PILLAR 1. Interpretation and Technique

Courses

‘Interpretation and Technique’ courses provide students with specialised technical skills and knowledge, specifically aimed at professional practice. Any particular repertoire focus depends on coming projects, visiting masters, etc. Certain courses are exclusive to singers or repetiteurs. 

Repertoire Coaching

The main goal of the coaching sessions is to stimulate and explore imagination, interpretation and communication.

By covering a thorough study of both the text and the music and the link between them, the repertoire is analysed in detail. Translation, pronunciation, meaning, dynamics, expression marks, phrasing, intonation, vibrato, rhythm and many other components are brought together to explore and discover the most interesting interpretation possible. In addition to this, the differences of styles are discussed.

The main goal of the coaching sessions is to foster and explore imagination, interpretation and communication. The repertoire is analysed in detail, through in-depth study of both text and music, and the relationship between these. Translation, pronunciation, meaning, dynamics, expression marks, phrasing, intonation, vibrato, rhythm and many other components are discussed and brought together to arrive at interesting interpretations. In addition, the differences of styles are studied. The focus is always on how to communicate all of this well to an audience. 

Lessons can be linked to an IOA production, or the repertoire can be entirely free choice. Repertoire can encompass opera, song, oratorio, operetta and musical theatre styles from early baroque to contemporary music. 

For singers: The character’s development in a song, aria or role is studied and kept as close to reality as possible. Often, reference will be made to movement and/or acting classes (see pillar 2). We address balance problems that may occur: how will a singer make him- or herself heard above an orchestra in a larger hall? Students receive help with choice of repertoire and Fach. They also receive guidance for their preparation: in general, but also specifically for concerts, masterclasses or productions. 

For repetiteurs: We monitor the development of thorough repertoire knowledge, through work in detail as well as the improvement of students’ sight-reading skills. Classes specifically aim to increase students’ ability to play and sing at the same time. Therefore, these are closely linked to singing lessons for repetiteurs (see below). Where necessary, students will be given initiation to conducting and following a conductor, in preparation for the conducting classes and productions. Duo and ensemble work with singers (together with coaching singers and vocal ensembles) is discussed and put into practice. Students are given guidance for their preparation: in general, but also specifically for concerts, masterclasses or productions. 

English Language Coaching

English coaching classes explore the nature of the English language in relation to the singing voice, focusing on vocal music from the opera, operetta, oratorio and song repertoire. As English is the common language spoken between international students at the IOA, it is all the more important that attention is given to ensure English is learnt and applied accurately when singing. 

The technical elements of each session will focus on all aspects of diction, with the first year of the programme concentrating on the correct pronunciation of vowels, diphthongs and consonants in sung English. The pronunciation of and differences between British Received Pronunciation and American Standard will also be addressed. 

The overall aim is that during this first year, each student acquires the tools to be able to pronounce, enunciate and express a vocal text in English. Successful communication of a text will be at the heart of each session. 

The pace at which the sessions progress will depend on the ability and mother tongue of the individual student. Ideally, by the end of the first year, students should be able to apply their technical knowledge of the English language independently. Having mastered the technical foundations of the language, the focus will be on encouraging physical freedom in students to enable them to fully communicate a text and inhabit a role in English. 

French Language Coaching

While a young singer’s primary concern is vocal development, it is equally necessary to focus on musical development, both on stage and in the use of languages, as well as on the singer’s growth as a human being and artist. During French Language Coaching, we consider the language in relationship to the voice, the music and the meaning of the text. 

Classes are individual and based on each student’s growth and needs (both singers and repetiteurs).  

Special attention is given to the way in which a singer produces sound when he/she sings a text. The student develops an understanding of how to sing and mean the text working with his/her respective voice and body. 

German Language Coaching

The course German Language Coaching provides students with tools to prepare and interpret German repertoire independently. The aim of the course is successful communication of the text on stage, as well as freedom of expression in singing and acting.  

Students are coached individually. Students without thorough prior knowledge of German phonetics, pronunciation, and grammar, will also attend group sessions.  

In group sessions, students first become familiar with German orthography (spelling) and phonetic transcription (German IPA). We then proceed to the main features and relevant details of German pronunciation and subsequently discuss and practice the pronunciation of each sound separately and then in words and sentences. Beside articulation, students train correct intonation and phrasing.  

