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If you visited Longwood Gardens last week (June 14-17), you might have heard echoes of opera notes coming from the Ballroom as you walked through the Conservatory. The beautiful sounds you heard were from our special guests: four international students participating in the first ever Curtis Institute of Music public opera master class at Longwood Gardens.
Four up-and-coming opera talents from Europe were hand selected by Artistic Director of the Curtis Opera Theatre Mikael Eliasen to participate in eight public opera master classes and perform in a culminating recital on Sunday, June 19. Opera students Simon Duus (of Denmark), Soumaya Hallak (of Switzerland), Johanne Thisted Hojlund (of Denmark), Ole Morten Velde (of Norway), and instructor Eliasen (of Denmark) lived on the grounds of Longwood Gardens throughout the week.
Eliasen, who has been head of the vocal studies department at Curtis since 1988, has given countless master classes all over the world, said this experience was unlike any other master class he had given.
“Unlike a private master classes where I focus one-on-one with the students, we opened this class up for the public to watch as they visited the Gardens. I feel like this element pushed my students to perform for the audience, and I feel like it made the students focus even more because they were being held accountable to take my coaching advice and make instant changes to their singing,” says Eliasen.
Eliasen says he is especially proud of the students because this class wasn’t just about tuning their skills as an opera singer, but it also asked his students to speak about their art in front of an audience in a language that wasn’t their own. Eliasen says this was also one of the first public opera master classes he gave to an audience that wasn’t serious musicians.
He says, “I am not surprised that many visitors who came to watch us throughout the week were initially coming to see the trees and flowers—I appreciate that they stumbled upon our master class as a surprise. Since our audience didn’t have much music knowledge, I did things like have my students sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a man in the audience and I frequently asked the audience many questions throughout the class. Having an audience like this doesn’t make the class less serious of training for the students, but I certainly get inventive and find ways to connect and engage the audience with the opera.”
Eliasen says if he can inspire just one or two people to consider seeing the opera after this class, his mission has been fulfilled. “The goal of a public opera master class is to spread the art of opera and to show how beautiful and relatable it can be to the mainstream public—not just opera professionals.”
The master class students said one of the most enjoyable parts of the experience was seeing familiar faces in the audience every day.
“One couple came to the first class on Tuesday at 11 am, and then every day afterwards. At the end of the week, I really felt like I had made a connection with them and that was unlike any master class experience I’ve had before,” says Hallak.
Another student, Velde, says, “We received so much love, thanks, and appreciation after every class. After each session people would stay and ask us more questions and tell us how much we made their day.”
All of the students agreed that Longwood was a beautiful and inspiring venue for a week of opera study. The students said they felt inspired during the week not only by the receptive and inquisitive audience members, but from the sheer natural beauty of Longwood Gardens, too.
“We all made professional progress this week, too,” says Duus, “We got to work on real songs we sing in front of an audience—and maybe it was something about not having the lights and the costumes, but our performances felt more real and honest. I got to understand my character in a particular scene in new ways that I absolutely think will transcend in future performances back in Europe.”
More about master class instructor Mikael Eliasen
Danish-born coach and accompanist Mikael Eliasen received his early training in Copenhagen, Montreal, and Vienna. Mr. Eliasen has given master classes at Aix-en-Provence, the Shanghai Conservatory, Tchaikovsky Conservatory (Moscow), Jerusalem Music Center, and National Opera of Prague. In the United States, he works regularly at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Eliasen was music director of the San Francisco Opera Center from 1994 to 1996 and artistic director of the European Center for Opera and Vocal Art in Belgium from 1984 to 1994. Mr. Eliasen joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1986 and became the head of the department in 1988.
More about the partnership between Longwood Gardens and Curtis Institute of Music
The ongoing partnership between Longwood Gardens and the Curtis Institute of Music aims to create new performance and educational opportunities for students. Formally launched in 2009, this innovative collaboration built on successful Curtis Institute of Music performances at Longwood Gardens in past seasons.
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Enjoy family-fun activities, an outdoor concert, and behind-the-scenes experiences.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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