CLA France Blog: Masterclass with Mireille Delunsch

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted any new content in a while - this is definitely not because there has been nothing to report!  In fact, we have been so busy with noteworthy events that it has been impossible to find time for writing.  Recent highlights include several beautiful concerts, working sessions with French agents, and, what you’ll read about today -  masterclasses with a renowned French soprano.  I will roll out my final blog posts over the next few days, and I’m so pleased to share the events of our final week with CLA France.  

Mireille Delunsch offered three days of masterclasses.  Having sung at many of the world’s major opera houses, Mireille offers a wealth of experience and talent to her students.  One fact that I find unique and inspiring about Mireille is that she has not limited herself to repertoire within a single fach, or specific voice type.  The fach classification system is typically used as a means of identifying the repertoire that is ideal for a singer’s voice, but Mireille’s resumé covers a wide range of music, from baroque to contemporary.  

The working sessions were a challenging and thought-provoking experience for all.  Each day featured four singers, and the second day of singers took place in L’eglise Saint-Dominique de Monpazier as a public masterclass.  Before the singing commenced, Mireille took the time to introduce herself and prepare us for the work that lay ahead.  Sharing a bit of her vocal history,  she humorously recalled her singing voice before any training, and she proudly noted her ability to improve through hard work with her first teachers.  I always appreciate hearing about a successful singer’s humble beginning - it reinvigorates my dedication to develop my own voice and reaffirms the value of transformative training programs like Classic Lyric Arts.  Mireille also emphasized the importance of a work’s text, and therefore, the story that is being told through the composition.  She believes that our first duty as singers is to honor the text and that our voice, and technique, is simply a medium through which we can communicate effectively.  This was a beautiful reminder of why we must train intensely in order to express ourselves in the most clear and compelling manner.  

Learning from Mireille is no walk in the park.  She has a very structured concept of vocal technique and is passionate about sharing her method with young singers.  As soon as each singer finished their aria, it was time to work.  Much of Mireille’s work centered on technical concepts that would further secure each singer’s voice.  She focused on concepts of support, high placement, and efficient singing.  One repeated topic was her insistence on creating the most resonant sound possible with the most efficiency possible.  This is an essential component of vocal technique that will allow a singer to fill a large opera house without placing physical strain upon their instrument.  Having sung at major opera houses, Mireille understands this need first-hand.  In additional to technical tweaks, the classes imparted invaluable musical wisdom.  A particularly important concept was the placement of stress within French music.  Mireille explained that there are often textual stresses in musically weak locations.  We used Micaëla’s aria in Carmen, “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante” as a case study. She explained how clarifying the linguistic rhythm can help to establish an interesting hemiola feel within the famous aria’s first line. 

After an intense three days with Mireille, we had definitely learned a lot about the voice and French music.  It was rewarding to experience these classes together, as I found myself and the other singers bouncing questions off of each other.  “How did you interpret her concept of support?”  “What did you hear change in my voice when I was singing?”  Since many voice teachers in the United States treat singing so differently, this was an opportunity to learn from and about each other.  I finished the classes feeling grateful for Mireille’s words of wisdom and for the singers’ thoughtful reflections.  

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