A secondary, but rather important, tool to be acquired is basic as well as repertoire-specific knowledge of German grammar. Once singers can make out the verb and its complements in a German sentence, they will be able to phrase their sentences meaningfully, and interpret the text based on a thorough understanding. Ideally, singers should eventually be able to translate their texts by themselves with the aid of a good dictionary. Acquiring vocabulary and getting acquainted with important German poets and librettists is more of a by-product in group sessions.  

In individual coaching sessions, on the other hand, we will focus on (music) literary texts. Here, students work on their actual or future German repertoire, intensively training their performance in both speaking and singing, and learning to become increasingly independent in their preparation.  

Italian Language Coaching

Singing in Italian is one of the foremost requirements of an opera singer. Correct pronunciation, articulation, historical awareness of the different possibilities of text rendering throughout repertoire, and, finally, being able to acquire an understanding of how to deal with the complex literary structures of ancient Italian, all constitute the main goals of a course of Italian coaching.  

Initially, this course focuses on the basics of Italian phonetics for singers (including learning how to use IPA and/or going deeper into it), explaining the rules of pronunciation both through spoken text and through singing, never losing sight of the ability to achieve the desired result, being correct from a technical point of view. Singers and repetiteurs learn a method to approach an operatic text, through phonetic decoding, understanding and analysis from a dynamic point of view. 

Both written material and videos (by outstanding Italian actors and great opera singers) will be part of the course. 

The course consists both of group lessons (for phonetical work and for analysis through media) and of individual lessons. During the first year, we will focus on particular arias. During the course we will initially focus on arias. As the skills develop, we will start working on the more complex task of rendering recits, both secco and accompanied. 

The course will offer support to any IOA project based on Italian repertoire. 

Russian Language Coaching

The course repertoire is determined according to the needs of each individual student. Repertoire includes opera as well as song, and will be discussed among student, teacher and staff, to meet Fach requirements. Students learn to adopt precise translation (with help), pronunciation rules, and the application of these rules in singing, interpretation and style. Students are also given help in their preparations: how to study, to know and remember precise translations of every word or sentence while singing, and how text and musical interpretation are intimately connected.   

Workshops

On several occasions during the academic year, members of staff conduct workshops regarding specific themes (for example: operetta, baroque, audition training). These workshops last several days, up to a week. The results may be presented to the audience during a (semi-staged) concert. Each year, new workshops are planned.

Find below the workshops 2021-2022:

Workshop Repertoire

At the beginning of the first year of the IOA programme, this workshop makes an inventory of the student’s actual skills as a singer/repetiteur. The workshop includes sessions on the student’s personal repertoire, during which the teachers’ expectations are made clear.  

The aim of this workshop is to give a clear understanding, to both student and staff, of the profile, the goal and the path needed for the student to succeed.   

Students may bring repertoire of their choice. The focus is on interpretation, and how to increase and improve it. The communication of text to the audience is discussed and explored. Movements are considered as well. The following questions will be addressed (a.o.):  

  • Has the score/text been well read and understood? 
  • Is the context of the aria clear?  
  • Is the background of the opera sufficiently known?  
  • What is the relation between music and text?  

Finally, students receive a general introduction of how to study and prepare and how to be ‘stylish’ on and around the stage. In this context, students can check their own preparation against the suggested methods. 

Workshop Operetta

This workshop is focused on the student’s own repertoire, on operetta repertoire, as well as on other styles. It is part of the preparation for the private gala concert at the home of Axel Vervoordt’s, president of Inspiratum, one of the IOA’s main private sponsors, and for possible other (sponsor) concerts that may occur.  

The goal of this workshop is to evaluate the student’s progress since the first workshop. Questions for evaluation include:  

  • Which path has been followed and how?  
  • How will the student’s education continue from here?  

The repertoire will be studied in depth, and a general ‘staging’ for the arias and ensembles will be given in the particular context of this concert. Advice will be given on dress code and how to enter and leave the stage, and how to communicate with the audience. 

Specializations

There are specializations for singers and for repetiteurs.

Specialization for singers:

Vocal Advice – Dietrich Henschel

Students receive individual training with specific focus on breath: its use for phrasing, its importance for resonance, its control when moving on stage. The control of muscle activity in a balanced breathing process is considered a basic element of sound production.  

We will work on the particular demands for roles in preparation of the different stage projects during the season, as well as on the individual repertory of the students. 

Vocal Advice – Charlotte Margiono

Charlotte Margiono is available for individual and group advice to singers, in order to refine their repertoire at a vocal level. In classes, sufficient attention is also given to ensemble singing. 

