Our first Respiro alum to sit down and discuss his thoughts about Respiro is baritone Liang Zhao, summer of 2017. Liang is currently an artist diploma student at The New School Mannes. Immediately after Respiro, Liang went to sing with Cedar Rapids Opera. 2018 he participated in “I SING The International Young Artist Festival” and will be returning with the program in London to sing at the Chinese Embassy. This spring Liang will be singing the role of Mr Olsen and covering the role of Frank Maurrant in Kurt Weill’s Street Scene at Mannes School.
Looking back over the 10 day program, I asked Liang what he liked best. His first comment was that Respiro was “a full circle.” “You go in as a singer, explore the breath, learn more about the breath and body movement through the various master classes and one on one sessions, and then incorporate the new ideas as the program progresses until for the final performance, you are back to being a singer, but a singer with much more awareness.” He said now when he was performing, he knew how to sing eliminate unnecessary tension. He continues to practice Tai Chi as his body work of choice.
Liang also mentioned the opening night welcome and improv games as being a great ice breaker for the group. It immediately created a cohesiveness among the singers. He especially appreciated the name game which insured that everybody knew each other’s name from the first night.
What was his “ah ha” moment? Working in master class with our Vocal Consultant/agent Dillon McCartney. After singing an aria from the standard repertoire, Dillon asked Liang to sing a song in his native language of Chinese. Dillon wanted him to connect with the emotion of the song instead of presenting a “voice.” I remember that moment clearly because all of us had tears in our eyes from the sheer beauty and expressiveness of his voice. Liang said from then on, he resolved to find the kernel of truth in each of the arias he was offering. “It needs to be my personal story. How can I connect to people to make them laugh or cry? But, you can’t totally forget your vocal technique.” Our Alexander Technique instructors would applaud the concept of balance in all things! Liang enjoyed the coaching sessions and felt totally supported by our faculty. Thank you, Liang Zhao! We wish you well in your future endeavors!!
- LeAnn Overton, artistic director Respiro Opera, NYC