Soprano, teacher, dramaturg/librettist, vocal consultant, and director Andrea DelGiudice epitomizes the “slash career” artist at a time when diversifying skills, talents and revenue streams is more important. By continually expanding her interests and exploring new avenues for creativity, DelGiudice is breaking the stereotypes and tropes of a classical singer who can only pursue one path in the music industry. She recently shared reflections on her journey from singer to Renaissance woman of the opera stage, and she offered wisdom for other artists, particularly women, who are looking to strive for a more varied and valuable career.
How did you make your way from singer to teacher to director to dramaturg / librettist?
I was fortunate to spend my career singing the Puccini and Verdi heroine roles in major European Houses and work with some of the greatest singers in the world like Johan Botha, Placido Domingo, Sherill Milnes, Alexei Steblianko, Rene Kollo and many more. Review after review mentioned my ability to completely encompass my roles, along with my expressive Italianate spinto sound. This combination became my “technique” by expressing the music, my voice, and the character simultaneously as “one voice.” I teach bel canto technique as I studied with Italian teachers, conductors, lived in Rome for years, and speak fluent Italian. I was blessed with a wonderful manager Peter Randsman, who nurtured my artistry to the international stages.
The journey to dramaturg came several years ago when I was asked to direct La Traviata. As I searched my heart, I realized the most important aspect to any opera for me has been the truthful story of the main female character. My passion in each opera has been to eliminate the objectification of women and the “surface approach” to a real woman’s life and journey. It’s a process informed by history, actually “herstory.”
“Her-story” means what led up to her story before the opera begins. I have used this same approach to numerous projects including a Carmen (based on a notorious Columbian female drug lord and set in New York City just after the Vietnam war), and the award-winning, newly conceived, award-winning double bill of Pieta (with music by Jake Landau and a libretto which I co-wrote with him) and Suor Angelica (set in a real-life grueling institution in Ireland in 1945).
What is the most important advice you’d offer for a voice teacher who is interested in directing or writing operas?
Firstly, I can only really speak to being a woman and drawing on our own collective experiences to tell the story. I also never change or alter a composer’s score. I am also a pianist, and this helps in my understanding of the entire structure of the opera which in turn completely informs my visual choices. I feel, the music itself tells exactly what is in my head as a picture, and these feelings elicit in us the “picture” on stage. As a director, you must have a have a tremendous team that understands you and believes in your passion. I cherish my team both here in the states and in Italy, including my assistant director, videographers, conductors, and producers who trust my vision and allow every project to be collaborative and inventive.
As you teach master classes across the country, what excites you the most about young
singers today? What concerns you the most?
I love to teach masterclasses! I am so fortunate to teach in many countries, with young singers so eager to learn and get to the “truth” about their voices and the stage. I focus on the singer’s vocal technique, through their choice of repertoire, and their capacity to tell the story. My style of teaching has been described by one of my celebrity students as “The Voice Whisperer.” I have always giggled about this description. It feels accurate, in my need to literally get into the student’s head, dissect their thought process, and translate the mechanics to achieve a physical change.
The “how” needs to come in the student’s own terminology, so the singer can “own” that feeling and replicate. I think one of the things that challenges many students is the tendency to “teacher hop”. I completely understand the need to have a teacher who you feel is translating the information needed to build and secure the best vocal technique. However, this process is a long one. We know that the greatest singers of the past had their team: their teacher and coach who know them and their thought process, leading the singer to how their voice functions.
In our current world of technology with phones, social media, and self -promotion, we have been encouraged to expect the “immediate” result of everything, including the career, connections, getting an agent, etc., before the actual work has been done. I try to encourage in my masterclasses the importance of the process being the actual the point. “Practice (and correct repetition) makes Permanent.”
What morsel of wisdom would you like to pass on to young singers or teachers?
Be kind to yourselves and others. Do not forget to have another large part of life for yourself. I was a competition powerlifter in my past while training my voice for a singing career. It kept me balanced and healthy, and I even used it in a few roles and in my strong women-based productions! Create your own experiences until you achieve what you are looking for. Have your “team” in your teacher, coaches, and agent; a team dedicated to you as the “whole” artist!
Andrea currently resides in New York City and is represented as a Stage Director and Talent consultant by Kathy Olsen at Encompass Arts Management. Learn more at andreadelgiudice.com