Manon, Manon's aria (Je marche sur tous les chemins)
Professor Margreet Honig demonstrates how to achieve the best possible resonance in a vocal sound. She goes over the proper shape of her mouth to achieve clarity of diction, as well as a ringing sound quality. In addition, she shows her student how to balance her use of upper and lower body; the student must especially pay attention to her nasal cavity to create resonance.
Honig discusses how to make use of the diaphragm and the rest of the body without causing unnecessary tension. She also offers advice for properly preparing high notes and provides a great exercise all vocal students can benefit from. Moreover, Honig encourages the student to be mindful of staying in tune and in tempo even while working on other vocal aspects.
Forming the right shape of mouth for best diction and resonance.
Balancing the face and nose with lower body and diaphragm to produce the best sound.
Maintaining intonation and tempo.
Preparing high notes.
Relaxing and being freer in the body.
Jules Massenet composed his most famous opera, Manon in 1884, solidifying his place as an internationally renowned opera composer. The opera’s libretto was based on the French novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (1731) by Antoine François Prévost. It first premiered at the Paris Opéra-Comique, where it has since received over two thousand performances. The five-act opera tells the story of a love affair gone wrong. A young girl, Manon, and a nobleman, des Grieux, fall madly in love and run away together, causing a scandal. Not long after, Manon is drawn away from des Grieux to another man, de Brétigny, who promises her wealth and comfort. Grief-stricken, des Grieux almost becomes a priest, but Manon returns to revive their love before she loses him forever. They later are arrested for cheating while gambling, and while des Grieux is saved by his family, Manon is imprisoned. Des Grieux attempts to save her, but fails, and she dies of illness. The opera is full of beautiful arias, thoughtful characters, and emotion, and now is touted as one of the finest French operas ever written.
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.
Jules Massenet (1842-1912) was a French opera composer during the Romantic period. He was born into a middle-class family in Montaud, France. He took piano lessons from his mother, an amateur musician, until he was old enough to enroll at the Paris Conservatory. To support himself while he was studying, he worked in the pit orchestra at the Théâtre-Lyrique and taught piano lessons. By 1859, he had won the conservatory’s top prize for piano performance and had gone on to study composition with opera composer Ambroise Thomas. In 1863, he was awarded the coveted Prix de Rome for composition, giving him the opportunity to spend three years furthering his education at the Villa Medici in Rome.
When Massenet returned to Paris, he received a commission to write a one-act opera for the Parisian Opéra-Comique, entitled La Grand'Tante. After a brief break to serve in the Franco-Prussian War, Massenet began prolifically composing operas and other stage music. Though his first large-scale opera was a flop, he soon rose to fame through writing incidental music for the drama Les Érinnyes and his popular oratorio Marie-Magdeleine. His first full opera to achieve success was his 1877 Le roi de Lahore, which spread to several other countries in Europe. By this time, Massenet had cemented his reputation as an opera composer and has been offered a prestigious teaching position at the Paris Conservatory.
Massenet’s most famous opera, Manon, premiered in 1884. It became an enormous international success, and remains one of his two most frequently performed works, along with Werther (1892). Over the remainder of his career, he produced several more prosperous operas, including Le Cid (1885), Thaïs (1894), Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame (1902), and Don Quichotte (1910.) Though most of these works are no longer staged, music such as the famous “Meditation” for violin solo and orchestra from Thaïs is still extremely popular. Massenet’s style was flexible and ever-changing; his operas did not adhere to one specific genre nor can they be categorized by time period. He sometimes demonstrated influence from Wagner while other times from Gounod, and incorporated elements of French grand opera, exoticism, and verismo (realism) into various works. Overall, however, his works were known for being lyrical, well-orchestrated, and full of emotion.
Massenet continued composing until his death from abdominal cancer in 1912. Though he is primarily remembered for his operas, he produced a considerable range of works and had a profound influence on his students, making him a major figure in French music history.