La Rondine, Magda's Aria (Che bel sogno di Doretta)
In this voice masterclass, Professor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and student Agnès Ménard explore La Rondine by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini.
Fouchécourt first advises his student to avoid dropping her sentences at the same time as the phrases descend. With this, she is encouraged to stay connected to the music and the words and find some depth. The high-pitched parts require a solid and comfortable base. Fouchécourt explains that the piece is difficult because the voice must be strong but “floating.”
Moreover, the Professor stresses on the importance of managing one’s energy and gaining confidence by practising. A successful interpretation of this song lies in the flexibility, not pure strength. With time, Fouchécourt explains that Ménard can learn to avoid straining and let her voice “go”.
Finding depth in the music.
Avoid straining the voice and work off a solid base.
Practising techniques to gain confidence.
Managing one’s energy.
In 1913, Puccini was commissioned to write a comic opera for the Carltheater in Vienna. By the time he finished it in 1916, World War I prevented a Viennese premiere; instead, it was first performed in 1917 at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo. Despite a positive reception, it is one of Puccini’s lesser known works. The opera tells the story of Magda, a Parisian courtesan and mistress of the rich Rambaldo. At a party she and Rambaldo host, she meets Ruggero, who is new to Paris and has a connection to Rambaldo’s family. He decides to go visit a popular restaurant, Bullier’s, at their suggestion. Intrigued by Ruggero, Magda decides to disguise herself and join him at the restaurant. She begins to fall in love with him, and decides to leave Rambaldo to pursue a relationship with Ruggero. Soon, their life of poverty begins to wear on her; the promise of love is not enough to satisfy her. In the end, she decides to return to Rambaldo, breaking Ruggero’s heart.
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.
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was one of the most influential composers of Italian opera. He was born in Lucca, Tuscany into a long line of musicians who had served as the music directors at the cathedral of San Martino for generations. He intended to do the same; after his father’s premature death, he studied music with his uncle and some of his father’s former students until he was able to secure the funds to study at the Milan Conservatory. When he graduated in 1883, his culminating work Capriccio sinfonico won him the attention of music critics in Milan. In the same year, he entered his one-act opera Le Villi into a competition. While it did not win, it gained the interest of publisher Giulio Ricordi, who became his longtime supporter. Ricordi offered Puccini an allowance to compose operas.
Though his first attempt was a flop, Puccini soon found success. His 1893 work Manon Lescaut was the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, and was a resounding success with audiences and critics alike. Soon after came La bohème (1896), which has become one of the most popular operas of all time. In 1900, he began exploring the genre of verismo with his opera Tosca. Works in the verismo genre sought to bring more realism to story lines in opera and literature, which often included depictions of violence, suffering, and poverty. Though later in life Puccini would experiment with some modern musical styles such as impressionism and exotic harmonies, he remains known primarily as a verismo composer.
In 1904, Puccini premiered Madame Butterfly, which was an initial failure, though through revision later became one of his most enduring successes. After this work, however, his output began to slow as a result of personal tragedy and scandal. In 1903, he had been involved in a dangerous car crash, during which he sustained significant injuries and had to spend months recovering. Furthermore, his jealous wife, with whom he had experienced a tumultuous relationship, brought dishonor to their family by falsely accusing their maid of having an affair with Puccini, eventually driving the young girl to commit suicide. Finally, the composer became distraught over the death of his friend and supporter, Ricordi, in 1912.
Despite these setbacks, Puccini continued to compose successful works over the remainder of his career, including La fanciulla del West (1910), which was the Metropolitan Opera’s first world premiere, La Rondine (1917), and Il trittico (1918). He died of complications from throat cancer before his last work, Turnadot, could be completed. He is now celebrated as one of the finest composers of Italian operas to ever live; his works are frequently performed and beloved internationally.