Serse, Serse's aria (Crude furie)
In this masterclass, Professor Margreet Honig works with student Tina Drôle to relax her throat and body to create maximum resonance. Honig helps Tina learn to use her larynx and diaphragm effectively; the sound must be supported without forcing. She encourages the student to slow down and give herself time to take effective breaths and prepare for high notes. Honig also discusses how the sound must always feel inside the body. The two work together to form softer consonants and clear vowels, as well as long, legato lines that are never punctuated by unintended accentuation. Honig also works with the student to fit her voice inside the sound of the piano for a beautifully controlled dynamic and balance.
Relaxing jaw and throat for resonance.
Preparing high notes effectively.
Taking the time to take proper breaths and set up the diaphragm.
Feeling the sound inside the body.
Fitting the sound inside the sonority of the piano.
Georg Friedrich Handel composed his opera seria Serse in 1738 in London, where he had moved two decades before. The opera revolves around the Persian King Serse, who falls in love with a woman he hears singing. Unfortunately, this turns out to be the object of his brother’s affection, Romilda. He devises a plan to have his brother removed from the kingdom, so he can have Romilda to himself. Chaos ensues as Romilda and her true love try to avoid being separated. In the end, Serses must face his inappropriate behavior and apologize for the trouble he has caused, allowing his brother and Romilda to be happy together. The opera was an initial failure; London audiences were confused by the short arias and elements of comedy in this serious work, and were in general becoming less interested in Italian opera. The work was not resurrected until the twentieth century in Germany, where it began to enjoy success. Today, it is considered to be one of Handel’s best operas, and is particularly famous for Serses’ opening aria, “Ombra mai fu.”
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 Margreet Honig’s feedback and comments.
She has gained international recognition for being a vocal coach to many singers who have developed advanced careers in professional singing.
Dutch soprano Margreet Honig studied with Annie Hermes and Corrie Bijster at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. From there, she went to the United States with Evelyne Lear for further studies and dedicated herself to the French repertoire in Paris under the guidance of Pierre Bernac. She has given many recitals with pianist Rudolf Jansen, and has recorded with him and the Radio Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Kenneth Montgomery).
In the last 30 years, she has dedicated herself to pedagogical aspects of singing. She worked many years at the Rotterdam Conservatory and at the Sweelink Conservatory in Amsterdam. She is regularly invited for masterclasses and interpretation courses in Europe and the United States. What's more, she has taught at the Conservatoires of Zürich, Basel, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Versailles, at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, the Académie du Festival Aix-en-Provence, the Royal Academy in London, and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Furthermore, she works regularly at the opera studios of Munchen, Basel, and Latvia.
Students from all around the world have performed on famous stages with the help of Margreet Honig. She has gained international recognition for being a vocal coach to many singers who have developed advanced careers in professional singing.
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was a Baroque composer famous for his operas and oratorios. Born in Halle in the Prussian Empire, Handel was initially discouraged by his father from pursuing a musical career. When the young boy performed organ at church, however, he was noticed by composer Frideric Wilhelm Zachow, who offered to teach him music lessons. After a brief attempt at pursuing law, Handel dedicated himself to music full time, becoming an organist and later, a violinist at the Hamburg Opera.
The beginning of Handel’s compositional career revolved around composing operas. He began in Hamburg, premiering his first opera, Almira, in 1705 to general success. He then moved to Italy, where he began composing Italian operas, along with some cantatas and oratorios. As Italian opera was becoming increasingly popular in England, the composer eventually moved there in 1710 to premiere London’s first original Italian opera, Rinaldo. Over the next several decades, Handel composed over forty operas, spanning several opera companies, three of which he ran himself. Some of his most famous operas include Alcina, Terpsichore, Berenice, and Serse. Eventually, Italian opera began declining in London, and Handel decided to give up composing for the genre.
Instead, Handel moved toward composing oratorios, which were large-scale works for orchestra and voices that did not include staging or costumes, thus decreasing the price of production. Handel wrote over twenty-five oratorios, which were received well by English audiences. By far his most famous, however, is the 1742 Messiah. A massive and monumental work, it was initially premiered in Dublin as a charity event. Though it did not reach immediate success in England, it has grown to become one of the most frequently performed pieces of all time. Just after the Messiah, Handel premiered his famous oratorio Samson.
Handel was a prolific composer who produced a huge range of works, including operas, oratorios, cantatas, concerto grossi, organ concertos, and works for small chamber groups or soloists. Some of his other most famous compositions include Water Music (1717) and Music for Royal Fireworks (1749). The composer died in 1759, but is still celebrated today as a leader of Baroque music and leading figure of opera and oratorio.