This job has various names - vocal coach, collaborative pianist, accompanist, chef du chant, repetiteur, Korrepetitor, maestro collaboratore, maestro sostituto, концертмейстер.
"An accompanist? A singing teacher? A language person?" The answer is not easy because an opera coach is many things.
What does an opera coach actually do?
RIGHT TONES AT THE RIGHT MOMENT...
A vocal coach is usually a pianist and a musical assistant. First of all, the right tones at the right moment (notes and rhythm) but also help on agogic, phrasing and style. Musical accuracy is paramount.
...WITH THE RIGHT PRONUNCIATION
As I see it, you cannot coach a language that you don't speak. The diction is not only phonetics - it is also the meaning, the prosody, colours of the consonants, accents, the melody and expressivity of a language. In opera the text is a significant part of the score and cannot be undervalued.
HELPING TO FULFILL VOCAL DREAMS
A coach is not a singing teacher, but he could point out some vocal solutions that are often written in the music. Although I am also former opera singer, I never give strictly technical advice if it is not requested. Singing is very complex and there are limitless ways for how to reach the highest artistic level. Giving vocal feedback needs long collaboration and understanding from both of sides.
LIKE AN ORCHESTRA
Sometimes singers need run-throughs of entire roles - to feel proper limits, to get the music in the body. In this case the coach should be a musical guide but without interrupting. The fun part here is to try to imitate different colours of the orchestra instruments on the piano.
To prepare well for a role, it is vital that a singer's coach has deep understanding of the story and of the character. Of course, the final interpretation belongs to the artist and stage director, but from the music, libretto and the historical context, there are many interesting aspects that could be highlighted.
The voice is the other dimension of ourselves, our deepest essence. It must be handled with care! Empathy and patience are of immense importance. I am strongly convinced that a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere is an essential requirement for singing and music-making in general. To find a way how to inspire singers in a relaxed and cheerful environment without losing rigour is one of my primary objectives.
Excellent sight-reading skills are one of my strongest characteristics as a pianist and I am able to work on presented pieces immediately. Still, I always prefer to work through the scores on my own before meeting the singer.
In this repertoire list there are operas that I have been working on. Obviously, it is not complete and it is constantly growing.
OPERAS IN ITALIAN
Bellini: Norma, La sonnambula, I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur
Dallapiccola: Il prigioniero
Donizetti: L'elisir d'amore, Fille du regiment, Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Pasquale, Maria Stuarda, Anna Bolena, Linda di Chamounix
Giordano: Andrea Chenier
Leoncavallo: I pagliacci
Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana
Menotti: Il telefono
Mozart: Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, La clemenza di Tito, Idomeneo
Paisiello: Il barbiere di Siviglia
Piccinni: Cecchina, la buona figliuola
Puccini: Tosca, La bohème, Madama Butterfy, Turandot, Il trittico (Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi), Manon Lescaut, La fanciulla del West
Rossini: Il viaggio a Reims, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La cenerentola, L'italiana in Algeri
Verdi: Un ballo in maschera, La traviata, Il trovatore, Don Carlo, Aida, Falstaff, Otello, Luisa Miller, Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra, Nabucco, Macbeth
Wolf-Ferrari: Il segreto di Susanna
OPERAS IN GERMAN
Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel
Krenek: Der Diktator, Schwergewicht
Lehàr: Die lustige Witwe
Mozart: Die Zauberflöte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Strauss J.: Die Fledermaus
Strauss R.: Elektra, Ariadne auf Naxos, Salomé
Wagner: Die Walküre, Lohengrin, Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, Götterdämmerung
OPERAS IN FRENCH AND RUSSIAN
Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande
Massenet: Werther, Manon
Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila
Tchaikovsky: Evgeni Onegin, Pikovaja Dama