First, the Mozart ensembles are approached. Subsequently, other genres are considered: early and late Romanticism, as well as German, Slavic and (definitely) Italian repertoire. 

Classes specifically pay attention to the following issues: 

  • finding an ensemble sound that is homogenous with the sound of colleague-singers; 
  • incorporating one’s own direction in musical interpretation and expression; 
  • learning safe singing techniques to use when following complex direction advice; 
  • focus on symbiosis of acting, theatre and singing; 
  • preparing for auditions: finding and studying the best arias for the student, and learning to acquire sufficient flexibility to cope with high-stress situations. 

Vocal Advice – Martin Wölfel

As a vocal advisor, Martin Wölfel inquires how the singer’s voice forms a unity with the role to be portrayed. The voice should sound healthy and be technically mastered without showing off the technique. Wölfel wants to feel the joy of risk that comes from skill, not from desperation.  

Specialization for repetiteurs:

Basso Continuo

The goal of this course is twofold:  

First, the repetiteur acquires an understanding of several early keyboard instruments, like the harpsichord and the fortepiano. The student understands how these instruments work, what types there are and how to play them, how to obtain a maximum of expression by using certain techniques, what the differences are in approaching the harpsichord/fortepiano keyboard and literature as opposed to the piano, etc.  

Second, these technical aspects are put into practice through playing baroque and classical opera repertoire. Students learn (1) to perform baroque music on the early keyboards (orchestral overtures, arias etc. as well as smaller solo pieces); (2) to accompany a recitativo secco; (3) to distinguish and apply different stylistic approaches and (4) to find a musically convincing alternative by using these ‘early music solutions’ on the modern piano. 

Conducting Technique

Repetiteurs are taught to focus on the functions of the conductor. What does the conductor do? How do I follow a conductor’s beat? What is important to a conductor? What does he/she expect to hear? How do I make the piano sound like an orchestra? How can I reduce my score, but keep the conductor satisfied? We study piano reductions and learn to deal with these. 

We study basic techniques to conduct ourselves. In later professional life, repetiteurs may have to conduct off-stage choruses or orchestras (so-called ‘banda’), or conduct entire rehearsals when the conductor is absent. We learn to beat the diverse time signatures, the functions of both arms and hands, giving cues, analysing and arranging scores for clarity, etc. We find out what singers and orchestra need to see from a conductor. 

As such, repetiteurs are trained both as ‘replacers’ of orchestra and as conductors, so as to be in charge of guiding soloists or ensembles in rehearsals and concerts. When singers feel that the repetiteur is on top of his/her profession, they are more likely to have faith and feel more comfortable, and will therefore perform better themselves.  

Repetiteur Training

This class aims to prepare the standard audition repertoire that is expected from a repetiteur when applying for a fixed position in an Opera House. We will focus on orchestral understanding and sound, pianistic solutions and arrangements, coordination with singing and proficient diction in the main operatic languages. 

Project Pianists and Singers

This course aims to improve the repetiteur’s presentation and technical abilities. Students learn what to do in the situation of having to read through a vast volume of repertoire (as they will need to do in the actual profession), developing strategies and efficient ways to supporting and accompany the singer, even when having been given limited time to prepare. 

Singing Lessons for Repetiteurs

Singing Lessons for Repetiteurs aim to develop the voice and posture of each individual pianist and help students to prepare for specific professional situations including auditions, rehearsals and internships. The course focuses on the development of healthy vocal technique. Focus on good projection, the ability to sing and play the piano simultaneously and the use of different languages in an assortment of relevant repertoire are central to each lesson. There are various circumstances in which a repetiteur may be asked to sing an absent singer’s part. In this situation, a repetiteur will often have to sing from offstage, possibly from the orchestra pit. Therefore, vocal projection, confidence and stamina are of great importance for students training for this role. The course will prepare students for precisely these circumstances. Warm-up and voice exercises accompanied by the teacher will lay the foundation of each lesson. Students will gradually engage in simultaneous playing and singing, using repertoire relevant to their own personal journey. 

At the outset of the course, students will learn to sing and play songs and arias in a familiar language. Depending on the student’s potential, he/she will then engage with operatic repertoire (arias and ensembles) in different languages. As a result, students will start to become better acquainted with standard operatic and song repertoire. 

During the first year of study, audition and rehearsal circumstances will also be re-created during class. 

As the singing skills of the student improve, lessons will pay special attention to specific repertoire necessary to prepare upcoming auditions, coachings and productions. 

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