Soprano Leah Brzyski ’19MM, on preparing for Yale Opera’s Fall Scenes productions

Leah Brzyski

Each year, Yale Opera presents two programs of scenes from beloved and important works. Parts are assigned at the beginning of the academic year, giving singers relatively little time to learn, memorize, and inhabit their roles—sometimes more than one and in different languages. We spoke with soprano Leah Brzyski ’19MM about her preparation for this year’s programs and about developing as a singer and performer here at YSM.

Q: What roles will you be performing in this year’s Fall Scenes program, and what has the preparation experience been like?

A: This year I could not be more excited for our scenes production because I have the opportunity to perform two of my dream roles: Blonde from Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Ophelia from Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet. While the characters are quite different, each has such a strong willfulness and passion about them that makes digging into their music so appealing. The preparation for my roles this year has been really rejuvenating. After being gone all summer, coming back to dive headfirst into these powerful pieces has been such a driving force behind the semester.

Now that memorized runs are done, we’re into our staging period, which is my favorite! We finally get to explore not just how [the characters] speak and sing, but how their bodies would react to a situation or another person. Not to mention our Stage Director, Chris Murrah, is one of the most artistically genius people I have ever met. He is full of unique insights and always allows us the freedom to explore and play rather than micromanaging every action we do on stage.

Q: What is the benefit and what are the challenges of having to learn multiple roles, in different styles and in different languages, in a short amount of time?

A: Every year we are assigned our roles and are given three weeks to learn and memorize all of our music. At the end of the three weeks we perform a memorized run for the voice faculty so that they can see how we’ve progressed. This process is always more than a little hectic—to memorize the notes, rhythms, language, but more so the characterization of your assignments in such little time. Just being able to physically produce the right sounds is nowhere near enough. You have to know what motivates [the characters], how they interact with the other characters, why they say and sing what they do, and so much more.

Last year I remember feeling like it was an impossible feat, but after hours and hours of weekly coaching, lessons, group rehearsals, and individual practice time, the music becomes so ingrained in you that every year we all manage to meet the deadline, (sometimes to our own surprise!). This quick learning process has actually benefited me in so many ways. Oftentimes, last minute opportunities to sing a concert or a role come up and you might only have a week or even a few days to accept and learn your music. Practicing that skill in a comfortable learning environment makes taking on professional tasks like that so much more manageable. This summer it helped me learn five roles in just a few months and prepare arias in different languages without much stress at all. This year, I noticed that the memorization of my music was so much easier, even though I had much more to learn. It’s a skill most of us don’t get to practice on our own time, so having it as part of the curriculum makes it a mandatory part of our skillset.

Q: What’s required of you, in terms of moving from one role to another in the course of one Fall Scenes production? How do the faculty help with this process?

Brzyski as the Queen of the Night in Yale Opera’s 2018 production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”

A: The ability to switch back and forth between such contrasting roles is absolutely demanding. To go from singing a role in French about a woman who has gone mad to the point of suicide because of lost love to suddenly switching to singing a comedic maid who is cunning and pedantic and lighthearted in German is one heck of a transition. But, in a way, all of those unique qualities help you differentiate as a performer what it feels like to be one character versus the other. Last year, singing the all-consuming and powerful role of Queen of the Night as well as the loving and tender Fairy Godmother in Cendrillon at first seemed like an overwhelming transition. But those qualities help make up the identity of each character. After living in her shoes, I would never start thinking in French or singing in the same Fairy Godmother-esque floated lines when performing Queen and vice versa. At the end of the day, it’s the differences that make the switch easy. The faculty all help in this process of course, perfecting our diction, demonstrating style differences between composers, and creating characterization of our roles.

Q: In what ways have you learned from your peers throughout this process and in the Yale Opera program in general? How, in the past year, have you developed as an artist and in what ways has YSM’s opera program informed that growth?

A: I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to this amazing group of artists. There is never a rehearsal or recital or class where I don’t learn something from my peers. We all come from such unique and enriched backgrounds that it’s like a treasure trove of skills all sitting in the same classroom. I might hear someone singing an aria I have learned but they do something different in a cadenza or approach a note in such an amazing way that I can use and apply to my own singing. So often in our movement classes, when we’re improvising, someone will take a risk and do something completely unexpected, which makes you feel more willing to take risks yourself and work off of that energy. Many people here also speak several foreign languages and it’s so amazing to be able to ask for insight on translations and specifics on pronunciation from someone who is native to that language.

