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Opera Coaching: Professional Techniques and Considerations.

* Opera Coaching: Professional Techniques and Considerations, by Alan Montgomery. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group (270 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016), 2006. 192pp. $22.95

An opera coach's job is certainly multi-faceted. The repertoire spans 400 years and many different styles and languages; the singers to be coached come in many different categories and temperaments; and the coach's duties are extremely varied. Alan Montgomery addresses all of this variety in his book, Opera Coaching: Professional Techniques and Considerations, and he does it in an informal, easy-to-read style. At times, it almost seems like a fireside chat--or better, a piano-side chat, as he opens for his readers the world of opera from a coach's viewpoint.

The intended audience for this book seems to be pianists who are considering becoming opera coaches, or who are already involved in working with singers in some capacity. However, since the work of a coach is so little understood by others and since Montgomery presents such a wealth of information about this profession, anyone interested in opera should find this a fascinating and informative read.

The book is divided into two major sections: "Techniques" and "Considerations." The first deals with basic techniques needed to coach soloists and ensembles and to accompany opera rehearsals. These include such things as knowing what to add or subtract from a piano/vocal score; learning the styles of recitatives; learning about vocal technique to be more helpful to the singers; and preparing singers for auditions. The "Considerations" section discusses specific aspects of style, with chapters on baroque opera all the way to Britten and other modern composers. Here the author dispenses advice on, among other things, learning the traditions of opera performance; helping singers to distinguish the compositional styles of many opera composers; helping singers to learn coloratura, patter and ornamentation; and achieving more contrast, shape and emotional impact in the singing line. This is good advice, indeed, coming from someone who has been working in this field for more than 30 years.

Interspersed among the chapters are seven "Interludes," which address some extra issues that do not fit neatly into the chapters, but which are important to the opera coach, such as dealing with the diva/divo, the use of straight tones and opera in translation.

Appendix A--a list of vocal Fachs and their roles--is a bit disappointing in that there is no definition of each Fach (category), which would make this chart more interesting for those not already familiar with the German opera system. For those who are, one would wish for a greatly expanded and updated list. In contrast, Appendix B ("Notable and Recommended Editions") is wonderfully helpful. Reviewed by Timothy Hoekman, Tallahassee, Florida

* The items marked with this symbol can be ordered via the MTNA website through our affiliation with Amazon.com. Go to www.mtna.org, click on "Resources and Services" and scroll down to the Amazon.com section.
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Author:Hoekman, Timothy
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Words:482
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