Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
In this masterclass, Professor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt helps student Tommy Woods work on the piece Don Quichotte à Dulcinée written by French composer Maurice Ravel.
Fouchécourt instructs his student to pay attention to his diction and to have more fun with the piece, as it needs to be “acted” more. Certain strong words such as “faucher” must be emphasized and enunciated as if they were mimed. Additionally, the Professor explains that Woods must avoid “swallowing” or smothering his sound and respect the piano nuance without losing the sustained quality of the sound.
With this, Fouchécourt advises his student to avoid cutting off the phrases, as it prevents the audience from understanding the text. Woods must also pay close attention to his breathing, and be more relaxed while performing.
Paying attention to the diction and emphasizing of the strong words.
Being more relaxed and having fun with the piece.
Working on the pronunciation of the vowels.
Timing one's breathing.
Avoid cutting off the sentences or swallowing the words.
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée is an extract from a song cycle composed by Maurice Ravel in 1932 or 1933 based on the story of Don Quichotte. It was first written for voice and piano, and was Ravel’s last composition. The work was commissioned by film director G. W. Pabst for a big screen adaptation of the Cervantes novel. The cycle was supposed to be composed of four background songs, but Ravel’s illness prevented him from completing the job and Pabst subsequently fired him as he saw little progress in Ravel’s work. The composer completed the piece in 1933 with immense help as his condition worsened and by the end of that year, he could no longer even write his own name.
The songs are traditionally performed by a baritone or bass and the complete cycle is made up of three pieces: Chanson romanesque, Chanson épique, and Chanson à boire. The text was written by French author Paul Morand.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this masterclass for voice. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Jean-Paul Fouchécourt’s feedback and comments.
He is now passing on his experience to the younger generation and has been directing the destiny of the Studio de l'Opéra de Lyon (SOL) since the 2010-2011 season.
Jean-Paul Fouchécourt has gained an international reputation by his portraits of Platté de Rameau and Arnalta (l’Incoronazione di Poppea) of Monteverdi, the 'character' roles, such as Offenbach's Four Valets (Offenbach's Tales), Chabrier's Phew (The Star), Ravel's Child and Spells and The Spanish Hour.
Beginning his musical journey as a classical saxophonist and conductor, Fouchécourt became a singer after singer Cathy Berberian encouraged him to work on his voice. He made his debut in 1993 at the Amsterdam Opera with L'Incoronazione di Poppea alongside Christophe Rousset.
In 1996, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt was hired to sing the roles of Poulenc's Mamelles de Tirésias 'Husband' directed by Seiji Ozawa at the Saito Kinen Festival, which marked his international debut and provided him access to major venues, including but not limited to London's Covent Garden, New York City Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Opera Bastille, etc. He has also appeared at festivals in Aix-en-Provence, Salzburg, and more. He is a frequent guest of the Boston Symphonic, National of France, Vienna Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Furthermore, he has worked with prestigious conductors including Charles Dutoit, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Valery Gergiev, Yannick Nézet- Seguin, James Levine, Antonio Pappano, and Sir Simon Rattle.
With over a hundred recordings, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt has a broad repertoire. He is delighted to pass on his experience to the younger generation, and has been working at the Studio de l'Opéra de Lyon (SOL) since 2011. He is a Knight in the National Order of Merit.
French composer Maurice Ravel was born in the French southwestern town of Ciboure in 1875. His parents moved to Paris shortly after his birth, and by age seven, Ravel began piano lessons. Five years later, at age twelve, he started composing. He was then admitted to the Conservatoire de Paris as a piano student, but was a very average student; he preferred composition. After graduating from the Conservatoire, he pursued his love for composition and was re-admitted to the prestigious musical institute, studying composition under Fauré.
In the 1900s, he adapted many of his piano compositions into orchestral works before WWI broke out in Europe. Ravel wanted to join, but was too old, and his health was not optimal. He nonetheless succeeded in being enlisted in 1915 as a lorry driver. The war changed him, like many soldiers who struggled to return to “normal” life. The 1920s were prolific for Ravel, as he composed many of his most famous pieces during that time. By the 1930s, he turned his attention to piano concertos.
Unfortunately, Ravel was in a traumatic taxi accident in 1932, which was not treated seriously, but seems to have precipitated an underlying cerebral condition. As his mental health deteriorated and the pain grew, he struggled to work and meet deadlines. In 1937, he had surgery to try and relieve some symptoms, but it only had temporary results, as he slipped into a coma soon after and died that same year at age 62.
Ravel's works list eighty-five works, including many incomplete or abandoned pieces. Among his most successful oeuvres are Boléro, Daphnis et Chloé, Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte, La Valse, Rhapsodie Espagnole, Gaspard de la nuit, Piano Concerto in G Major and Miroirs. He never married or had children and remained very private about his personal life, sparkling many rumors still unverified to this day. He is considered one of the most influential music figures of the 20th century, along with Debussy and Stravinsky.
Photo credit: BNF