I owe the Yale Opera program so much of who I am as an artist. In our undergrad training, we broadly cover so many topics, languages, requirements, etc. But here, there is such great attention to detail given to specific skillsets that are absolutely necessary in order to succeed as an opera singer. French, German, Italian, and Russian diction are taught with such finesse and accuracy that sometimes I wonder how I stumbled my way through before my two years here. Most important, however, I have grown because I have been given the opportunity to act as an artist and take artistic liberties that I wouldn’t have been given at another university, such as picking my own recital repertoire, teaching voice students, singing for top managers in the business, and performing mature roles that challenge me. Not only am I a more technically savvy singer because of the skilled guidance of my voice teacher, Doris Yarick-Cross, but I am also a more confident and independent musician. Our faculty members are some of the most experienced, intelligent instructors in their field. Learning from them every day has most definitely paid off.

Yale Opera presents its annual Fall Scenes programs on Friday & Saturday, Nov. 2 & 3, in Morse Recital Hall. 

DETAILS & TICKETS

Published October 24, 2018
Share This Comments

Yale percussionists prepare for “Symphonie fantastique”

Left to right: YoungKyoung Lee, Russell Fisher, and Jisu Jung

Just a few hours before guest conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni arrived on campus to start rehearsing the Yale Philharmonia for Friday’s concert in Woolsey Hall, the orchestra’s percussion section played through several passages of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. The work, a wildly imaginative piece of program music that calls for a giant ensemble including four timpanists (in the third movement, specifically), will close Friday’s program and introduce concertgoers who are unfamiliar with Berlioz’s score to the heights of the composer’s creativity and the brilliance of his orchestration.

“We can’t help but remind ourselves to be sticking with the story of the music or how Berlioz was while he was writing this piece,” percussionist Jisu Jung ’19MM said.

The program notes (by Liam Viney, ed. Aaron Levin) for Friday’s performance explain: “In the printed program of the first performance, Berlioz provided an outline of the plot: the love-sick hero (presumably himself) is plagued by images of his beloved and troubled by a spiritual sickness. He … is constantly visited by his beloved’s image, accompanied by extreme emotional reactions. Eventually, disillusionment sets in during the third movement, and he poisons himself with opium to assuage the anguish of his unrequited love. Delirium sets in, and he descends into the horrific dream world of the fourth and fifth movements.”

In Berlioz’s Treatise on Instrumentation and Modern Orchestration, percussionist Russell Fisher ’20MMA said, the composer “describes different instruments, he describes also the emotional responses that go along with them. You can really see that in this piece in particular.” And, Jung, said, “You can see how detailed he was when he was writing this.” Fisher added, “There’s very little left up to interpretation.”

“He even suggests sticking,” percussionist YoungKyoung Lee ’19MMA pointed out, which is “really rare, especially at this time.” Symphonie fantastique was composed and premiered in 1830, revised thereafter, and published in 1845.

As they rehearsed the timpani parts in the fourth movement (“March to the Scaffold”), percussionist Arlo Shultis ’20MMA offered, “YoungKyoung’s part and mine are so interlocked. Since I’m playing second timpani, I’m really watching her and watching the conductor, as well.” Shultis and Lee are using similar mallets and the same stickings.

With equal attention to time, sound, and consistency, Fisher and Jung ran through their bass-drum parts in the fifth movement (“Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath”), Fisher executing crescendos and Jung providing attack and decrescendos, with percussionist Kevin Zetina ’20MM playing the chimes. Discussion was had about dynamics, or course, though those will largely be up to Zeitouni, and, to a degree, to Woolsey Hall. That Zeitouni trained as a percussionist will likely factor in to how extreme those dynamics will get. “Our goal,” Jung joked, “is: Play until you get the hand,” the hand being a conductor’s “that’s too much” signal.

