The future stars of opera have been singing their souls out at the prestigious summer school at the Georg Solti Accademia in Tuscany – named after one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century.
His widow and chairperson of the Georg Solti Accademia, Lady Valerie Solti outlined the genesis of the scheme. "His idea was that when he retired he would have worked with young people. He loved young musicians, young singers and he felt very strongly that people in his position should hand on to the next generations what they learned from their great professors," she explained.
Solti died in 1997. His work lives on through his widow Lady Valery and the Accademia. In his Tuscan home in Castiglione della Pescaia Georg Solti liked to relax and prepare new scores. It seemed natural to set up a summer opera school there. In its 10th year over 200 singers applied, but only 12 young hopefuls were invited. The three week intensive course with famous guest tutors focuses on developing Bel canto. "Bel canto is essentially beautiful singing, and when I'm singing it I'd like to think vowel, to vowel, to vowel, to vowel. And then just plopping the consonants in without interrupting this beautiful line," explained soprano Marlena Devoe one of the participants. She added: "It's a very hard method of singing. Your voice is the only thing that really everyone hears. So it has to be perfect."
Jonathan Papp is the Artistic Director and he pointed out the essentials for the aspiring singers. "They need a certain level of potential that we recognise that is worth developing. They need stamina not only physical, but also mentally because we are at them all the time saying: 'This needs doing, this needs doing, this is how you should fix it' and they need to be very persistent and want to do this," he said. The students learn that teamwork with the répétiteur is essential. He plays the role of coach, replacing the orchestra at the piano. It is something Solti himself did in his early career at the opera in Budapest. Anthony Reed who is a bass-baritone explained how he works with the répétiteur. "The coach sort of takes on the responsibility of making sure that I'm still doing healthy things while speaking the music and being expressive. Répétiteurs know the language, they know the stories and so it is really helpful in making a piece blossom."
Jonathan Papp added: "For the new generation of singers I think the most important thing that I want to pass on which is also something that Solti insisted on and I remember from the work that I did with him. It's a level of excellence that has to be achieved. You do what's in the score, you study everything in the score. You understand why you are doing it. And you sing as well as you possibly can."
Those sentiments were endorsed by Lady Solti: "The idea is to carry on the standards of Georg Solti: Never give up, work, work, and work and really produce the very best, aim for the very best."
For more information take a look at: www.georgsoltiaccademia.org.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1985
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1971
London Philharmonic Orchestra