Last night was the first of OAC's masterclass series at Old First Church, and I had the opportunity and great pleasure of singing for Sheri Greenawald. This was my first time doing so, but I had seen her work with others before in San Francisco and Boston, so I had some idea what to expect. As always, Greenawald was detail-driven and supportive, and a riot to watch.
While she did address a few technical concerns as they came up, Greenawald concentrated the bulk of her efforts on reshaping our interpretations. She fastidiously focused our visions of the scene for our arias, our emotional arc as dictated by the text and the music. Especially in the context of a masterclass, where time is limited, reshaping the interpretative form of a piece can work miracles in transforming the performance, so much so that the singing often improves too. More often than not, this task is about honing on the specifics of drama (or comedy, as the case may be), and I find it invaluable to have a pair of experienced eyes to give me a fresh take. Ms. Greenawald, through her work both on and off the stage, certainly fits the bill!
Hatem Nadim, who dutifully braved The Rake's Progress and Roméo et Juliette alike.
I'm a great fan of masterclasses, both as a performer and as an audience member. Their quality, of course, relies largely on the personality and strength of the master teacher, and on the students' ability to implement new ideas quickly. Even the best masterclasses can feel long, as they can clock in at around three hours, often without intermission. But they are quite valuable, and not only for the musicians directly concerned. Most non-musicians I've invited to watch have found it fascinating to witness a piece evolve before their eyes. People with no particular connection to or interest in opera have said that they understand better the appeal of the art form because they've seen what goes into creating a skilled vocal interpretation. I encourage everyone to attend a masterclass!