International Congress On Singer Training

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Opera Music Theater International, under the direction of James K. McCully, hosts the International Congress on Singer Training with some of the most prestigious people in the business traveling from around the world to attend this monumental event in Washington, DC.

Opera Music Theater International (OMTI), under the direction of James K. McCully, presents highlights from the International Congress on Singer Training with some of the most prestigious people in the business traveling from around the world to attend this monumental event in Washington, DC.

MICHELLE KRISEL, assistant to Placido Domingo
Center for Training & Education, director
Washington National Opera, Washington DC

Welcome, I'm Michelle Krisel at the Washington National Opera, assistant to Placido Domingo, the Artistic Director of the Washington National Opera. We are delighted to have you in our city and I'm sure you're delighted to be with us. This is kind of an embarrassment of riches, some of the most prestigious people in the business, and all of them up here today.

We are going to try to stuff a lot of discussion in a brief amount of time. First, everyone is going to introduce themselves by name and company that they work for. Then briefly say what you think the crucial elements are in forming a successful singer, not just a good musician but instead one who can have a career.

Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions
The Metropolitan Opera, New York City

It is a big topic to talk about what can make a career, because we can all site careers that have no reason to have happened, and that are successful. In the nature of that, there's something to say for longevity, and the ability to keep going. Be dependable. If you have to cancel every other show, you may not have the career that you wanted; people will give up on you. So since we have so many voice teachers out there that would be the point I'd want to stress; the healthy voice, and the kind of technique that you're teaching that will last students a lifetime. I wanted to come here because it was my understanding that there would be a lot of voice instructors, and this is a community that I wanted to reach out to. We think of ourselves as this bridge from your academic training to the professional world. If I can do it successfully, it is obviously what happens-someone will move on to the next stage of his career. When I hear a singer who has finished graduate school, I am really not interested in hearing a breathy sound anymore. You would be surprised how many people audition for us with poor support, and just poor tone quality. They have great heart, and so that always breaks my heart when they don't sing well. I've heard a number of talents who literally didn't know anything about their instrument, or how to use it. I maintain that there are some spectacular teachers out there, but these people are in the minority. Please demand from your colleagues what you would demand from yourself. So in terms of you preparing singers for my auditions, I want to see something within them that's special, and sometimes that is on a more communicative level. But ultimately, if they can't sing, that's what I'm going to write down and remember. I also ask you not to use these kind of auditions for practice, because then you are really going to notice that you're not going to want to hear someone for a second time. We all need practice, but an audition is not necessarily the best time, and we do all talk to each other. There is a network. I do give feedback, but I'm careful with it. I'm more apt to give feedback after a second hearing. One hearing of eight minutes, who am I to give a list of what the singer should do with his life? When I'm hearing 400 singers per month, my notes are not necessarily about what they should do better. So when people call and ask for feedback, I look at these notes and realize that they aren't helpful. If I can remember them, I'll say so and talk about that. If I can't remember them, unfortunately I have to say that too. I am very careful.

MICHELLE KRISEL, assistant to Placido Domingo
Center for Training & Education, director
Washington National Opera, Washington DC

I wanted to add a great story that I heard Mrs. Domingo tell last night about being prepared. They were students of the Conservatory of Mexico, and she didn't take him very seriously because he was interested in Puccini, and she was interested in Mozart and Strauss. They were at a MARRIAGE OF FIGARO rehearsal, she was singing the role of Susanna, and he wasn't even in it, but the singers were not prepared, and at some point, Placido Domingo stood up and sang everybody's part and conducted it. And she said, "Oh, this is a smart kid." That's being prepared!

ANN SUMMERS, artist manager & director
International Resource Centre for Performing Artists
Ann Summers International, Toronto, Canada

When an artist steps on stage, they are the sum total of everything they know, and the experiences they've had. Intelligence is also necessary as well as the voice. I would add from a manager's point of view, also a little bit of business sense. There are a couple of observations that I've made with my management, and working with young artists in New York. I hate the word young artist. I've noticed that people are not setting the right goals. Some of them feel that auditions are the goal, and they are simply a means to a job. So you shouldn't just be auditioning without having in mind that you want to have a job out the audition. Also, with the presenters, I would really hope that we can convince them to give us feedback from auditions. We need that input. We would like to appeal to the presenters, opera companies, orchestras, and anybody that presents, to find a way to introduce new artists. Years ago, presenters were leaders in the community, and introduced new people as a sales tool. Now, marketing departments are so scared that this will affect the box office, that this gets pushed aside. There is a choral society in Canada that saves a spot for a new discovery voice, and it's not going to hurt box office sales. I encourage the presenters and companies to try to find ways to do that. To all the teachers, I would prefer to have biographies in paragraphs. I can find more information, quicker, from a paragraph than I can from a menu.

