The week begins with a crash course in French phonetics, focusing on the formation of the French vowels for the purpose of singing with all the necessary modifications. Essential issues such as style, liaisons, editions, repertoire, sung [r] versus spoken [r], and spoken dialogue in opera will also be covered at the same time.
Beyond mastering the basic pronunciation issues and necessary modifications for singing, we start from the French text, explore its natural stresses and inflexions and how these fit (or not) with the rhythm chosen by the composer. We compare the punctuation on the score, as chosen by the composer - or sometimes the editor - and that of the poet. We talk - whenever appropriate - about the background of the song (composer and poet), examine closely the versification, and explore the meaning of the song/aria. We also look closely at the score: chosen pitches, rhythms, dynamics, and what they suggest in relation to the poem. Little by little we guide the singers to make their mind up and commit in their performance to their understanding of the text through the music.
There will be individual training every day with Florence Daguerre de Hureaux, including in-depth work on the texts and understanding them, diction and pronunciation, and declamation.
There willl also be individual training every day with Caroline Dowdle, working on the style and musical preparation of the works.
Further individual training with Jean-Paul Pruna, reinforcing the linguistic and musical preparation will also be provided.
The singers will be encouraged to attend one another’s sessions to maximise their knowledge of the French repertoire and how to approach it.
Sessions will be held in the morning and late afternoon. After lunch there will be free time for relaxation (there is a pool and spacious grounds!), private study and exploring the area.
Each evening we will gather to declaim the texts before dinner.
There will be a mid-week public masterclass as well as an informal concert on the final evening in the barn, which has been converted into a beautiful concert space, in front of a French audience.
A typical timetable for the week:
Friday: ARRIVAL. Meeting everybody, settling in and first dinner all together.
Saturday: 10.30-13.00 General introduction to singing in French + phonetics
14.45 - 19.30 Individual sessions with breaks
Sunday onwards: 9.45-10.00 Group session
10.00-13.15 Individual sessions with breaks
13.15-16.00 LUNCH + rest and/or private study
16.00-17.30 More individual sessions with breaks
17.50-19.00 Group session: declamation and singing.
One day Mid-week the schedule changes a little to accommodate the public masterclass one afternoon.
On the Friday night is the informal concert. We have individual sessions that morning and a brief rehearsal in the earlier part of the afternoon.
French opera arias and mélodies.
Before the beginning of the course, participants will be expected to:
Have the poem or text of their aria in poem/text form on a separate sheet.
Have a home-made word for word translation of their poem/text written under each word on their score in English and in their mother tongue. Do not use Google translate!
Have a phonetic transcription of their poem/text if possible (use a good dictionary such as Robert & Collins, or/and www.easypronunciation.com)