Friday, June 13, 2014

On Conducting: With Maestro Daniel Lipton

By: Alicia Waller

I must confess that I’ve been sneaking into rehearsals of Verdi’s La Traviata.  How could I not?  The music is positively sumptuous and the show’s cast is well up to the challenge.  Their singing has radiated through the halls on the fifth floor of Hunter College, and it’s delightful.

Wanting to hear more about the rehearsal process, earlier this week I sat down with the other of our two conductors this season, Maestro Daniel Lipton, who will take the helm for the opera this year.  As usual, I’d like to share a bit of our conversation with you.

How are things going in rehearsal?
I think we’re covering a lot of ground and getting to the crux of what singing in opera means – what all get’s involved in it and all of the various and sundry details one must go through.  The things that one must think about before one even starts to sing.  I think the program is doing a lot of good for the young singers.
Maestro Daniel Lipton

How long have you been with Prelude?
This is my first year.  But, I’ve known Martina for a long time.  We worked for six years together in South America.

What were you working on together?

Yes.  I started an opera company in Bogotá, Colombia.  We were like the Metropolitan Opera in South America. 

Is this your first time working in a Young Artist Program – working with young singers in this way?

Is there anything in particular that you look for [when conducting]?  And, before coming here was there anything specific you wanted to hear from the young singers?
No, I had absolutely no preconceived notions.  I left my mind completely open.  Which is a much better way to receive things.  You have no decision to go in a specific direction – you just go with the flow.  I must say that many of the singers are at a very high level and standard.  I’m very pleased at the way my conducting is helping to mold what they are doing with the music.  It’s very satisfying to have this rapport with the singers that are adept at following [a conductor] and capturing what I’m trying to show with my facial gestures and emotions.  When that happens, it’s great because you know you’re transmitting a [flowing] of music to an artist.  That’s what a conductor tries to do.

Would you say you have a conducting style, or is it that you try to stay open?
That’s one way to put it.  I don’t know my style because I don’t watch myself conduct.  I avoid watching videos of me or hearing audios of my conducting.  There are a lot DVD’s out there which I’ve never seen – a lot of CD’s that I’ve never heard.  I have a tendency to avoid them.  I could perhaps learn from them, but on the other hand I don’t want to be influenced by what I see and here.  I may throw down the baton!  [Laughing] No, I don’t have tantrums as a rule.

My philosophy is that every performance is unique.  Every performance is my first and last.  So, I give it my all each time because in the audience there might be someone who has never heard an opera in their life.  I try to arrive very early and am usually the last to leave.  [The podium] is my home.  That’s what I’m about.

Going back to young singers.  Is there any difference between how you work with the young singers here versus seasoned professionals?
You don’t have to explain so much with seasoned professionals.  You don’t nitpick as much because if I keep harping on rhythm and accents – a seasoned performer might not take that so well.  But, that also depends on the performer.  I find the greater the performer; the easier it is to work with them. 

How do you prepare for your work?
I just try to learn the music as well as possible.

Do you have a favorite composer?
The one I’m conducting.  And each time, if it’s a different composer, then they are my favorite.  When I conduct Mozart, he is my favorite.  When I conduct Verdi, he is my favorite.  When I conduct Puccini, he is my favorite.  I’m sort of a Don Giovanni with my music – each one is my favorite!

Yesterday when I sat through your rehearsal Violetta (Cecilia Lopez) started to tear through her Act II scene with Germont (Robert Kerr).  Emotionally, I wanted to ask you, how are you guys getting through this each day?  Do you find it emotionally taxing?
When you’re in it, you just bathe in it.  You don’t think how many times you’ve done it – how many times you’ve repeated this phrase.  The emotion is rekindled each time as though you’ve never done it before.  Then goose pimples pop up when you’re doing the right thing.

Finally, young singer to seasoned conductor, do you have any recommendation that you would like impart to young singers that are looking ahead at a career like this that is quite a steep pyramid to climb?
Well, what I insist is that singers approach a score for the first time without hearing any other interpretation before they make it their own.  Then, they should work on rhythm, libretto and text before they even start the music.  When that comes secure, then they can add the horizon on top of it.

Thank you so much!
You’re very welcome.

Thanks again for reading.  To read more about Maestro Lipton click here for his website.  You can also follow us at @martinazprelude for up to date information on our rehearsal process, performances and masterclasses.  And, feel free to tweet me with your questions @aliciaenvivo.

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