Arts Encounter #4

Before the event: This performance of Wicked was done by Broadway on tour. Wicked is the story of how the two witches of Oz came to be who they are, and the stories they each have to tell, and the lessons that they learned. I did just a little bit of research on the plot line because I had seen this musical once before when I was very young, and I didn’t really remember much of what I had seen.

 

During the event:

The show was absolutely spectacular. I saw the show in downtown Syracuse at the Landmark Theater on Saturday night, the 25th. The singers’ voices rang throughout the theater when they were singing and it really resonated in my mind. The set changes were very cool as well. It seemed that a lot of the changes happened right there on stage when things were still happening, and people were still singing. This was very cool because even though the change was happening in plain sight, you are not really focused on it and you are still focused on what is happening between the actors and actresses on stage, so then the action ends, and the scene is new. The voices of Glinda and Elphaba were so amazing. They blended so well together when they sang harmonies, and when they sang in unison, they sounded like one singer. The effects and lighting in this show were also breathtaking. There were times when we were in the emerald city, and these green lights came on and the entire theater lit up in very bright green. The costumes also were very intricate. The ensemble’s costumes always matched what was going on but in such a goofy and obscure way, and it was very interesting to see them emerge from the wings of the stage when the time period was changing in the show, because then they would come out in completely different outfits.

 

Some questions I had:

How do Broadway performers perform so well for so many nights in a row?

How do traveling Broadway take all of their set parts with them when they travel?

How long do the actors and actresses rehearse every day?

 

 

Mentor Reviewers

Mentor Reviewers: Anthony Lane

 

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/06/get-out-and-logan

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/kong-skull-island-and-raw

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/21/nocturnal-animals-and-elle

 

Anthony Lane has been writing film reviews for The New Yorker for 24 years. I enjoyed his reviews that I read. To me, they had a very laid back style, while still using very good descriptive language to summarize the movie while still keeping the review critical. Some of the other reviews I had just kind of reminded me of summaries of a movie, but Lane provides a lot of analysis which gives the audience a further understanding of the movie and its messages. I really enjoyed Lane’s review of “Get Out.” He goes into describe how this movie is very hard to correctly place into one genre, because of how “all over the place” this movie is. His style of analysis is very casual, and he asks a lot of hypothetical questions that really got me thinking, and that is something I liked about his style of review.

Arts Interview

Singing From a Perspective Across 5 Octaves

 

What lead you to sing?

I played the piano for a while, and after, I played violin. I got bored, so I started singing. And now, I go to school for singing. I like it more than the other instruments.

 

What is your favorite thing about singing?

My favorite thing about singing is that it brings people together. And riffing.

 

 

These are just some simple questions I asked to get the ball rolling for Nicholas Peta, a freshman music education major here at Syracuse University. Nick is not just another vocal student. He is one of just two countertenors here at the Setnor School of Music. What is a countertenor you may ask? I think Clemency Burton-Hill from BBC says it best when she describes listening to a countertenor: “At first, you can scarcely believe your ears, so arresting is the sound a countertenor makes.” A countertenor is the highest male singing voice that there is. So while they can still hit notes that regular male tenors can hit, they can also extend their range to hit notes that altos and even sopranos can hit. This makes for a very wide range of possibilities for a countertenor. For Nick, discovering this untapped upper register of his was not something that was very hard for him to find out, so I asked him:

 

 

When did you first discover your ability to sing in the upper register?

When I listened to listened to ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ by Mariah Carey, I really wanted to sing her part and I started to try to in 8th grade. Then, I started to perform music in a barbershop quartet and those parts required me to sing higher notes.

 

 

What has it been like becoming a countertenor?

“It has been really hard, and it made me feel really insecure. But that is just what comes with doing something very new. Also, it’s just fun! It’s fun to sing with female singers, it is quite a different experience.”

 

 

Nick did not start to really learn how to use his high register until he came here to Syracuse when his voice teacher threw the idea of becoming a countertenor on him. The history of male singers with high voices is not the prettiest. Going back to Clemency Burton-Hill’s BBC article, she goes into some detail about how countertenor’s work today would have been sung by a male “castrato.” It can be easy to see now how tackling songs meant for a castrato might be a little bit demeaning, and might make somebody like Nick who is relatively new at the whole countertenor thing, a bit insecure. But, Burton-Hill doesn’t just talk about the kind of uncomfortable history of countertenors, she also talks about what countertenors are doing today. She talks about how there are many opportunities for countertenors in church music, as well as many great operas. So even though it sounds like countertenors could be perceived as a dying art because of the practices that no longer go on, people like myself and Burton-Hill want to assure people that this is not a dead art form. I went on to ask Nick some final questions about his countertenor career.

