Author: Mark Adamo
The voice: it’s not just a violin capable of phonating words. Even the best-educated and most expressive composers can miscalculate when attempting to make musical drama available to the resources of the singing actor. Enter American Opera Projects’ Composers and the Voice, a competitive two-year fellowship for aspiring librettists and opera composers. This peerless program has been led since 2002 by the excellent conductor Steven Osgood (who has also been making waves as the new general and artistic director of the Chautauqua Opera Company). Osgood takes promising composers, librettists along with experienced vocalists, and helps each kind of artist learn how the other works. Do we, as composers, really want the lowest note of a singer’s range, or just the richest? Can one work with the different registers of a singer’s voice for dramatic effect in the same way one would use the dusky chalumeau and brilliant clarino ranges of the clarinet – orchestrating, as it were, for a particular instrument? And what, God help us all, of vowels? You could spend a lifetime (many have) on such questions. Osgood works with the American Opera Projects team to make that learning curve into a ski slope from which composers can leap off into thrilling new ideas about how drama sings.
Mark Adamo is the composer-librettist of the operas Little Women, Lysistrata, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and Becoming Santa Claus. He lives in New York City.
I met Lidiya Yankovskaya first as an alumnus of the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors, or HIWC. I got to know her much better when she conducted an absolutely pellucid “Little Women” in Boston: Within 40 minutes of the first rehearsal, I wrote on my score, “Never lose this woman’s number.”
There’s talking the talk, and there’s walking the walk: Dallas Opera does both. At a time when in the leadership of concert music, as in so much else, many of us are asking, “Where are the women?”, Dallas Opera has launched the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors.