On Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m., singers in Yale Opera will present music by a variety of Russian composers.
The concert, titled “Russian Liederabend,” will feature works by composers Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Glinka, Shebalin, Pakhmutova and Rachmaninov. The Liederabend — which translates to “evening of songs” in German — will take place in Sprague Memorial Hall and highlight various styles, from intimate solo arias and art songs to duets and group numbers from Russian operatic repertoire.
“I think that Russian is not very common for American ears,” said Liederabend organizer Emily Olin, a lecturer in voice and opera at the Yale School of Music. “I would always like to introduce some very famous and not very famous Russian vocal music [to the students’] repertoire,” she added.
The evening of Russian songs will be “very much like a studio recital” in which singers perform with piano accompaniment, according to Yale School of Music Communications Officer David Brensilver.
The Liederabend as a form of vocal recital dates back to the 19th century, when musicians and music lovers joined together to sing popular songs of the day with minimal accompaniment. Some Liederabends featured poemlike songs, also known as “art songs,” which grew in popularity during the 1800s when many composers found inspiration in poetry while writing for voice and keyboard.
Olin, who will also serve as the collaborative pianist for the performance, teaches a School of Music course titled “Russian for Singing” and leads diction coaching throughout the semester.
“I’m interested in the language component,” Brensilver said. “Students will have command over a language that isn’t really focused on in vocal departments as much as say, German, French or Italian.”
Olin has aided the singers through the “discovery of the Russian language,” which she said they will “use in their whole life” due to the burgeoning popularity of Russian operatic repertoire. Several students went into the semester unfamiliar with singing in Russian, but will showcase their semester-long work at this concert.
Brensilver highlighted the intense work the singers undertook in learning Russian language, diction and pronunciation and translating their study to their singing. In order to sing in Russian, the vocalists first became comfortable reading Cyrillic — an alphabet used in countries such as Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Ukraine.
“For many of us, this was our first endeavor in reading Cyrillic,” said soprano Laura Nielsen MUS ’20. “For me, understanding new vowel sounds and consonants not present in English, French or Italian was especially challenging.”
Nielsen said that although she has sung in Russian in the past, learning to read and understand Cyrillic this semester was a new yet rewarding process.
“There is so much beautiful music to be shared throughout this concert,” said Nielson. “More than anything, I hope that the audience learns to appreciate the beautiful musical history of Russia.”
The Russian Liederabend performance precedes Yale Opera’s winter production of another work of Russian music: Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin.”
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