 

 

What are some of the struggles being a countertenor?

Not knowing how to do anything. Finding repertoire, because not a lot of people sing countertenor – binary rep. Having old people in “Oratorio” tell me I’m in the wrong section. Sounding like a balloon… I don’t want to sound like a balloon. That’s been a challenge.

 

How do other people react to hearing your voice?

Either they run away or they clap their hands.

 

What’s something you see in your future as a countertenor?

I look forward to be able to singing every voice part when I’m teaching students so they can have somebody who can really show them how it’s done rather than just telling them how to do it.

 

 

 

So, even though Nick is not thinking along Burton-Hill’s path of church gigs and opera performances, he is still going to use his great vocal range to his students’ advantage. This is actually something really great, because it is another application of a countertenor’s ability used in a way that will benefit others. The art of countertenors is not one that is going to die out, thanks to people like Nick and many other great singers.

Arts Encounter #3

Before the event: I found out that my local art museum was showing an exhibit of Matisse drawings and I was interested to see what they were like. I did not know much about Matisse before I decided to go so I found out some basic information about him. He was a French artist. He was one of the leaders of the movement of Fauvism. One of his most famous paintings is Woman with a Hat which he painted in 1905. He also does work with sculptures.

 

During the event: I went on a weekday afternoon, so there was nobody else in the entire museum and it was a very cool feeling. It was silent, and I was able to take my time looking at each drawing and sketch. The sketches were all lined up in the 2 exhibit rooms in a figure 8 motion. When I walked into the museum, I was handed a pamphlet and told just that, that the sketches are arranged in a figure 8 and that’s how I would have to walk to follow along with the pamphlet. The exhibit was very cool, and because it was so quiet in the museum it really added another layer of “intensity” to the art. All of the sketches were done with almost the exact same materials. All of the sketches were either done in pencil, ink, or charcoal on paper. All of the titles of the pieces were very literal, such as “Woman in a chair” or “Large Self-Portrait” which I thought was interesting. I found this exhibit really interesting because to me, it seemed like a behind the scenes look at what artists go through while trying to create. These sketches are just sketches, but they are still very interesting to me. They might not have been very interesting to Matisse at the time, but they now give the public a sort of insight to what he was inspired by and what he was interested in, aside from his more well-known pieces of art.

 

This is the pamphlet I was given upon entering the museum

 

Questions: The entire time I was walking around this exhibit, I was wondering to myself, how were these sketches obtained? Were these hidden away somewhere in Matisse’s old works and supplies, or were these sketches put aside for them to be displayed just as they are being displayed now? I was also wondering on why he decided to be so literal with the naming of his sketches. Was that intentional by keeping short a brief, or was that a stylistic choice?

Arts Encounter #2

Before the event: The event that I chose to attend was a senior recital at the Setnor school of music. The recital was done by a mezzo-soprano singer. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant to be a mezzo-soprano, and I found out that it is the voice of a female singer in between soprano and alto, and it is known as a “half soprano” voice type. Unfortunately, the program is not released until about 20 minutes before the performance so I was not able to look into the songs being performed, but I did just listen to some classical voice pieces before I went to the recital, and something that I always forget that is very interesting about singing is that singers have to learn to sing in many different languages even though they may only speak just one.

 

During the event:  When I walked into the auditorium, I had taken a packet along with a program. The packet contained translations of all of the songs that were not sung in English. I found this to be a very important aspect of the performance. While the singer had a wonderful voice, it would have been very hard to get the same experience without knowing what she was singing about. Usually when I go to musical performances of classical music, the audience is usually quite serious and intent on listening very carefully. I found this recital to be a bit different from that. The lyrics to some of the songs that were sung were very humorous and silly, and the singer delivered them with perfect facial expression and body language, so even though the words were being sung in a different language, it was very relevant to know when something was funny, or when something became very solemn and quiet in the lyrics. The last song that she sang was my favorite song. It was very beautiful, and it was a slow song that had a light and flowing. When I first heard the chords in the piano, it had sounded like music that originated in Asia. After the song ended there was a brief pause of silence and it really added to the experience of the song. After the recital ended, I had found out that the last song was written by the singer’s mother just for this recital. Her mother is from Korea and has been a composer for almost all of her life.

 

Questions: One question that I really thought about especially at intermission, was how do singers go about selecting their repertoire for concerts and recitals? I felt the songs at this recital went very well together and I am wondering if it just happened to work out very well, or if there was a method to the madness of song selection. Another question I was thinking about all throughout the performance was how do singers learn how to pronounce so many words in different languages without knowing how to speak it? It is quite impressive.