Scuola di belcanto had its first, enormously successful year in 2017. Below are some testimonials from the first cohort of students as well as photos of the course.
Scuola di belcanto completely changed the course of my singing life. The opportunity to work with world-class artists, directors and coaches gave me a new insight into what international level performance is all about.
The team of professors were so attentive to us as individuals, and singers across a range of age and experience all benefited in different ways, according to what we needed. Being surrounded by fantastic student singers from all-over the globe was also immensely inspiring, and it was so interesting to hear how there was always scope, even in the most polished voices to go further dramatically and vocally.
Personally to hear from such an incredible rostrum of professionals that vocal development was not a race, that the most important thing for me was to give my voice the correct guidance and time, was an immense relief! This change in mindset had an immediate effect in my voice, making my singing far more relaxed and natural, as I wasn’t trying to sound older or louder than I should.
Spending a month steeped in Italian language and culture at centro studi italiani clarified so much for me about Italian music; the lyrical nature and emotional immediacy of the speech, and the warmth and generosity of Italian people are imbedded in bel canto music.
If you want to get inside the Italian repertoire and learn about international-calibre performance, this is the place.
The Scuola di belcanto in Urbania offered all those attending a chance to work on Italian repertoire with an unparalleled faculty. As a singer in the early stages of a professional career, this sort of intensive learning and development is rare, and hard to come by. Many similar courses are aimed exclusively at singers who are still studying full-time, and while those singers undoubtedly benefit, for the young professional, the opportunity to focus exclusively on singing, language, style and repertoire is even more valuable – a privilege that often seems lost to conservatoire days.
With world-class faculty focusing on every element of performance, and with immersion into Italian language and culture, it would be impossible not to grow as an artist. The mixture of ages and stages present, as well as the fillip of working with highly respected current practitioners as well as pedagogues, encouraged us all to dare more, risk more, and the supportive, collegial atmosphere that developed over the two weeks was something to treasure. The friendships that emerged have lasted beyond the school – quite a measure of the warmth and loyalty established between students and staff alike.
On a personal level, this was a wonderful opportunity for me to reconnect with, and further explore, the Italian repertoire that has somewhat taken a back seat as opportunities in German repertoire have opened more readily. I am hugely grateful for the chance to do so, and will not allow Italian bel canto to take a back-seat so readily again. A few months later, I still find myself hearing words of wisdom from my time in Urbania as I practise and learn new repertoire – the lessons of those two weeks have become tools that I will carry with me as I endeavour to forge a lasting career.
In July 2017, I, and thirteen other young classical singers from around the world, were lucky enough to attend ‘Scuola di belcanto’ in Urbania, Italy. Running simultaneously with this course was Giovanni Pasotto’s ‘Centro Studi Italiani’, an Italian language school with first-class teachers and a welcoming atmosphere. As a result, the course came with three hours worth of invaluable Italian language lessons every weekday morning.
Each morning, after my daily coffee from ‘Café del Teatro’, I would make my way to Italian class. A few cheerful ‘Buongiorno’s’ were exchanged and the lesson began. Having studied on other language courses in London, there is no doubt in my mind that Centro Studi Italiani was the most efficient, engaging and rewarding. Crucially, there is no English spoken in the lessons. We had to ask questions, chat and listen in Italian regardless of your level. I cannot stress enough how effective total immersion is when learning a language. We enjoyed the classes to the extent that by day four, everyone was conversing in Italian during the breaks, not just the lessons. My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer.
After the morning sessions ended, we began our full day of singing. Working with Professor Patenaude-Yarnell was the best thing to happen to my singing. She is a magician with vocal technique and gave me the tools to sing freely and openly throughout the two-weeks. As well as work on solo aria’s, we were also divided into groups to do scenes. Our scene was the Act 1 Finale from Cosi Fan Tutte, directed by Louisa Muller (Metropolitan Opera) and conducted by David Syrus (ROH). Each day finished with a masterclass, led by one of the staff on the course. Watching other singers flourish and develop in such a short space of time is a real privilege, and undoubtedly beneficial for those watching.
It is quite remarkable to say that I had sessions with professionals working at Manhattan School of Music, Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House and Weiner Staatsoper every day for two weeks. I count myself incredibly lucky to have had this level of tuition. The combination of Italian lessons and unbeatable tuition from the world’s best directors, vocal coaches and teachers, made Scuola di belcanto an incredibly important experience for me as a developing professional, as well as the most enjoyable course I have ever attended.