Tag: opera

Candide: Bridging the Opera and Musical Theatre World

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Emily Pogorelc (Cunegonde) and Alek Shrader (Candide) in #CandideDC. Photo by Scott Suchman.

I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to see the current production of Candide at the Kennedy Center Opera House. My good friend has season tickets for opening night at the opera and invited me to join her for this show. I will admit upfront that I am not very familiar with Candide except for the soprano solo, “Glitter and Be Gay”, and knowing that it is a Leonard Bernstein piece. I do know that Candide has been done at opera houses around the world as well as with musical theatre or light opera companies. The Kennedy Center’s casting reflected this with both renowned opera and Broadway performers.

The two main vocal components I want students to focus on are:

  1. Diction: There are a lot of fast moving lyrics throughout the score for Candide and it’s of utmost importance that I can understand the storyline. The Washington National Opera uses the screen for most songs so you can read along the lyrics (as they do with all operas especially those not in English), but musical theatre companies will not have this so I  believe that crisp and clear diction is paramount.  We sometimes have vowel modifications based on vocal range and resonance, but these modifications should not change the word in a way that the listener cannot understand you. Practice speaking the lyric clearly and fast then sing the lyrics with special attention that you’re not getting sloppy with your diction.
  2. Tone Quality: There is no doubt that a legit sound is used throughout Candide. I might emphasize open vowels, a relaxed throat, and low, open breath throughout the score. Sopranos will be head-dominant whereas all male roles have a classical chest-dominant sound. There are great pieces in this score that are reminiscent of classical musical theatre including Bernstein’s other works, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Lerner & Loewe. It’s certainly advantageous for musical theatre performers to have a diverse skill set and study pieces from more classically based productions.

Think about what other shows might bridge the opera and musical theatre worlds. Perhaps The Merry Widow or Pirates of Penzance (both light operas). Find a song to sing from this genre and see how it challenges you vocally!

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There Is A Light: Starlight Express Has Arrived

I had the absolute privilege to see Starlight Express at West Potomac High School this past Friday night. To be completely honest, it is a show that I knew very little about and have never seen before. Here’s what I knew coming into the theatre on Friday night: the title song (I think I heard this on a demo cassette tape when I was in elementary school), roller skating, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and that’s it.

Let me say right now that I do not write reviews and that is certainly not the purpose of my blog. I had an idea of what I would write about (vocal characteristics of Andrew Lloyd Webber and finding audition material) and have completely changed direction. On Friday night, I was blown away! I do not say this lightly. Starlight Express is a rarely performed show (at least in the United States) and is a story that is great for all ages. West Potomac High School’s production is visually stunning, full of energy, and moving in the best possible ways. If you auditioned and were cast in this show , it was an extraordinary opportunity for students to learn to roller skate. The skate choreography was exciting to watch and kept the audience fully engaged in the show!

I could certainly hear Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical stylings throughout Starlight Express. He has a way of using different styles of music (pop, opera, country, even hip hop) to tell a story through music alone. The ensemble cast showcases their vocal abilities through strong harmonies in the group showstoppers. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about that sound resonating throughout the theatre.

The overriding theme of this post: seize your opportunities! If you can learn to roller skate, sing with some twang in your voice, travel to another country, work with a director or teacher that is passionate about their work, see a new show, hike to the top of mountain, DO IT. It will make you a better actor, a better performer, a better human being. And if you’re in the DC Metro area, RUN to West Potomac High School’s production of Starlight Express. It is not to be missed!