Juditha Triumphans, RV 644, Armatae Face et Anguibus
Juditha Triumphans, RV 644, Armatae Face et Anguibus
Professor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and his student Amalia Lambel work on tempo and explore the emotional range of Judith Triomphans by Antonio Vivaldi.
Produced by the Saline royale Academy
In this masterclass, Professor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and student Amalia Lambel work towards perfecting an extract of Judith Triomphans by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.
Fouchécourt advises his student to be careful with her tempo and to slow down in order to match the written tempo. Lambel must sing and interpret the role at the same time: in this piece, the character is angry, and the pace is fast. With this, Fouchécourt explains that it is easy to be too fast, and that one must be flexible and remember to find “space” and “depth” and to “sing with one’s body” to ensure that all the technical parts, such as the vocalizations, are done properly. Lambel is encouraged to work slowly at first in order to understand the text and context, as well as the emotional range of the piece.
Additionally, Fouchécourt says that many technical directions can be given to a singer such as singing more vertically, or to the contrary, singing more horizontally. The Professor concludes that none of these terms are "real", and that the focus of a singer should be depth and openness. Pressure and stress are what commonly endangers a performance.
Finding as much space and depth as possible.
Paying attention to the dynamics and tempo.
Focusing on the journey rather than the results.
Performing with flexibility.
Staying in touch with the emotional context of the piece.
Judith triumphans devicta Holofernis barbarie (“Judith’s triumph over the barbarians of Holofernes”) is Vivaldi’s only surviving oratorio. Composed around 1716, it was commissioned in celebration of the Venetian victory over the Turks earlier that year. However, it was also likely performed at the Ospedale della Pietà, a girls’ orphanage at which Vivaldi worked as a music director. The material was especially fitting for such a place as it contains an inspirational female heroine. The instrumentation includes unusual instruments such as a mandolin, theorbos, viola d’amore, and chalumeaux. Though there is still a typical soprano, alto, tenor, and bass division of voices, all the parts are meant to be sung by female voices. In the opera, King Nebuchadezzar sends general Holofernes and his Assyrian soldiers to collect the debts of the people of Israel. A young woman, Judith, goes to Holofernes to beg him to take mercy on her people. Enchanted with her, he invites her to stay for a banquet, where he drinks heavily and eventually falls asleep. Judith then beheads him, saving her people from conquest.
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.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was a violinist, composer, and educator in the Baroque era, now most notable for his contributions to the concerto form. He was born in Venice to a musical father who worked as a violinist in the San Marco Basilica orchestra. His father was his main musical educator, and the two sometimes performed violin together in the orchestra. Vivaldi initially pursued a career as a priest, spending ten years in training before becoming ordained in 1703. Only a year later, however, Vivaldi withdrew from performing mass due to illness. He became known as a “secular priest” and began pursuing more opportunities in the music field.
In 1703, Vivaldi also took on the post of violin master at Pio Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage in Venice that provided young girls with music education. He remained at that post for over thirty years, composing numerous works for his students there. His first published compositions, a set of twelve trio sonatas, came in 1705, followed soon after by a set of sonatas for violin and basso continuo. In 1711, he composed a set of concertos for one, two, or four violins accompanied by a string orchestra, dedicated to the prince of Tuscany. These compositions circulated throughout Europe, gaining Vivaldi a reputation as an important composer. Over the course of his life, he would compose nearly a hundred instrumental sonatas and five hundred concertos. His role in developing the latter was essential; he standardized the concerto form and use of ritornello as well as increased the expected level of virtuosity and musical expression. J.S. Bach would later be deeply influenced by Vivaldi’s concertos.
Vivaldi soon turned his attention to composing vocal works. He worked as an opera impresario while simultaneously composing music for the opera, premiering his first opera, Ottone in villa, in 1713. He would compose at least forty-six operas in his career. He also composed several important oratorios, including his masterpiece Juditha triumphans (1716), and several other sacred vocal works for the Ospedale. In 1718, Vivaldi briefly held the position of music director at the court of Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, where he continued to produce several operas.
In the 1720s, Vivaldi traveled throughout Italy as a freelancer, though Venice once again became his home base. He received numerous important commissions and enjoyed great success and popularity. In 1723, he composed his most enduringly successful work, The Four Seasons, a set of virtuosic and programmatic concertos based on the four seasons in a year. Unfortunately, by the 1730s, his popularity began to dissipate, and his music fell out of style in Venice. Sensing that he would no longer receive much work there, he decided to move to Venice. Before much could come of his relocation, he took ill and died of an infection in 1741. Though the end of his life was marked by disappointment and poverty, his legacy remains hugely important. He is now regarded as one of the most influential composers of the Baroque era.