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25th June 2019

Antonio Pappano’s Vocal Masterclasses: Opera Arias

Vocal Masterclass

Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme 2019 as part of the Aldeburgh Festival 

Charlotte Barrett 


Sir Antonio Pappano once said in an interview with Alain Elkann that ‘opera… creates a community, a community sharing huge emotions that enrich us and make us think’, and indeed the sense of a powerful shared experience was palpable in the audience of Pappano’s Vocal Masterclasses, where we witnessed young artists from all over the world being critiqued and encouraged by the famed maestro.

As Music Director of the Royal Opera House, a position he has held since 2002, Pappano is one of the most highly esteemed conductors and directors in the musical world, and it was a privilege to witness him imparting his wisdom on the young singers.

Mezzo-soprano Beth Moxon, from Leeds, was the first singer to perform, starting with ‘Wie du warst! Wie du bist!’ From Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, which Pappano asked her to ‘butch up’, given her character Octavian is a young boy singing to his older, married, lover. She then moved on to ‘E destin, debbo andarmene…Marcello mio’ from Leoncavallo’s lesser known La Boheme, and Pappano helped her to use the flow of the Italian language to achieve the smoothest legato phrasing. The text of the aria is a letter that Musetta writes to Marcello, and Pappano shared vocal and performative tips so that Beth could evoke this image.

Eric Ferring, a young American tenor, was next, and he started with Mozart’s ‘Dies Bildnis ist bezzaubernd schon’ from Die Zauberflote, where Pappano taught him about the nuances of German vowels and how to elongate them to help with phrasing. Eric’s next piece was an audience favourite, Donizetti’s ‘Una furtive lagrima’ from L’elisir d’amore, which moved a few of us to tears!

Polish-born Karolina Makula then performed Mozart’s ‘Ah scostati…Smanie implacabili’ from Cosi Fan Tutte, and Pappano was keen to push the mezzo-soprano to go over the top with the aria, so the audience could witness the dramatic emotions and absurdity of Mozart’s primadonna, Dorabella.

Puerto Rican Baritone Ricardo Rivera Soto was the last to perform, and he treated us to a moving performance of ‘Son io mio Carlo’, Rodrigue’s dying scene from Don Carlo. Pappano encouraged Ricardo to use his voice in a quieter, more controlled way to convey the pathos of the scene, and by the end of the session Pappano said Ricardo’s improved performance was one of the most beautiful renditions of the aria that he had ever witnessed. High praise indeed!

The Festival Masterclasses: Opera Arias with Antonio Pappano ran from 10-16 June 2019, as part of the Aldeburgh Festival at Snape Maltings.