Pictorial: Meadows singers learn from masters Jake Heggie, Joyce DiDonato, and Frederica von Stade


Three judges
The master teachers, Jake Heggie, Joyce DiDonato, and Frederica von Stade (from left to right).

On November 3, Mezzo sopranos Joyce DiDonato and Frederica von Stade and composer Jake Heggie took time between performances of Heggie’s opera Great Scott to give a master class for singers in the Division of Music in the Meadows School of the Arts. Five students performed art songs and opera arias for the artists and a sizable audience of fellow music students and faculty. Each performer was then given feedback and comments from Heggie, von Stade, and DiDonato. Here are some of the highlights of the two-hour class.

The audience and performers in the Great Hall, Prothro Hall.

Mezzo-soprano Moretta Irchirl performed Heggie’s song, “Yet Gentle Will the Griffin Be” from Songs to the Moon. She learned valuable insight into the work from the composer himself. Irchirl worked on further developing her character in performance, with Heggie encouraging her to speak, not sing, the story as if to children. DiDonato and von Stade, in character as small children captivated by the tale, sat on the floor reacting to Irchirl’s performance.

Throughout the master class, all three artists used movement exercises to demonstrate concepts to all of the performers. In one crowd-pleasing exercise, Joyce DiDonato walked tenor Charles Karanja to the back of the Great Hall to demonstrate the extreme length of phrase in the aria “Di rigore armato il seno” from Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss. Other modes of teaching included anecdotes of performances and musical training. Frederica von Stade, considered by many to be the definitive portrayer of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, offered performance tips on interpreting Strauss to Charles Karanja.

Lessons about authenticity in performance and conveying sentiment were the focus of the two lesson participants: Jordyn Beranek, who performed “Per pietà bell’idol mio” by Bellini, and Alissa Roca, who performed “Poor Rover” from Heggie’s opera Moby Dick. Matters of stamina and technical precision were the areas addressed for Caroline Melcher, who performed “Awake Saturnia…Hence, Iris, Hence Away” from Händel’s Semele. Frederica von Stade shared a humorous story of her own unfortunate performance of the aria in her early career while Joyce DiDonato offered a hands-on lesson of note-by-note technical drills.

The event ended with ample time for a question and answer session with audience members. All three artists spent time with audience members afterwards mingling, conversing individually, and taking selfies.


You can see Frederica von State and Jake Heggie perform works by Bolcom, Copland, Heggie, Poulenc, Ravel, Rorem, Thomson, and others on January 31 at the Dallas City Performance Hall.

More: Great Scott and great voices at SMU.


Watch Frederica von Stade play famous “trouser” roles: Hansel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

Or as Cherubino, her signature role, in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

Compare and contrast performances by Joyce DiDonato and Frederica von Stade in different productions of Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

Check out multiple performances by Joyce DiDonato on Met on Demand: Student Access.

Find Jake Heggie’s music at Hamon.

Thanks to Pam Pagels, Music Librarian, for this guest blog post!

All images by Pam Pagels.


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