Prof. Judith Kellock - Cornell University

Prof. Judith Kellock - Cornell University

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As part of her recital-tour of South Africa, Prof Judith Kellock, presented Masterclasses at S.A. College of Music at the University of Cape Town. It was a tremendous bonus that Peter Louis van Dijk and myself managed to get this to happen at UCT. At the invitation Prof. Virigina Davids – Head of the Voice Department at the SACM, Miss Kellock worked with students with a large range of skills, of both Under- and Post-Gradute level. Miss Kellock’s class drew substantial interest from faculty and students alike and was attended by all voice students and the full teaching faculty as well as UCT Alumni such as Belvedere Competition winner Pretty Yende. Miss Kellock’s informative class was characterised by her ability to go to the heart of what would provide the most beneficial information to each of the students in the limited time.

Miss Kellock focused on technical and expressive detail with each student. The meaning of the text and characterisation was emphasised in Lieder as well as Opera. Students were encouraged to think “outside the box” and experiment with material with which they were very well familiar. Technical themes that recurred throughout the class, were an excess of tension, muscular activity and “effortfulness” and Miss Kellock’s teaching assisted students to find a more direct approach to their performance. Very useful work included exercises to create fluid coloratura, creating meaning out of the text and French and German diction.

The students who performed were:

Sunnyboy Dladla (Tenor) – taught by Prof. Hartman – presented the taxing tenor aria “Vedro” from “La Scala di Seta” by Rossini. Sunnyboy performed the entire role of Dorvil in the Alex Fokkens/Lara Bye production earlier this year, where his comic flair and acting ability was matched by an outstanding vocal performance that won both audience and critical acclaim. Miss Kellock foccused on the coloratura runs in this aria. Her work with Sunnyboy on Rossini’s Bel Canto style contributed to his preparation for his upcoming role as Nemorino in the Cape Town Opera/UCT Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’amore”.

Friedl Mitas (Soprano) – taught by Prof. Davids – sang the “Jewel Song” from “Faust” by Gounod. Miss Kellock worked on making the interpretation more relevant to the dramatic context, and found innovative ways of making the aria fresh for the singer who had  performed it many times. Friedl will be making her Debut with the Cape Town Philharmonic on Saturday 22 August in the CPO Youth Concerto Festival conducted by Theodor Kuchar.

Antoinette Blyth (Soprano) – taught by Dr. Liebl – performed “O! Quand je d’or” by Franz Liszt. As director of Cape Town’s Philharmonia Choir, Antoinette has extensive music experience as a choral conductor and voice teacher. Miss Kellock focused on aspects of breathing and tension held in the face. Most revealing was when she made Antoinette lie on her back and perform the song, as an illustration of breathing technique.

Phindiwe Nomyanda sang “Seit ich ihn Gesehen” from Schumann’s “Frauenlieben und -leben”. Work focused primarily on German diction and placing the song in context within the cycle.

Thembinkosi Mgetyengana (Tenor) – taught by Mr. Tikolo – sang Bellini’s “Ma rendi pur”. His clear voice and easily produced high notes impressed, and Miss Kellock worked on Bel Canto line and voice production. In particular, avoiding an over-active physical approach to the sound production was encouraged.

Accompanists for the Masterclass were UCT Vocal Coaches Kurt Haupt and myself Albert Combrink.

After the tremendous interest that our recital of American Song “Paper Wings” generated both in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, students and faculty members were even more keen to benefit from Miss Kellock’s knowledge and experience, and we hope to have the privilege of having her back at the SACM in future.

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I have been a repetiteur for many productions, from Operas to Musicals to Cabarets. But I have enjoyed few of them as much as this production conducted by Alex Fokkens and directed by Lara Bye.  The story is delightfully funny and charming. A young couple are in love and already secretly married, and this becomes the engine that drives the farce. I think it is a real “Closet-Opera”: there is always at least one closet on the stage, with always at least one person hiding in it, about to hide in it, or who has just come out from hiding in it. It is a lovely excuse for some comic bussiness and delightful Bel Canto music with exhilirating runs, high notes, cadenzas and furious finales. The work itself is a pleasure, Rossini’s 5th opera, the work of a twenty year old. Musch of the mature Rossinian genius is already to be found. Team leaders Alexander Fokkens and Lara Bye created a production bubbling with life, humour and energy.

Conductor Alexander Fokkens

Conductor Alexander Fokkens

Alex Fokkens uses a light touch on the score. The orchestration had to be reduced for this production and the Cape Town Camerata certainly has their work cut out for them. Alex understands voices well and it is evident that he has studied singing himself. The skill he brings to conducting Rossini is the ability to keep things “light and frothy” but not “frothy and frivolous”. He has a way of insisitng on what he wants, musically, while keeping the mood positive and creative. His experience as an opera conducor certainly pays off in the devellish ensembles as much as in the slow arias, where a misjudgment of tempo could be fatal. I appreciated all his discussions with the cast about expressive detail. The atmosphere of exploration and discovery was one to treasure.