Returning to a more serious note, Jung said she and her colleagues (including Shiqi Zhong ’19MM, who doesn’t play on the Berlioz) are “very, very tight.” They bring the skills required of outstanding chamber musicians to the Philharmonia. “We just develop this huge trust in each other,” Fisher said.

Jean-Marie Zeitouni leads the Yale Philharmonia in a performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and music by Saint-Saëns and Debussy on Friday, Oct. 26.

WATCH A PREVIEW VIDEO

GO BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE PERCUSSION SECTION

DETAILS & TICKETS (FREE FOR STUDENTS)

Published October 23, 2018
Share This Comments

Doris Yarick-Cross and Richard Cross to retire at year’s end

Richard Cross and Doris Yarick-Cross

For decades, the Yale School of Music’s voice and opera programs have developed remarkable artists who have graced the stages of the world’s most prestigious venues and performed with celebrated opera companies and instrumental ensembles. Doris Yarick-Cross and Richard Cross, who have served on the School’s faculty since 1983 and 1995, respectively, have been an important part of those achievements. Today, we offer our gratitude to Doris and Richard, who, together, plan to retire at the end of the current academic year. Doris and Richard will teach currently enrolled students through the completion of their degree programs.

“In her initial contract, Doris was given the responsibility of establishing a professional opera program in the School of Music,” YSM Dean Robert Blocker said. “With her vision and leadership, Yale Opera has become an internationally renowned program where singers come to launch their careers as vocal artists.” Richard’s “inimitable teaching style and gift for languages has given generations of Yale Opera students unparalleled lyrical training,” Blocker said. “In partnership with Doris and our other stellar voice faculty and staff, Richard has played an essential role in shaping the lives of hundreds of ascendant singers.” MORE

Published October 16, 2018
Share This Comments

Boris Berman to perform program of Haydn and Prokofiev sonatas

Boris Berman

Boris Berman recently said that his Oct. 24 Horowitz Piano Series recital is “another step in (my) exploration of Prokofiev.” Berman, a faculty pianist at YSM and the series’ Artistic Director, has recorded the composer’s complete solo piano music, published a book titled Prokofiev’s Piano Sonatas: A Guide for the Listener and the Performer (Yale University Press), and served as an editor of Shanghai Music Publishing House’s critical edition of Prokofiev’s piano sonatas. In April 2016, Berman organized “Prokofiev at 125,” a concert in which his students performed transcriptions of the composer’s ballet music. Reviewing an all-Prokofiev recital Berman gave at New York’s 92nd Street Y, and with the pianist’s recordings in mind, New York Magazine’s Peter Davis offered, “For a grand tour through the total Prokofiev, I can’t imagine a more observant or articulate guide.”

For his Oct. 24 recital, Berman has paired Prokofiev’s late piano sonatas with Haydn’s “London” Sonatas. In Prokofiev’s piano music, Berman said, he sees connections to the composer’s immediate predecessors, and to the Classical style—”perhaps more so with Haydn than with Mozart.” The three “London” Sonatas (Nos. 50-52), Berman said, are very different from one another, and some of that music indeed looks forward, beyond Classicism. The Prokofiev sonatas—Berman will perform No. 9 and No. 7—are also different in their personalities, the former more introspective and the latter more muscular, in Berman’s words.

Personality will be very much on display in Berman’s recital, in historical terms. When Prokofiev “burst onto the concert scene,” Berman said, the composer and his music shocked some concertgoers. “Some of his premieres were downright scandalous,” Berman said.

In addition to his recital, and to celebrating Haydn and Prokofiev, Berman is always eager to champion the Horowitz Piano Series, which he said is “one of very few piano recital series in the country.”

“Some of the greatest musicians of our time” have performed as part of the Horowitz series, he said. Yale is home to the papers of legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who died in 1989. Guest performers on the Horowitz series have included Emanuel Ax, Ran Dank and Soyeon Kate Lee, Angela Hewitt, Olga Kern, Radu Lupu, and Murray Perahia, to name just a handful. The series, Berman said, is “a great treat for all of us, right here on campus.”

