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Instant Opera Pastiche


with John Duykers and Lisa Sylvester

"One of the most intriguing sessions I was able to attend in Portland was this one with tenor and educator John Duykers from Cornish College of the Arts and pianist Dr. Lisa Sylvester from USC. With a very clearly thought out agenda on the part of the two facilitators, three singers were taken from a very competent, well-sung presentation of standard arias, to a riveting and over-the-top performance that not only was electrifying for the audience, but obviously tremendously freeing for the singers. Duykers and Sylvester, along with stage director Missy Weaver and Ann Baltz’ of OperaWorks, have developed Pastiche as an exercise designed to free singers from the tyranny of left brain function.

'Much of the training of singers involves the use of their left brain– involving cognitive, judgement-oriented activities. Instant Opera Pastiche is designed to free the singer from this cognitive-based function, incorporating the right brain, the creative, imaginative side.' says Duykers. All three participated in some improvisational exercises, beginning with interactive gibberish, leading to “leader no leader” group movement incorporating relevant character gestures. They were then introduced to the concept of story structure– environment, scenario, conundrum, resolution. They are invited to discuss among themselves a story structure that incorporated the characters of their arias (they do this in private). Then they enter the room and perform their scene– sung-improvised text and the incorporation of their arias with the skilled involvement of the pianist. The result was powerful and ultimately stronger vocally. The singers enjoyed their experience, as did their audience.

Dr. Sylvester did an extraordinary job at the piano, effortlessly weaving together the singers’ musical material in a sensitive and creative way. Duykers had this to say about the unique process; 'The unanimous result from this process is that the participants are introduced to a freedom that is often not available to them in their normal performance environment. Their vocal production is freer, stronger and more specific– the story they create is engaging and they are made aware of the ‘zone’ of performing where they are not judging themselves. The ultimate goal of these Instant Opera Pastiche events is to help singers and their uniqueness– their individual strengths. These elements are what audiences want– not performers who are trying to be something they are not, rather something they are.'

This particular workshop experience would be a wonderful master class to bring to a university opera program. Kudos to both Mr. Duykers and Dr. Sylvester for this outstanding session."


Kathleen Roland-Silverstein





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