Director Lara Bye

Director Lara Bye

Lara Bye is so refreshing to work with. Willing to think “outside the box”, she rethinks operatic conventions and came up with a classic comedy that has a very contemporary feel to it. Her eye for comic timing is excellent and she has the ability to keep everybody focussed on what she is trying to communcate to an audience, while keeping the mood light enough for all the cast members to feel relaxed enough to make their own contributions. I felt asif I was watching a growth process in which the joy and fun of Rossini’s opera revealed itself in stages, a series of discoveries. Multimedia elements, animations and projections by Jon Keevy adds to the comedy and freshness of the production. The off-beat production had audiences of all ages laughing and giggling at its first public outing in February. Packed houses enjoying an afternoon of Opera? How delightful!

I very much enjoyed working with the cast. The two Baritones Aubrey Lodewyk and Conroy Scott both have very striking stage-personalities and the voices to match.

Baritone Aubrey Lodewyk

Baritone Aubrey Lodewyk

Aubrey plays the likeable servant Germont, who’s only real charachter-flaws are his fondness for the lovely “lady of the manor”, Giulia, and the bottle. He creates much confusion by falling asleep at the wrong time in the wrong place and getting messages mixed up.  In particular, Aubrey’s aria is one of the trickiest obstacle-courses a Baritone could tackle. While no-one ever doubted that he would master the role, I remember the first run-through at the piano. Page upon page upon page of tremendously taxing music lay before us. My eyes popped open. His eyes popped open. The rest of the cast’s eyes popped open. So many notes! Such a long aria! And such leaps from high to low. As we turned the page for the second verse of the fast cabaletta Aubrey took a deep breath and said – mid-cadenza – “Coffee Break!”

Conroy Scott – who also plays the Double Bass professionally – is given the role of Blanzac, whose overconfidence and fall from grace, is plotted and portrayed with excellent comic timing. I enjoyed his awareness of what the basses would be playing at any given moment in the opera. Even in this early Rossini opera, the trademark harmonic drive is evident, and Conroy’s orchestral experience creates a sense of being very aware of and in tune with whatever is happening in the orchestra pit. There’s a sense of youth, energy and enjoyment about being in rehearsal with Conroy that I enjoyed.

Conroy Scott and Zanne Stapelberg: Die Burger Gala Concert Feb. 2009

Conroy Scott and Zanne Stapelberg: Die Burger Gala Concert Feb. 2009

Magdalene Minnaar "La Scala di Seta" 2009

Magdalene Minnaar "La Scala di Seta" 2009

Magdalene Minnaar has a wonderfully expressive colloratura. Working with her on runs and cadenzas is truly fun. She has an excellent ear and faultless intonation – from many years of music lessons and performing also as a violinist, no doubt. And if one suggests just one more high note, or one more tricky little hairpin bend on some ridiculously high note, she is not only willing to try it, but can actually pull it off! I really enjoy her willingness to find a dramtic reason for a cadenza, and to let the music guide the movements to go with the notes. She will be fitting in this production on her way to New York for Masterclasses.

Elizabeth Frandsen

Elizabeth Frandsen

Elizabeth Frandzen sings the role of Lucilla with the perfect mixture of comedy, irony, and a touch of the “Adams Family”. Her popping in and out of the closet is one of the highlights of the evening, and her seduction of Blanzac is delightfully funny. Her powerful mezzo can be brandished like a sword to subdue a cocky baritone, or like a ticklish little feather to seduce the man of her dreams. Her aria is one of the highlights of the show and it is very hard to leave the reharsal room without whistling her perky little tune.

For the present revival only one cast-change was made: Sunnyboy Dladla will now be singing the role of Dorvill, the romantic hero. His comic flair is remarkable and his lyric tenor is ideal for the florid writing. Dorvil is a sweet mixture of the desperately tragic hero and the sweet innocence of the young lover.
Sunnyboy Dladla in Verona, Italy 2009

Sunnyboy Dladla in Verona, Italy 2009

Jacques Louw

Jacques Louw

Jacques Louw sings the tutor Dormont. A character role, he tends to pop up at inconvenient times and in even more inconvenient places.

The project is presented under the auspices of the South African Wagner Society and coordinated by Music Maestro’s

Some Lyric Tenors

May 25, 2009

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Here are some lyric tenors from the past singing repertoire which Sunnyboy Dladla and I will be presenting on 31 May in our concert,  “Dangerous Liaisons”.

Fritz Wunderlich – Il mio Tesoro from Don Giovanni (M0zart)

More Wunderlich – Ecco Ridente from Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini)

Luigi Alva – Una furtiva Lagrima from L’Elisir d’amore (Donizetti)

Luigi Alva – Quanto e bella from L’Elisir d’amore (Donizetti)

Luigi Alva – Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini)

Juan Diego Florez – Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini)

Juan Diego Florez — Ecco Ridente Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini)

William Matteuzzi – La Scala di Seta

Ramon Vargas’s Scala

Bartoli’s Scala