Photo mosaic by: agoforth @ Mosaically

Mozart Mosaic: Department of Music hosts opera workshop

Mar. 10, 2022
Brenau Staff

Brenau University’s Department of Music will hold Mozart Mosaic on Saturday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Pearce Auditorium. Dr. Barbara Steinhaus is the artistic director, and Ben Leaptrott will provide musical direction.

The mosaic quality of the performance begins with the fact that it is three events in one: Suzanna Durand’s senior capstone in operatic directing; Lainie Ewers’ junior voice recital in operatic literature; and the Department of Music’s opera workshop. The workshop includes scenes and arias from Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) and Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), and will also feature Amelia Lathem, Haley Rosales, Morgan Johns and Sarah DeLay.

Though most of the roles in Mozart operas written for female voices have almost identical ranges, the type of voice that would sing the various parts has to do with a term in vocal pedagogy known as “fach,” literally meaning compartment or shelf. The fach system is a German method of categorizing professional voices by virtue of the vocal range of the voice, its light or dark qualities, and what group of four to eight conjunct tones in an individual vocalist’s range are comfortable and easily heard over an orchestra. 

The fach of a written composition or operatic role refers to the four- to eight-tone range of pitches that occur most often throughout the composition. When casting voices for operatic roles, directors use the fach system to help guide them in choosing which soprano or mezzo-soprano to perform which role. When vocalists choose repertoire, they often match what they know of their own fach to that of the composition.

The Department of Music’s Mozart Mosaic showcases Brenau’s music majors in Mozart’s roles for women including a countess, a maid, a young boy, and a princess. Three female music majors also will sing the roles of woodland spirits, originally scored for three male youths. The lightest of the female vocal roles is the “soubrette,” the French term for a maid, usually sung by a light soprano with the vocal ability to sing fast passages with many notes. 

Text is also quite important for these characters as they are singing actresses and deliver much of the storyline. These witty maids often outsmart their wealthier lords and ladies in Mozart operas. The more mature female characters are roles for the lyric soprano, a voice that can sustain long lines and higher tones and has a warmer sound. The lyric mezzo-soprano usually has a richer sound and a lower fach, but is as vocally facile as the soubrette. 

Durand has provided direction for the opera scenes to demonstrate how she uses her theater minor and music major in tandem. For her junior recital, Ewers sings the role of Cherubino in Figaro, a lyric mezzo-soprano role, and the lyric soprano role of Pamina in Flute. Lathem and Johns will sing the music of Susannah, a soubrette, in Figaro. Rosales will perform the role of the Countess in Figaro. Rosales, Johns and DeLay will perform the wonderful trio of woodland spirits from the finale of The Magic Flute. As young vocalists, they can all cover the range of these roles, but singing various roles in the Opera Workshop allows their voices to begin to define themselves by color and comfortable range. 

Taken together, the performances are a grand Mozart Mosaic!