Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Masterclass with Nathan Gunn

Marta Johnson, COT for Teens Teaching Artist

On Thursday October 27th Nathan and Julie Gunn visited our COT for Teens classroom. We were privileged to hear stories about traveling and singing internationally from Mr. and Mrs. Gunn. Our students were inspired to learn about the real world of opera and life on stage.

To start the visit, our students sang Ti Desta Luisa from Luisa Miller by Verdi. Mr. and Mrs. Gunn loved their singing and were especially impressed with the Italian diction. Most of our students have never sung in a foreign language before, so this encouragement was welcomed by all parties.

Our students had the chance to ask questions of Mr. Gunn and they had some good ones:
What inspired you to sing opera? (Hearing the Magic Flute as a child.) How much do you practice each day? (About four hours!) Do you have any special tips for good breathing? (It’s like blinking your eyelids: if you think about it too much, it gets complicated.)

Both Mr. and Mrs. Gunn emphasized that having a beautiful voice is a gift, one to be respected and treated well. And this means practicing and being diligent in your preparation. One of our students was so inspired by these remarks that he told me he was going home and memorizing all of the Bell Chorus from Pagliacci, which we are currently learning. And indeed the next rehearsal he sang most of it from memory!

A native of South Bend, Indiana, Nathan Gunn has built a reputation of being one of the most exciting and in-demand baritones of the day. He has appeared in internationally renowned opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Glyndebourne Opera Festival, Bilboa, and the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. In addition to his many roles, Mr. Gunn is a distinguished concert performer and a frequent interpreter of new works. His solo album, Just Before Sunrise, was released with Sony/BMG Masterworks, and he can also be heard on many operatic recordings. He is also a tenured professor of voice at the University of Illinois. Audiences can see Mr. Gunn in the role of Ravenal in Show Boat at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in February and March, 2012.

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