Contemporary Opera & Song Program
Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Canada

Versatility. One of the most important functions of the opera program at undergraduate schools, when the voices are very young, is to introduce students to twentieth-century opera. They can put on wonderful one-acts from twentieth-century operas which stretch their minds, and their ears. That kind of training should be done when they are much, much younger. My priorities used to be voice, voice, and voice; but now that I'm particularly focused on contemporary new work; it's voice, musicianship, and appetite. The last two are connected. Ten years ago, my experience was that it was the voice teachers of North America who were inculcating into their students, a terror of contemporary music. I think that has been very strongly connected to the question of musicianship; because what we're finding now is that the singers who have the greatest aptitude and indeed appetite for contemporary music, are also some of the finest musicians. On our audition tour, we do a sight test, which is quite tricky, with both intervals and rhythms of clapping and doing some tricky intervals. It is almost consistently, the singers who have already some experience in contemporary music who get the closest to it. The ones with no experience, very often blow it. A fabulous voice, a tenor, I heard in Paris couldn't get through two bars of the sight test. I'm interested in asking you that question, partially because we specialize in this area, I am aware that the people who have an interest in twentieth-century music gravitate towards us. However, at the same time, I'm finding with auditions that singers now are much less afraid of contemporary music than they were ten years ago. I would like any feedback from you, as to whether or not that corresponds to any of your experiences.

European Union Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, Canadian Opera Company, Opera National in Brussels, Glimmerglass Opera, Florida Grand Opera

When I'm auditioning singers, I am looking for the thing that is most difficult to teach, which is expressivity, the bit of that person that makes them a unique performer and the ability to expose themselves, particularly in an audition situation. The thing that makes me want to listen to people singing is their individual response to what they are expressing through words and music in their singing. How do you teach that? That for me is the most important thing that I'm looking for in auditions.

MICHELLE KRISEL, assistant to Placido Domingo
Center for Training & Education, director
Washington National Opera, Washington DC

I'd like to add four things that are important to the young singers I work with, and to myself. I think the beginning is not voice, it's language, speaking, and foreign languages. In whatever way it's possible to learn a language, whether it's on tapes, or moving to a foreign country. When you get up there, you are a person expressing words, not just a singer making sounds. To me, the basis is language. The second most important thing is a belief in yourself. So many young artists come to me and say, "Do you think I can have a career?" If they have to ask that, then they probably won't. They have to believe in themselves. The third important thing is knowing your limitations, and there is nothing wrong with that. Many people can have happy careers as musicians, maybe not as performers or soloists, but as musicians. I consider myself a musician, and I've never stood on a stage in my life. The fourth crucial element is listening. It's not listening to the aria that you're singing, but listening to how the piece or style is interpreted. It's listening to orchestra music, ballet music, choral music, or the entire opera. If you listen to the style of the last one hundred years, because we are blessed with recordings, in a way you don't need a teacher. It's all out there in the public record.


On the 13th of August 1991, James K. McCully founded Opera Music Theater International (OMTI) as a nonprofit organization to help international emerging singers bridge the opera and music theater gap through international competitions, international performances, international master classes, international conferences, international symposia, and international forums.

Opera Music Theater International (OMTI) positioned itself at the monumental International Trade Center at the prestigious address 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue across from "The Theatre of the Presidents", The National Theatre, on the "Avenue of the Presidents" at Federal Triangle, directly in the center of a triangle connecting The White House, The Capitol, and The Washington Monument.

Opera Music Theater International (OMTI) was the host of the 43rd National Opera Association Convention in Washington DC sponsored by Musical America with a Welcome by Placido Domingo at Kennedy Center; and the Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competition with International Honorary Chairs Maestro Richard Bonynge and Dame Joan Sutherland at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

World Leader of Contemporary Opera Honored in Washington DC

American Contemporary Opera Composers Honored in Washington DC

International Conductors Forum

International Singers Forum

International Arts Management Awards

Evelyn Lear and Thomas Stewart Master Class

Ryan Edwards Master Class

Marjorie Lawrence International Vocal Competition Was Clearly A Success

Marjorie Lawrence Centennial Celebration Commission Memorializes 100th Anniversary of Metropolitan Opera Star in 2007

National Endowment for the Arts director of former Opera-Musical Theater Program elected President of Opera Music Theater International Board of Trustees in Washington DC

Concert Memorializes the Ghost of the National Theatre in Washington DC

The Belmont Mansion Grand Ball Great Performances

Governor's Awards for the Arts Honors Nominee James K. McCully


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