CF Alumnus and Operatic Tenor, Wes Hunter, spoke to current CF students on March 29 during a lecture and demonstration called Growing up Bel Canto.
When someone thinks of a live opera performance they usually think of a large theatre, formal bow-tie and gala dresses. However, CF received a real formal treat when Hunter graciously belted out Gioachino Donizetti’s “Una furtiva lagrima” in front of 25 people. He was accompanied by Gay-Lyn Capitano, piano professor at CF.
“Students will have a chance to hear an outstanding singer who once took the very classes they are taking now,” said Dr. Sarah Satterfield, a music teacher at CF. “Wes will perform and discuss music by Italian masters like Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. Wes will show how this music can be incorporated into the repertoire of CF vocal students.”
Hunter first began the lecture by giving a little background of himself to the audience. Once he graduated from CF he went to the University of Maryland, and ended up earning his Master’s degree at the Boston Conservatory in Massachusetts. He is now pursuing a professional singing career as an apprentice at the Sarasota Opera House.
He quickly jumped into the topic of bel canto, which in Italian translates to beautiful singing. It is a technique that marries the melody and text to the singer’s voice; that when performed well, leaves the audience breathless.
Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, are the main composers that developed the bel canto opera technique between 1800 and 1830. Historically, they each influenced the change of opera and singing.
“Some of the greatest operas written occurred during the bel canto period,” said Samuel Lowry, director of Audience Development at the Sarasota Opera House. “One of the ideas behind the bel canto movement was to highlight the special abilities of operatic artists. Many roles in operas were created with specific singers in mind. Today, some of these works are not seen with much frequency due to the virtuosic nature of the singing. However, when a bel canto opera is performed well, the experience of watching it can be transcendent.”
Hunter demonstrated these techniques after he explained to the audience in a power point the different ornamental styles that make up bel canto.
Hunter explained that the Baroque period with Bach and the Classical period preceded bel canto, and after that period composers like Verdi moved away from the three main composers that helped shape opera, but Verdi moved on with their bel canto singing technique.
Hunter demonstrated the use of legato, which gives freedom to singing by using air support; portamento, which connects notes to the next; vocal range is a vocal technique that singers use to concentrate in their head and chest.
Then there is ornamentation, which include embellishing techniques such as rubato, which lengthens and shortens notes. Then cadenzas, which give freedom to change, they are flowy expressions that crescendos in and crescendos out.
Hunter’s performances of Rossini’s La Promessa and Languir per una bella, and Donizetti’s Ah! Mes amis demonstrated the types of techniques the lecturer spoke about.
“As a young singer you can do anything you need to do to make your music your own,” Hunter said.
Story and photos by: Rosa De Saron Caro