DETAILS & TICKETS

HOROWITZ PIANO SERIES

BORIS BERMAN

THE PAPERS OF VLADIMIR AND WANDA TOSCANINI HOROWITZ

Published October 16, 2018
Share This Comments

Violinist Vijay Gupta ’07MM earns MacArthur Fellowship

Vijay Gupta

Violinist Vijay Gupta ’07MM was working on Skid Row with Street Symphony when the MacArthur Foundation first tried to contact him in September. Not recognizing the number, he ignored a few calls until he was in his car, on the way to his day job at Walt Disney Concert Hall. “I was pretty dumbfounded,” Gupta said of learning that he had been named a MacArthur Fellow and would receive a Genius Grant for “providing musical enrichment and valuable human connection to the homeless, incarcerated, and other under-resourced communities in Los Angeles,” according to the MacArthur Foundation website.

The Foundation awards “unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

Gupta, a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, founded Street Symphony in 2011. The organization’s mission is to put “social justice at the heart of music making by creating authentic, powerful engagements between professional and emerging artists and communities disenfranchised by homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles County.”

The MacArthur Fellowship, Gupta said, “means that people have belief in me and belief in the work” he is doing. It is “affirming,” he said, a “vote of confidence.” It is also “pretty daunting” to think about how he will use what the Foundation calls a $625,000 “no-strings-attached award.”

“It’s overwhelming to think about all the possibilities,” Gupta said. The question he is asking himself is, “How do I use this for the deepest, most authentic self-evolution?” After all, “the opportunity to invest in oneself is so rare.”

The Fellowship, at its core, reflects his own belief in what he has been doing. The “validation of trust” that comes with the grant, he said, is forcing him to identify, in a way, who he wants to be through the work that he does, and “to be all that I am.”

Published October 15, 2018
Share This Comments

YSM faculty trumpeter Allan Dean to retire

Allan Dean

Over the course of 30 years at the Yale School of Music, faculty trumpeter Allan Dean has shared with students, colleagues, and audiences alike the yield of his vast musical experience. His career has been marked as much by excellence as it has by curiosity. Today, as Dean makes plans to retire at the end of the academic year, we celebrate what he has meant to our community and to the wider musical world.

“My gratitude for his collegiality and personal friendship is boundless,” YSM Dean Robert Blocker told the School of Music community. “Allan has contributed significantly to the artistic and academic maturation of the School of Music and to the discipline of music.”

Dean has played with the most venerated brass ensembles, including the New York Brass Quintet, of which he was a member for nearly two decades, as well as the American Brass Quintet, Summit Brass, St. Louis Brass Quintet, and Yale Brass Trio, alongside faculty hornist William Purvis and faculty trombonist Scott Hartman. For more than 20 years in New York City, Dean performed and recorded extensively, appearing on dozens of major-label releases of repertoire from early music to contemporary works.

A founding member of Calliope: A Renaissance Band and the New York Cornet and Sacbut Ensemble, Dean’s exploration of early music and period instruments has included performances with the Waverly Consort and the Smithsonian Chamber Players.

“This is a profoundly sad moment for me, but also an extraordinarily inspiring moment,” Purvis wrote on Facebook. “Allan has pursued a remarkably independent life in music that has epitomized curiosity and excellence in every aspect, every corner of music, to an extent that continues to inspire and instruct me on a daily basis.”

As a teacher, Dean has mentored musicians at such respected institutions as Indiana University, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Eastman School of Music. He has also taught and performed at festivals in the United States and abroad including the Spoleto and Casals festivals, and the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Trumpeter and Yale School of Music alumna Jean Laurenz ’13MM ’14AD said that Dean, “more than anything, created an environment of camaraderie that allowed each of our individual artistic voices to flourish.”

Dean arrived at YSM in 1988, succeeding longtime faculty trumpeter Robert Nagel Jr., with whom Dean worked in the New York Brass Quintet. In that respect, Dean continued a legacy at Yale while bringing his unique personality to his work. Dean has “transformed the lives of his students, his colleagues, and indeed those fortunate enough to have heard his performances on stage and through recordings,” Blocker said.

Allan Dean’s next concert at Yale will be with his colleagues in the Yale Brass Trio. A date for that performance will be announced soon.

