Teatro Nuovo presents Nicola Vaccai: Bel Canto in thirty minutes

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Teatro Nuovo presents
Nicola Vaccai: Bel Canto in Thirty Minutes

The first complete recording of the Italian vocal classic premieres on YouTube Live September 15, 2020, at 7:30

Twenty-two singers join TN director Will Crutchfield in remotely-recorded performances; soloists include Lawrence Brownlee, Angela Meade, Lisette Oropesa, Michael Spyres

For immediate release – Teatro Nuovo today announced the release of Bel Canto in Thirty Minutes, premiering September 15th at 7:30 p.m. on YouTube Live. The new video production features the first-ever complete recording of Nicola Vaccai’s Practical Method of Italian Singing, a delicious collection of miniature arias that has been a cornerstone of Bel Canto training for nearly two centuries.

Twenty-two singers, among them Lawrence Brownlee, Georgia Jarman, Angela Meade, Lisette Oropesa, Jennifer Rowley, and Michael Spyres, join TN Artistic Director Will Crutchfield in remotely-recorded performances of this classic compendium of Bel Canto style, designed by the composer to be “short, amusing, and useful.” Crutchfield and selected soloists will be on line for a live chat during the premiere.

“This is the moment when the world heads back to school for the fall, and when rehearsals should be underway for opera seasons everywhere,” said Crutchfield in introducing the program. “Since all of that has been disrupted by the pandemic, I thought we should share some great music meant to be sung at home, and written for study and practice. As students have known since 1832, it’s also quite catchy, and as much fun as it is educational.”

All singers have donated their services, and Bel Canto in Thirty Minutes is offered to the opera public completely free of charge. It will remain permanently available on YouTube after the premiere, and can also be accessed through teatronuovo.org. There, it is accompanied by an article on Vaccai and his times, a piece-by-piece explanation of the arias, and complete texts and translations (summary translations are embedded in the video).

“The book ranges from folksong simplicity to poignant reflection and high virtuosity,” says Crutchfield. “It starts easy and finishes hard,” he adds, “but even a fully developed singer can keep in shape by returning to the easy pieces, and even a student can at least make a start on the difficult ones. Best of all, it’s beautiful music from beginning to end. I think every opera fan should know it.”

Bel Canto in Thirty Minutes: Complete vocal roster in alphabetical order: Santiago Ballerini, Lawrence Brownlee, Teresa Castillo, Junhan Choi, Georgia Jarman, Alisa Jordheim, Hannah Ludwig, Christine Lyons, Megan Marino, Dorian McCall, Madison Marie McIntosh, Angela Meade, Tamara Mumford, Lisette Oropesa, Daniel Mobbs, Jennifer Rowley, Nicholas Simpson, Michael Spyres, Derrek Stark, Alina Tamborini, Hans Tashjian, Meigui Zhang.

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Teatro Nuovo Website
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About Teatro Nuovo

Teatro Nuovo is a new American opera company specializing in Italian opera of the Romantic or “Bel Canto” period. Launched in 2018 with performances of Tancredi and Medea in Corinto, it was quickly hailed as “transformative” (Wall Street Journal) and “stupendous” (Opera News) for its innovative restoration of period performing style. For complete information and further press coverage: teatronuovo.org/about-teatro-nuovo and teatronuovo.org/press

Vaccai and his Practical Method: Background in depth

Nicola Vaccai (1790-1848) was a successful opera composer in the age of Rossini, best known for his Giulietta e Romeo (Milan, 1825, using the same Romeo and Juliet libretto later set by Vincenzo Bellini). He composed sixteen other operas, several of which were successful in their day, but they faded from the repertory as Donizetti and Bellini took center stage. One inspired work lived on: not an opera, but a short collection of arias written to feed the thriving market for amateur vocal study at a time when Italian opera was the most popular artform in Europe.

“In Italy,” Crutchfield explains, “singing was taught voice to voice, with the help of technical exercises that might be written down – but there was not much need to codify the Bel Canto style on paper. Everybody heard it all around them, especially the ones destined for professional careers, who would be studying with past masters. But something else was needed for the thousands of amateurs in other countries who wanted to learn.”

Vaccai had the insight that pure technical exercises could be both boring and insufficient for students living outside the homeland of opera. His novel solution: instead of learning the basics from dry charts, students would start out with miniature arias. They would get familiar with the Italian language through some of the most beautiful verses of Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782). Each arietta, though carefully planned to teach some aspect of note-reading or vocal technique, would be a complete and enjoyable piece of music, written in the Bel Canto style that enticed the students to learn in the first place.

The result was such a hit that it has never been out of print. Rossini praised it. Maria Callas used it all her life for daily warmups. Singers as diverse as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Grace Bumbry, and Victoria de los Angeles began their paths in its company. Nearly a hundred editions have been traced, in at least thirteen languages, and that is almost certain to be an undercount. Several of those are available online from the International Music Score Library Project (imslp.org), and a modern print edition is available from G. Schirmer.

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