Damian and Tara Savarino speak with The Bridge Online
courtesy of Damian Savarino
|Getting ready to rehearse in the auditorium where they performed their concert , Damian (center) is setting up a recording device, Richard Roberson is at the piano in the center/background, and Professor Ciccotta, the main sponsor of our concert, is in the left/background.
Damian: Part my grant was that Richard and I made it to another conservatory in Palermo. We were there for a day where we observed one of the master voice teachers there in his studio. I wrote a whole report about that that I submitted to the faculty development office. That was part of the professional aspect because we were going to present a concert — there were all the professional things involved with that—I was also going to go to a conservatory and be a fly on the wall and observe an Italian teacher teaching his students and what their technique was like, what their use of the language was like in the repertoire.
Were there things that you learned that will change your teaching at all?
Damian: Yes, that was one of the reasons I wanted to go. I wanted to see how similar or different the approach just pedagogically, from the voice standpoint, was. I found that this particular teacher was actually very similar. There were some differences but there were similarities in the way he talked about breath and tone. I also was just interested to hear his students singing Italian repertoire for the purposes of hearing their diction. To hear how Italian speaking people would sing in this repertoire. We’re English speaking people; we have to assimilating the Italian diction and try to make it authentic and try to make it real and sound as good as it can. Was there anything I could glean from hearing an Italian student singing this? I found actually that my training was pretty good. There weren’t huge surprises. I noticed little things like they would maybe roll the R’s a little bit more than perhaps we would as Americans because they were maybe more inclined to, just from their own speech. All of that helped to inform my teaching, what I do here. So that was another part of the grant and another great professional opportunity.
Let’s talk about details of the concert. You sang together, did you do any solo work?
Damian: Yes. We did some duets and then we had sets that were solo pieces.
How long was the evening?
Tara: Very long! I don’t think we got started until 9 o’clock. We were told to advertise it as 8:30 and know it wouldn’t really start until 9. I think it was at least an hour and half to two hours until all was said and done. And this was with a good hour chunk of music, so you can see what was going on—
Damian: with the announcer in between songs—
Tara: and a slight intermission and people coming in off the streets. It was wonderful! It was interesting, because our repertoire wasn’t just Italian, we had musical theater-- traditional American pieces—We weren’t sure how that was going to go over, It went over really well, the musical theatre pieces we also did some obscure sets—I did a sort of contemporary set of Italian pieces were unfamiliar to audience
Damian: I did a German set of songs
Tara: It wasn’t that they didn’t appreciate it—they were like, “oh I never heard this before, oh okay, great.”
Damian: : So it was a little challenging for them. It was educational for the audience because we weren’t just doing the standard Italian arias or duets that everyone knows. We did some of those but then we also were introducing them to the other kind of repertoire that we as singers would be doing. It was interesting for them, I think, too. Not too boring.
Tara: Richard did a Liszt piece just for piano that had a very familiar Neapolitan tune within it, and as he was practicing that where we were staying our relatives really enjoyed that because they recognized the song.
Damian: Richard would be in the living room, practicing, practicing, practicing, and they would be in the kitchen cooking, cooking, cooking. We’d be out for a walk with Dominic and we would come back and Peppino would be just sitting there, just listening to Richard practice. They are very appreciative. Their audiences are so appreciative.
Tara: I can’t remember the last concert that I went to here that was free that was a full house.
Damian: It’s attended more regularly. This kind of thing.
Tara: There isn’t a huge gap in ages, as in many of the live audiences here. This one, one of our relative’s babies was there, who was about a year old.
Damian: It was the whole gamut
Tara:Young children, into senior citizen age.
The Bridge Online: And the fact that they didn’t rush off afterwards…
Damian: In fact, I asked Peppino, “What’s your sense, did they like us? Did they enjoy the concert?’” He said, "If they hadn’t liked you they would have just walked out. So, the fact that they stayed, and stayed to talk to you afterwards meant that they really enjoyed what you were doing. Otherwise they would just leave.”
It’s just part of their culture; it’s been handed down from generation to generation, this love of more art-oriented venues. You think of our tradition as Americans, its baseball, the NFL, WWE; those are kind of our inventions. But their culture is more deeply rooted in this --Ballet, opera, classical music, you find younger people attending those events.
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