Liesl Odenweller Opera reflection — an essay on her performance

The following was written by a university student whose class I performed for a couple of weeks ago. Not only is it flattering, but it is also beautifully written, and I am very happy to share it!

Liesl Odenweller, Soprano        November 12, 2013

I don’t think I’ve ever quite experienced anything musically before like having a professional Opera singer belt out sublime vocals roughly four to five feet in front of me. Liesl was truly a gift to have for our class. Opera, originating in Florence (“La Camerata”) at the end of the 16th century (or perhaps in the ancient Greek plays, or even in Middle Age biblical dramas), is more or less “a staged drama set to music in its entirety.” Deriving from the Italian phrase opera in musica (“work in music”), opera theatrically combines the libretto, or text of the work, with a wonderful and purposeful musical accompaniment. It’s a fascinating fusion of music, theater, verse, acting, costumes, dance, and much more. One of the pieces which Liesl sang and which I loved was “Piangero la Sorte Mia.” This was a piece from George Frideric Handel’s Italian opera seria “Giulio Cesare” in which Cleopatra has an extraordinary aria explaining her lamenting emotions, piangero “I will cry,” after losing the battle against Tolomeo and believing she lost Cesare as well. Eventually though, as we were told in class, all ends happily ever after!
I loved how when she sang this piece she would paint the words with her voice and face. Having a decent background of the Italian language, I knew “piangero” meant I will cry/weep, but even if I didn’t have any knowledge of the meaning I probably would have been able to deduce that it meant something along the lines of sadness and lament due to her ability to express this feeling both vocally and facially. I can’t quite explain what those expressions were besides maybe noting it was a long drawn out emotional tone accompanied with a long, emotional, and sad face. It made me really appreciate her craft even more!
Probably the most powerful and moving part of the whole mini-concert was when she belted out the high notes with no musical accompaniment in the end of the piece “Caro Nome” by Verdi. This piece was part of Giuseppe Verdi’s three act opera known as “Rigoletto” which had a fantastic premier at our favorite La Fenice in March 11, 1851. The piece “Caro Nome” occurs when the daughter of Rigoletto, the court jester of the Duke, sings about her love for the seemingly Casanova-like Duke. Reading the synopsis of this opera, it seems like quite the lustful, superstitious (curses), and lovable opera.  In regard to the live performance of this work by Liesl, the high notes she hit at the end of the piece were unlike any musical vibrations I’ve ever witnessed. Along with these there were a few other moments when the music stopped and she would become even more so the center of attention. But the moment in the end when the piano accompaniment stopped and she hit the highest vocal vibrations I’ve ever felt, seen, and heard in person was pure and complete magic. I didn’t know the little one inch instrument in her body or anybody’s throat was capable of reaching such pitch, depth, and beauty. After this emotional outpouring and being dumbfounded by her talented display, I loved how in the next song, “O Zittre Nicht” by Mozart, the piano really set the mood for the piece. It was a beautiful scene getting the chance to see the tones of the piano harmonize with the facial, vocal, and hand expressions of the singer. Without any technicalities, it was simply all connected, magical, and beautiful.
After she finished her three performances for our class, I loved just getting to listen to her passion and joy for what she did. Everything she noted about her career and work was filled with joy and positivity, despite even being sick! Even through all of her musical performances you could feel this passion vibrating out of her with every note, and every subtle change of facial expression. To me, that is special. I was also very intrigued to hear how she used Skype to communicate with one of her teachers who has been a key mentor in her development as a singer. I loved how she said that her teacher could tell what she was doing wrong or right even if the music was off just by looking at her facial expressions. That’s beautiful. I don’t know why but it just speaks to the art of her craft and gave me an even greater appreciation for what she does. I can’t imagine how I would view opera if it wasn’t for this class and performances like this! I wish everyone could experience them and learn about the intricacies and beauty of it all!

Danny Timpona, Venice

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