Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jane Eaglen's key to high notes: clench it!

So ... that's her secret? It's all about clenching your butt?

Joshua Kosman, Music Critic for The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week on soprano Jane Eaglen teaching her tricks of the trade during a Masterclass for the Merola Opera Program. The article says in part:
Advice for young opera singers is plentiful if you know where to look. But you have to go to soprano Jane Eaglen for the true secret of a secure high note: a firmly clenched bum.

"Squeeze your bottom," she told mezzo-soprano Robin Flynn on the stage of Herbst Theatre last Thursday night. "That's the key to high notes. I have a big bottom, and big high notes."
Where high notes are concerned, I've heard it all and I'm sure you have, too.

I've heard: "Pretend you're on the toilet". I've heard: "Pretend you're passing gas". I've also heard from a colleague, soprano Kathleen Halm, that an Italian singer once told her to "Push outta dee Tempex!" By the way- yes, you're correct ... Tempex = Tampax. He even went so far as to write in huge letters "TEMPEXX" on her music. Kate and I still laugh about "TEMPEXX" to this day.

Now, I can add "clench my keester" to the list of possible go-to items if I'm having trouble with my high notes. Perfection.

In addition to highlighting a few other pearls of wisdom, the article puts to rest any rumors that Eaglen plans to retire:
Eaglen, who turned 50 this year, still performs regularly - in May she created the role of Helen in the world premiere of composer Daron Hagen's opera Amelia at the Seattle Opera - but she's cut back her engagements in favor of more teaching and coaching.

"I'm absolutely still singing and have no intention of retiring any time soon," she said in a phone interview the next morning. "But I didn't want to be traveling 11 months out of the year. So I'm trying to do more concert work, and teaching seemed to fit in with that schedule."...

...Eaglen's focus is on her students, but she never forgets to keep the audience involved in the process. She studs her coaching with wry asides, including the occasional witticisms about her ample girth; when a student gets on the right track, she starts nodding and pointing vigorously like a successful player in charades.

And singing with your tush is always a helpful technique - or at least it was for Flynn, who used it to nail a high G-flat in a Massenet aria that had eluded her on several tries. The success was not only audible, it was also visible; Flynn's eyes bugged out and her body looked as if it had received a mild electric shock.

"Yes!" cried Eaglen, adding dryly, "I have a feeling that's a new sensation for you."
For the complete article, check out the San Francisco Chronicle. And, for God's sakes, CLENCH IT!

[Photo: Merola Opera Program singer Sidney Outlaw receives instruction from soprano Jane Eaglen. By John Storey - special to The Chronicle.]

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