Published October 12, 2018
Share This Comments

YSM Student News | October 2018

Ethan Braun

Organist David von Behren ’19MM toured the U.K. this past summer, performing recitals at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Clare College, Cambridge University, and Chester Cathedral. Von Behren also joined the teaching faculty of this year’s American Guild of Organists’ Pipe Organ Encounter Plus program in Rockford, Ill.

Two major works by composer Ethan Braun ’21DMA were premiered this fall including an evening-length work performed by Ensemble Klang and the Gaudeamus Muziekweek in The Netherlands, and a work for brass quintet and electronics performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. An opera commissioned by the City of Berlin’s Hauptstadtkulturfonds will be premiered in December.

Tubist Jake Fewx ’18MM ’19MMA won first prize in the Tuba Artist division at the 2018 Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival Competition in August.

Violinist Bora Kim ’16MM ’17MMA ’23DMA successfully auditioned for the chance to borrow a 1747 Palmason Januarius Gagliano violin (valued at $425,000) for three years from the Canada Council for the Arts’ Musical Instrument Bank.

Composer Alexis C. Lamb ’20MM will have her first work for orchestra premiered in March 2019 by the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra. Lamb will also perform with the world music sextet Projeto Arcomusical in the premiere of a new concerto by Elliot Cole.

Ingram Lee ’19MM won the position of Second Trombone with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra in Maine.

Composer Aaron Israel Levin ’19MM had two pieces performed as part of the National Conference of the Society of Composers: Springbokkie was performed in Tacoma, Wash., last March, and Operating Room was performed at Indiana University in September.

Violinists Gregory Lewis ’19MM and Marianne di Tomaso ’17MM ’19MMA participated in the Violin Competition at the Virtuoso & Belcanto Festival in Lucca, Italy, in July. Tomaso earned first prize and Lewis earned second prize.

As the grand prize winner of the New York Youth Symphony’s First Music program, Ryan Lindveit ’19MM was commissioned to write an orchestral piece that will be premiered in Carnegie Hall in May 2019 and performed by Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra in July 2019.

Liliya Ugay

Trumpeter Chloe Swindler ’19MM was selected to tour as an Associate Artist with the Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass for its 2018-2019 season. The tour includes performances in New York, Vermont, Arizona, Philadelphia, Wisconsin, Texas, and Iowa.

Composer Liliya Ugay ’16MM ’22DMA was a Baumgardner Fellow at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival’s Choral Workshop. Ugay was also selected as a composer-in-residence at the American Lyric Theater, where she will work on a full-length opera in 2018-2020.

As the first-prize and audience-prize winner in the Young Artist Division at the 2017 Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival, organist Grant Wareham ’20MM performed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hartford in September.

Published October 10, 2018
Share This Comments

“Neuro Pianist” Eitan Globerson to give cross-disciplinary lecture

Eitan Globerson

On Oct. 8, the Yale School of Music’s Piano Department will welcome back pianist, conductor, and brain-sciences scholar Eitan Globerson, also known as the “Neuro Pianist.” Globerson was a visiting professor at Yale in 2015 and taught “Piano Pedagogy” and “The Musical Brain, from Signal to Cognition.”

Globerson’s Oct. 8 lecture, “Music, Brain, and Emotion: Unraveling the Enigma,” will explore brain mechanisms underlying emotion processing, highlighting the role of these mechanisms in perceiving emotions in music. As part of the talk, Globerson will discuss practical insights, demonstrating how our knowledge of the human brain may affect both interpretation and composition.

Globerson is Professor of Piano and Conducting at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. As an active concert pianist, he has won both national and international prizes in performance, appeared as a soloist with symphony orchestras in Israel and around the world, and given frequent recitals and chamber music concerts in Israel, Europe, the United States, and the Far East. In addition to his musical activities, Globerson, who holds a Ph.D. in brain sciences from Bar Ilan University, is also active in scientific research. His papers on such topics as music perception, prosody in the general population and in adults with autistic spectrum disorders, psychoacoustics, birdsong, and motor control have been published in scientific journals.

Eitan Globerson will present “Music, Brain and Emotion: Unraveling the Enigma” on Monday, Oct. 8, at 4 p.m., in Sudler Recital Hall. The event is free and open to the public. 

Published October 4, 2018
Share This Comments