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One of the longer DVDs that I’ve seen from the
Masterclass Media Foundation Series featured
British soprano, Joan Rodgers (1956 – ). With a running
time of two hours and seven minutes, it featured five
different singers rehearsing five arias from four operas;
therefore, the length of the DVD was not excessive.

The featured singers were from the British Youth Opera
program, and consisted of three sopranos (Erica Eloff,
Rhian Lewis and Julia Sporsen), one baritone
(Gary Griffiths) and one mezzo-soprano (Kristen Darragh).
Repetiteur Frances Hills provided excellent piano
accompaniment. Right off the bat, I must say that all of
these singers had wonderful instruments. They each
sounded like professionals from a technical standpoint,
while not necessarily an interpretive one.

That’s where Mme. Rodgers came in, coaching the
singers and offering suggestions that would aid them
in delivering dramatically appropriate and meaningful
performances. The arias performed and critiqued were
“Ach, ich fühl’s,” from “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart, “Vedrò, mentr’io sospiro,” from
Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” “Oh Dieu! Que de bijoux”
(“The Jewel Song”), from Charles Gounod’s “Faust,”
as well as “Puskay pogibnu ya,” (“Tatiana’s Letter Scene”)
and “Ja nye sposobna k grusti tomnoy” (“Olga’s Aria),
both from “Eugene Onegin,” by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Therefore, we heard four different languages sung,
and Rodgers was equally adept at idiomatically coaching
the singers in all of them, while demonstrating a thorough
understanding of the psychology behind each of the
five different roles.

Since the technical abilities of these singers were so high,
very little time was devoted to the mechanics of vocal
production, which freed Mme. Rodgers to concentrate
on the dramatic characterizations of each role. The home
of Vernon and Hazel Ellis provided the relaxed and
friendly venue for this class, and a small audience was
present. Any singer, musician or opera buff could benefit
from watching this 2008 DVD. I know I did!

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