Tuesday, August 20, 2013

You'll never forget your first Master Class

As I’m running late for class again I figured I should do something productive with my time, since I hate arriving late at classes. Well, this past weekend was absolutely amazing! Friday I went to Annick Massis’s concert, then on Saturday I watched the Theatro Municipal’s production of Aida (which I am reviewing in the blog later this weekend since I’m watching it again on Thursday), and then on Sunday I went to Annick’s concert again. But I’m talking about those in due time but now I’d like to share with you the amazing experience I had yesterday.
As I told you in my previous post, me and my friend ended up chatting a lot with Annick and her manager after the concert on Friday. It was no different on Sunday and as we chatted about all sorts of things Annick invited me to sing in her Master Class the day after. I was so stunned! I had never sung in a Master Class before so I was kind of terrified too. But I obviously accepted and thanked her and her manager a billion times for the opportunity.
I got home that night with a buzz in my head and I had no idea what I was gonna sing. As I ruffled through my sheet music looking for something to sing I resembled a 16 year old adolescent looking for an outfit to go out in and saying those same words “I don’t have anything!”. I eventually selected 3 songs, Gavotte from Massenet’s Manon, Ach Ich Fulhs from Mozart’s Die Zauberflute, and Delibes’ Le Filles de Cadix. I got slightly calmer after making that decision and decided to make myself some hot tea and watch an episode of Marple to calm down. It helped a bit, but it took me an hour to sleep because I was trembling with anticipation, fear and cold (it was REAL cold that night).
Woke up the next day hardly believing this was really gonna happen. I hadn’t told many people, only my mum and my friends on twitter. I went to college and warmed up my voice and talked to two friends about it, they helped me enormously. I sang Ach Ich Fulhs for one of them and she said it was alright so I went on my way to the theatre for the Master Class which was scheduled for 3:00 pm.
When I got there I was very apprehensive because the only people I knew were Annick and her manager. Plus all the other people seemed to know each other really well in a very friendly way. And there I was, the stranger! Thankfully I sat close to her manager and we chatted until the Master Class began. Two people I did know arrived in that mean time though.
There were about 20 people there and I was just thinking to myself “Oh Lords, is everybody going to sing?”, and the answer was YES, almost all of them, 12 people sang.
I must say that while it was such a wonderful experience to watch her work on everybody, some people were very intimidating. Everybody sang such complicated and complex stuff. Stuff that I had never heard anybody sing in Master Classes before, like Lucia’s first Aria, the Queen of the Night’s First Aria, Micaela’s Thrid Act aria, Adina’s Cabaletta and the Mirror Aria from Thais. And those were the ones that I knew of, the guys also brought their A games, it was very frightening I must say. But I had a tactic to not get nervous about singing. Because there were a lot of people so I would just think to myself “This is gonna take an eternity, she’ll be tired by the end and won’t want to hear anybody else.”. And even though I knew that that wasn’t true at all, it kept me calm and enabled me to pay absolute attention to what she was saying during the 4 hour straight course of the Master Class.
I made notes like a crazy person. I like to make notes a lot, every time I watch a Master Class streamed online and on YouTube, I always make sure to take as many notes as I can. Unfortunately I was the only one who was doing so, which I found quite pitiful really, but I didn’t know any of those people and everybody has their own methods, right?
I’m gonna try and sum up what she said mainly about the Brazilian’s singing in general. One problem that all of us had was the fact that our emission is too horizontal and not vertical enough. Our language is to blame here since it is very horizontal.
The pronunciation wasn’t clear enough, not in any language people sang. in Again I feel like this is our language’s fault again, because in Portuguese we speak with a very lazy mouth and a somewhat compared to other languages a dragged sound not really taking the time to pronounce every inflection right. Plus it’s too much based on vowels, so it’s like a huge AOUIE vocalize, you know? And all these languages that we have to sing in give so much importance to consonants, so there’s the problem.
And since our mouths are sort of lazy we didn’t use lips and our face muscles not nearly enough to help us with our pronunciation. One thing she did to help us with that was making us speak the text and then sing it. She would go as far as to say the words of our next phrase in our ears to help us do it correctly.
Plus the issue of breathing, everywhere I go people tell me that the breath is everything, breathe correctly you are half way through. So true, but it’s easier to say than to actually do it. Because at the end of the day what really works is the abdomen and your breathing muscles. If everything is sunshine and happiness down there, you won’t need to stress your vocal chords ever, meaning you won’t over work them nor hurt them and you can sing an entire opera without worry.
Well, talk, talk, talk but I never say how it went with me right? Well after the 12th person had left the stage all the academy students assumed the Master Class was over and started asking for pictures. But then she turned to me and said “Come on! I wanna hear you sing something”. Holy Christ almighty all eyes were on ME. Because until then I was just someone who had gone there to listen. I latter found out that not even all of the students from that academy were in fact allowed to sing for her, only a select group of that select group that was that academy. And the pressure was on.
I looked at my friend Debora for reassurance and she mouthed, “Just go there and sing, she’s asking you to. You’re gonna be fine”. So as I took that stage that I had never sang in before. I was so nervous I could hardly speak, I gave the pianist the sheet music and thanked him for playing for me. And after 2 little chords I had to open my mouth and let whatever wanted to come out do so.
I really don’t know if I sang well. It’s odd how we can only remember the things we did wrong. I messed up some tempos and didn’t take my eyes from the sheet music. But in the middle of the aria there’s a little instrumental part that gave me time to think and to go “Dude, I’m here, I made it, holy crap. I might as well enjoy this ride while I can”. So I feel like the second part was less tense. The high notes came right, but don’t be fooled I was very nervous. Thank God I had peed just before going on on stage.
The odd thing was, before I thought I’d be so worried about what the others thought of me. I mean, I had Lucia and Thais watching me, and although some might have not liked me because I was getting to sing at their master class, I found it incredible how I really didn’t give a rat’s ass about what they thought. At the end of the aria I did look at Debora who was sitting in the front row and she gave me reassuring thumbs up.
Then as soon as I stopped singing Annick was already heading to the stage to help me. It was surreal. I, like everybody else, have that “too much horizontal, not enough vertical” issue. So she had me do my first phrase in “Bur” and then with the words. Then she held my cheeks with one hand and made me sing like that, also telling me the words before I sang them. And I found out that I wasn’t pronouncing not nearly as much as I should. And she also told me I wasn’t breathing very well. But that’s normal because I was very nervous and the breathing just goes whatever when you are nervous. She worked with me for a while and by the end of it I could hardly believe the sound I was making.
She also told me that that aria was very difficult, just like the others. To that I made little joke which people laughed to. Breaking the ice, lesson number one, make them laugh.
But for me it was a victory to get on stage at all and sing in front of those people. It’s so easy to sing for people who aren’t musicians because most of the time they think you are wonderful. And I don’t mind criticism, but for once in my life I was grateful that I couldn’t read minds. After it was over I stayed around for a while talking to her manager about the bizz, quite scary I must say. Then I chatted a bit with her and she was so gracious and nice, she told me I was very brave to go on stage like that, especially after practically not speaking for 4 hours straight. Also that I should keep on studying and never give up and that I was in the right track and a thousand more advice. I thanked her and her manager a billion times for this wonderful opportunity and for her wanting to hear me at all and took my leave.
I was so electric when I got home. I kept talking to myself like “I can’t believe I just did that”. I couldn’t possibly stay home after that, plus I hadn’t eaten all day thinking I’d puke at the Master Class. So I called my cousin and before he knew it I was in his house and then we went to the mall. I bought a pretty orange floor mop and two colorful glasses that were on sale as a gift for me. Then ate a million things at McDonalds because I was starving and feeling worthy of it.
And that was basically it. The first Master Class you never forget, hun? Cheers!
PS; There's an operarox live stream tonight. It's gonna be awesome, today's topic is "Funny Scenes from Operas" at 6:00 pm EST ;)


  1. Wow! Wow, wow, wow! Way to go! (I should say more than that but I am speechless right now. Congrats on your Master Class achievement!)

  2. Ditto Rob. Good going, Bela! :D Another big steps in a fascinating singing career!

  3. love reading this!! big congrats on getting on stage and sing! and how nice Annick Massis is! you're leaving positive impression with all singers visiting Brazil :-) (-td)