Study Aids for SingersPart 2: : MGP Role Study Tapes

MGP Role Study Tapes
Cassettes with piano accompaniment by conductor/coach/accompanist Martha Gerhart (San Francisco Opera, NY City Opera, Dallas Opera, Spoleto Festival).
Cost: $40-$65.

Method: Diction, pitches, and piano accompaniment (recitatives included) in sections and steps for practice.

Current offerings: Die Zauberflöte: Queen of the Night, Pamina, Tamino, Sarastro; Carmen: Carmen and Micaëla; La Bohème: Musetta, Rodolfo; Don Giovanni: Zerlina; Le Nozze di Figaro: Cherubino; Madama Butterfly: Suzuki; Faust: Valentin.
Coming soon: CD format.
Contact: Phone/Fax: 214/891-3769, website: http://www.mgproles.com

THE SINGERS’ REPORT
MEZZO-SOPRANO
(Suzuki, Carmen)

With this tape the singer can be very well prepared for a coaching, and possibly eliminate needless corrections. The steps given are easy to follow and the presentation easy to understand. Students should be taught to break down a role this way. For the price and convenience in repetition, I’d prefer a CD. I’d also like to know what edition the coach is using–accompaniments can differ.

It is a good tool for learning diction, notes, and rhythms, as long as you double-check. I found some minor rhythm and accompaniment differences from my score, but the accompaniment is generally solid. Section and step beginnings are clearly identified on the tape, but specific score references are needed on both the tape and the case insert. Unidentified cuts between cues make it difficult to find your place. The French is generally very good, although some of the vowels are not as pure as they should be, particularly the [y] and sometimes [e]. I listened to the tapes in two typical study situations–on a Walkman at the laundromat, and at home on a boom box. On the Walkman, the spoken voice was hard to understand, as were vocal cues sung in a “coach voice” under the breath. The recording sounded echo-y, but improved on the boom box.

TENOR (Rodolfo)
For the most part, it is terrific Italian. It sounds like a foreign language training tape. I would prefer a man reading the male role. The vocal line has the benefit of other vocal parts used to cue the role being taught. The piano playing is of very high quality, but the recording is not particularly good–far too much reverb and a very noticeable and annoying echo.

SOPRANO (Musetta)
Step 1. Need more time to repeat words. Step 2. Allows for inflection, even in rhythm–good for the flavor of the language. Step 3. Follows written music, not traditions. Good for those who also use recordings; helps us NOT hear others’ interpretations. There aren’t always vocal cues, so if you’re lost you’re in trouble. Easy and obvious cuts/cues; big cues get rehearsal numbers. Step 4. Very easy to follow the accompaniment. The introduction is excellent. It describes sections and how they are meant to be used, and gives practice/use suggestions. I’d use it!

RECOMMENDATIONS
In conclusion, several panelists stress that no recording can replace a coaching, although this method could be a valuable pre-coaching tool. They also question spending so much on a tape. Martha Gerhart responds, “When my product was new, singers were traveling with their Walkmans. My vision is to have a long list of catalogue titles available, and to produce CDs.”

COMING SOON: Pocket Coach Publications

Linda C. Cotman

Lina C. Cotman was associate editor for Classical Singer magazine from 1998 to 1999.