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Guild Hall Teaming Up With Bel Canto Boot Camp On Duo Of Programs For Opera Enthusiasts

T.J. Clemente

The programming includes Bel Canto 101 and Audiophile Society. (Photo: Courtesy of Guild Hall)

Anthony Madonna, Guild Hall's Patti Kenner Senior Associate for Learning and Public Engagement, has been busy putting something wonderful together for Guild Hall's opera lovers. In an interview with Hamptons.com, Madonna explained how Guild Hall has teamed up with Bel Canto Boot Camp (BCBC) for two presentations: a one-night-only session and a series of four workshops, based on the history, lexicology, and love of opera. The programs will take place virtually due to the pandemic.

Madonna reached out to some special folks involved with his classical training at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey: Rachelle Jonck and Derrick Goff. These two NYC-based vocal coaches, who founded Bel Canto Boot Camp, have crafted an introduction especially for Guild Hall to cover some of the specialized aspects and terminology used in Bel Canto Boot Camp's approach. "Bel Canto Boot Camp is the brainchild of Rachelle Jonck and Derrick Goff. Rachelle is a South Africa-born coach/pianist/conductor based in New York City. She is the Principal Coach of Teatro Nuovo and teaches at Westminster Choir College," he explained. "Derrick is an alumnus of the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and will return to the Met music staff as an Assistant Chorusmaster next season."

The duo launched an online practice diary to provide community and inspiration for the singers they regularly work with in New York. It was designed to provide singers virtually with what ballet barre class delivers to dancers: a systematic exploration and practice of the basics of bel canto technique.

"Soon learning that their program was of interest not only to their immediate circles but also to a community that grew to include over 1400 singers, voice teachers, coaches, conductors, and opera lovers around the world, Rachelle and Derrick realized that they had discovered a method of delivering content that was not merely a quarantine-era substitute, but rather a powerful and promising method of disseminating high-level musical information while building a community of both established and aspiring operatic artists and teachers," the Bel Canto Boot Camp website notes.

For the Guild Hall programming, Jonck and Goff will be joined by Steven Tharp, former Metropolitan Opera tenor and Professor of Voice at the University of Missouri, as the group learns together what to listen for in historical recordings where the technology needs ears and minds to discover what might not be there. Bel Canto 101 will be held Thursday, February 4 at 6:00 p.m.

"One of the great things about partnering with Bel Canto Boot Camp is they started this program because singers were not able to perform and work at the Metropolitan Opera and regional and local opera houses. They therefore created a boot camp for singers," he explained. "They wanted to offer a service for coaching for lessons on history and practice. Through the spring and summer, they have created a real following of singers who needed outlets to continue to sing and practice. This last fall they expanded their program to include the opera lovers or opera patron." He then went on to explain how he is excited about the BCBC's Audiophile Society - a vehicle to "bridge the divide between the audience and the opera professional."

The BCBC's Audiophile Society begins Sunday, February 7 at 3:00 p.m. and runs on Sundays through the month. Madonna shared, "Those who attend will join Steven Tharp, Rachelle Jonck, and Derrick Goff for a series of Zoom Listening Salons. With a participating audience of both opera lovers and professionals, they will learn more about what to listen for, discussing opera history, the bel canto technique, and more."

Audiophile Society topics to be explored throughout the series include All Together Now: duets, ensembles, finales on February 7; In Praise of Love: A Valentine's Day tribute to opera's favorite subject on February 14; Bel Canto Pop: Classic vocal virtues in 20th/21st century vernacular song on February 21; and Favorites & Requests: Selections chosen by the Audiophile Society on February 28.

Registration for Bel Canto 101 and Audiophile Society is $35 per session and free for Guild Hall's opera donors.

Madonna has been pleased how well this programming is being received, with many already signing up.

For more information, visit www.guildhall.org.

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