What does it mean to characterize an operatic performance as authentic? To be sure there are important issues attendant to style, history and performance practice. This presentation focuses instead on the visceral level of concern to performers of any genre: whether or not one’s musical expression is authentic in the sense of being believable, honest and compelling. Mastering pronunciation and knowing the literal narrative of an opera is one thing, but how can an opera singer find ways to transcend the libretto in order to really grip an audience through authenticity of a deeper and more personal kind? Conventional pedagogy can often fall short here, and this is why non-traditional means have been developed by one of the presenters in his “Un-Master Class” workshop for performers. A principal hallmark of this workshop is the active involvement of the audience as part of a proposed “circuit of meaning,” both through physically interactive and expressive warm-up exercises that break down barriers at the start of the session, and through interactive and experimental techniques in response to the performances themselves. On this approach, physicality and interactivity provide pathways to authenticity on the part of the performer, as well as providing ways of assessing the degree to which authenticity of interpretation is experienced by the audience. During this process, loci for the emergence of musical meaning appear. In the course of the presentation we will identify and examine these and the role they play in the formation of the meaningful musical whole.
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Royal Music Association Musicand Philosophy Study Group Inaugural Conference, Dept. of Music, King's College London, 2011