Singers learn from the masters in Italy

About a dozen singers and four pianists from the Don Wright Faculty of Music have joined Theodore Baerg and Irena Welhasch Baerg at La Musica Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy this summer.

The opera program is offered for advanced singers who are at the start of their careers. They spend 20 hours each week honing their Italian, as well as time with Rossini Opera Festival coaches and voice lessons. The fifth week adds masterclasses and fully staged productions of Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Verdi’s Rigoletto.

“I just came from the dress rehearsal of La Cenerentola and Chris Dunham is fabulous,” wrote Baerg from Italy. Dunham sings the role of Dandini and is joined by Rebecca Ballantyne as Tisbe.

London native Rachel Weisdorf is Gilda in Rigoletto. “She is simply fantastic,” says Baerg. “This past week, both Christopher and Rachel took part in a masterclass given by the great world opera maestro Alberto Zedda, who is also the artistic director of the Rossini Festival in Pesaro.

Zedda, who is in his 90s, has worked with everyone of note in the operatic world for more than 70 years. He is also the editor of the acclaimed Zedda Editions of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola published by Ricordi in Milano.

“Following the masterclass, he stated that he was most impressed with both Christopher and Rachel among the six singers he heard – certainly an amazing compliment to our program at Western, which has been so instrumental in their development,” notes Baerg.

In addition, Sarah Barret-Ives and Justin Stolz take leading roles in Don Bucefalo, an old Italian comic opera.

“The benefits to our students, both singers and pianists, are multiple. They get a chance to do an Italian opera for Italians in the country for which it was composed. They also meet and interact with Italians for meals, grocery shopping, etc. and develop a real feel for the culture and language.”

Baeg and his wife have taught at La Musica Lirica for two summers. They teach voice, coach and mentor the Canadian participants. They also work with professional musicians and students from around the world.

“The students interact with other students from more than 10 American universities, which gives them a whole new look at what is available and necessary to manage a success in the music world,” he adds.

Conductor Joseph Rescigno works in Italy, Canada and the U.S. and is artistic director and conductor of the Milwaukee Opera. “Thus the connections and knowledge are multiple,” says Baerg. “I have done several excellent productions with Joe at the podium myself.”

The professional orchestra is from Ravenna,Italy; the costume head works at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in the winter season. As well, La Musica Lirica tours its productions to Sant’Agata Feltria, San Marino, Cesana and Montegridolfo.

“Our program at Western is of essential value in both musical and vocal preparation,” says Baerg. “Our coaching level is now at a place that really gives a keen sense of understanding as to what will be expected of the singers when they arrive in Italy.

“The mentoring of long-time professionals is of utmost importance in this process since so much of what happens in preparation and performance of any art form is passed down from generation to generation. Rachel and Christopher had the opportunity to sing for Zedda. These kinds of opportunities are very rare!”