Everyone’s doing their own thing this summer. Work, vacation, music…that’s all I’ve done, and in all honesty, I’m thankful for that. In the meantime I do also like to keep up with old-time friends, friends that you can catch up easily with and rekindle conversations as if nothing’s really changed. Although we are both very busy New York City college students, I couldn’t feel more glad knowing I met someone like Michelle Geffner from all the way back in high school. Since I’ve known her, she’s been this classy-sassy girl with an impressive voice that made me want to sing every time I did sound for the musical productions she was a lead for (she played the perfect Janet Van de Graaf in Drowsy Chaperone I tell you). And now, she’s going into her third year of pursuing classical singing at Juilliard. Because she did reveal some news about her exciting trip to Italy for a Julliard summer program, while building my site, I had to ask her if she could just tell me more about what a day in a music program in another country could be like. But before you read about her day, this is how the program can be briefly summed up:
- It’s called Classic Lyric Arts. It’s run by Glenn Morton (Italian diction coach at Juilliard, Mannes, and Manhattan School of Music).
- The intensive Italian music and language program runs for three and a half weeks for classical singers in a small town outside Bologna called Novafeltria.
- Students are mainly from the three music schools above, but also some from other schools and/or international.
“Buongiorno, bella”. Every kindly nonna in sight says this as I walk my way to the “accademia lirica”. It’s super cute but still kind of catches me off guard, being a fresh Manhattanite and all, and recently thrust into a world of cobblestone streets and endless parsley+tomato+some-form-of-savory-carb combinations for lunch. I could get used to this. I’m getting pretty good at daily conversations with the locals — the elders think everyone is “bellissima!” and the teenagers think we are the epitome of exoticism. Also, I can order food like a SNAP. It’s important so ya gotta learn fast.
As I pass these morning remembrances, I am reminded that I am approximately two minutes late for my first coaching. Doesn’t matter though, I know the conductor is running on Italian time, too. I get there five past; the pianist and coach are trickling in. All’s well. We run some rep, he tells me what to improve in Italian (he doesn’t speak English so you do have to pay attention here), I respond with my best textbook vocab and whatever I’ve picked up eavesdropping on locals at the bar, and we try it. We’ve practiced the silky phrases of Bellini’s art song, the musical love letter Vaga Luna” — I’m told to combine the initial vowels with their past phrase; it sounds more “legato” and helps to soften the natural staccato of the English-speaker’s accent. I must pay more careful attention to the double consonants of “affetto” and its rhyme “diletto” in Mozart’s aria “In Uomini, in soldati”. It’s a little added spark to the cunning character of Despina, as well a way to avoid a few spoiled tomato throws if the diction isn’t *quite* good enough (Just kidding. That only happens every once in a while at La Scala. But, still. Respect the language, you know?). After 45 mins, coaching is over and Italian class is next. After 45 mins, coaching is over and Italian class is next. A domani, maestro. Our teacher is called Illaria (which is the Italian version of Hillary el oh el), We discuss reflexive verbs and their various feminine/masculine/singular/plural forms (ugh). She chats with us a bit about her 6 year old twin boys. We smile, nod, and respond in Italianish, although she probably speaks better English than me to be honest. Then, we have rehearsal for the next four hours. If all goes well, we can get a lil’ more time off in the evening. Tomorrow’s the concert in the nearby city of Rimini. Here goes! In bocca al lupo, tutti!