. Good diction not only produces clearer text, but is also an expressive tool for more beautiful singing. This directly influences the accompanist because when a singer knows how to use diction in expression, the accompanist will naturally follow the expression created by the singer. In some cases, in the instrumental introduction of a piece, the accompanist will create the expression for the piece based on the text, and then the singer will continue this, making it a heart-warming collaboration.

In your experience, what are the aspects of Italian diction that singers most need to focus on? 

The thing that I see many singers struggle with is pronouncing the stop consonants. This is true for native speakers of many languages because stop consonants are not in our nature. For English speakers, producing a correct t consonant in Italian is also often difficult, but it is important to address this because t is one of the key consonants for a more authentic Italian sound.

How have you found working with the Melofonetica Method?

I started working with Matteo and getting to know the Melofonetica Method in 2016. The method has hugely enhanced my approach to Italian repertoire and has made me a better coach. It has helped me to understand the structure of the Italian language in music, and to be so much more sensitive to texts. As a result, I’m able to give much more effective suggestions when I coach singers in Italian repertoire.

Bernard joins us as a coach on our Veneto Opera Summer School. You can find out more about Bernard here or on his website.

Are you an accompanist?

Would you like to share your thoughts on diction or find out more about working with the Melofonetica Method? Places for accompanists are available on our courses throughout the year and we also work with accompanists on a one-to-one basis. Get in touch with us here.

Veneto Opera Summer School: alumni insights from Emma and Tom

We talk to Emma Dogliani, soprano and Tom Niesser, baritone, who attended the advanced and professional level week of last year’s Veneto Opera Summer School.

What’s your favourite memory from the summer school?

Emma: I have two favourite memories: the day that Matteo delivered fantastic and totally liberating news about vowel modification and the amazing hot day when we ate a delicious lunch and went wine tasting in the Prosecco vineyards.

Tom: It’s really difficult to pick a favourite memory as there were so many, but performing for a knowledgeable Italian audience in their native language and in such a wonderful setting was a very special experience. You really felt that the music of Donizetti and Puccini made even more sense.

How has attending the course helped you in your singing career?

Emma: The course has further developed my singing of Italian opera and songs and solidified my whole technique just in time for my first Verdi role of Luisa Miller, which I returned to Matteo for help with. I have also sung Donna Anna again in Italian since taking the course, and have used everything I learned last summer, over and over again. I have also incorporated much into my own teaching.

Tom: I am very lucky that I will be starting a Master’s course in Vocal Studies at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in September. I performed a couple of the pieces I had worked on with Matteo in my audition and also felt that I was able to apply his rules to other Italian pieces. The panel was very impressed with my sung Italian!

Veneto Opera Summer School: alumni insights from Emma and Tom Melofonetica
In coaching and rehearsal sessions

What advice would you give others who are considering applying for the summer school?

Emma: I would advise anyone who has the opportunity to take this course. Matteo is a fantastic teacher. He is always clear, always helpful, a perfect balance of encouraging as well as demanding, and absolutely committed to the spreading of excellent Italian singing. His method encourages everyone to sing not only with more clarity of diction but with better, more engaged vocal technique. Matteo and Jamila are also wonderful hosts. They know the area inside out and go out of their way to look after you. Even when I created a big problem by leaving my phone in a bar, they were immediately on the phone and sorting it all out!

Tom: I would tell anybody who is thinking about taking the course to embrace it – I was sceptical at first, as I hadn’t heard of the Melofonetica Method before, but the whole group could feel an improvement having spent the week listening and working closely with Matteo and the other coaches. It would be wrong not to also mention just how good the food and atmosphere was for the whole week, and every aspect was well thought out and properly planned (and that coming from a German!).

What are your current singing projects and what’s on the horizon?

Emma: I have lots of concerts with my chamber music trio coming up as well as oratorio next year and a production of Die Fledermaus. Even when I sing in languages other than Italian, Matteo’s approach to consonants has been so useful. I am an absolute fan and am almost tempted to retake the course! 🙂

Tom: Aside from starting my Master’s course at the Guildhall School in September, I will be playing the role of Littore with the Berlin Opera Academy in August, as well as performing regularly in concerts across North Wales.

Click here to find out more about this year’s Veneto Opera Summer School and how to apply.

Click here to read more about the Melofonetica Method.