As this year is all about singing, and the title of my blog is “Anne Qui Chante,” I suppose I’d better write about my first voice lesson in Paris. Here goes.
A first voice lesson with a new teacher is like a first date. At this point in my life, actually, a first voice lesson is way more stressful and nerve-wracking than a first date, because there is so much riding on it. Especially this one–I had never met this teacher when I decided to study with her. That was last summer, when she was recommended to me by my friend Christie and also by a wonderful French composer with whom I had the pleasure and honor of working. And in order to apply for grants–or at least, for the Fulbright–I had to have a letter of affiliation with a school and/or a teacher. So I took a chance and threw in my lot with Madame (no names here, not that I really anticipate posting anything negative about her, but still).
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Salon Vincent d’Indy (check it out, he founded the Schola!) was the little but massively hairy dog lying in a puddle on the floor. The dog’s name, as I later found out, is Ruby, and for most of the lesson she was curled up in a big tote bag under the piano.
Anyway. I won’t get into too many of the gory details, but suffice it to say that it was a really fantastic lesson. Of course it was all in French, with a few words of Italian thrown into the mix. It was one of those lessons that made me feel that I haven’t been studying voice for as long as I have, and that everything I’ve improved on in the last year has been wrong–and that was absolutely what I needed. I have a ton of work to do–on my breathing, vocal agility, vibrato, style, languages, everything–and I can’t wait to get started.
We had a hilarious moment somewhere in the middle while discussing French operatic repertoire. I haven’t done a lot of French–I’ve been sort of in between sizes. A large amount of French arias for soprano are extremely high, and the ones that aren’t are mostly very large and expansive, like this one which I will never sing, but which is so glorious I can’t help but want to share it.
Madame suggested Juliette, from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, which my previous teachers have always said was a little too big for me. But I’m okay with it–and Madame clearly knows what she’s doing with young singers, so why not give it a try?
And then–and this is the hilarious part–she said I should sing Ophélia’s mad scene from Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet. I think I must have looked at her like she had three heads, because we all laughed–me, Madame, and Anna the pianist. And here’s why:
Bwahahaha. Although…really, who’s to say? Anything is possible–after all, miss, this is France!