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PILLAR 1. Interpretation and Technique


a. Courses

The courses clustered under ‘Interpretation and Technique’ provide students with specialised technical skills and knowledge, explicitly geared towards professional practice. The focus on particular repertoire depends on the coming project, visiting master, etc. Certain courses are exclusive to singers or repetiteurs.

Repertoire Coaching

The main goal of the coaching sessions is to stimulate and explore imagination, interpretation and communication.

By covering a thorough study of both the text and the music and the link between them, the repertoire is analysed in detail. Translation, pronunciation, meaning, dynamics, expression marks, phrasing, intonation, vibrato, rhythm and many other components are brought together to explore and discover the most interesting interpretation possible. In addition to this, the differences of styles are discussed. The focus is always on how to communicate well to an audience.

The lessons can be connected to a production at the IOA or the repertoire can be completely free of choice. They encompass opera, song, oratorio, operetta and musical theatre styles from early baroque to contemporary music.

For singers: The development of a character in a song, aria or role is studied and kept as close to reality as possible. There is often reference to movement and/or acting classes. Balance problems that might occur are discussed: what makes you heard above an orchestra in a bigger hall? The students receive help with repertoire choice and Fach choice. They also receive guidance with preparation: in general, but also specifically for concerts, masterclasses or productions.

For repetiteurs: The building of thorough repertoire knowledge is followed up – both work in detail and sight-reading skills are developed. Enhancing the ability of playing and singing together is a very important part of the lessons. There is also a close link to the singing lessons. Conducting and following a conductor is initiated where necessary, in preparation for the conducting classes and productions. Coaching of singers and vocal ensembles is discussed and put into practice. The students get guidance with preparation: in general, but also specifically for concerts, masterclasses or productions.

Italian Language Coaching

Singing in Italian is one of the foremost requirements of an opera singer. Correct pronunciation, articulation, historical awareness of the different possibilities of text rendering throughout repertoire, and, finally, being able to acquire an understanding of how to deal with the complex literary structures of ancient Italian, all constitute the main goals of a course of Italian coaching.

Initially, the course focuses on the basics of Italian phonetics for singers (including learning how to use IPA and/or going deeper into it), explaining the rules of pronunciation both through spoken text and through singing, never losing sight of the ability to achieve the desired result, being correct from a technical point of view. Singers will learn a method of approach to an operatic text, through phonetic decoding, understanding and analysis from a dynamic point of view.

Both written material and videos (by outstanding Italian actors and great opera singers) will be part of the course.

The course consists both of group lessons (for phonetical work and for analysis through media) and of individual lessons. During the first year, we will focus on particular arias. During the course we will initially focus on arias. As the skills develop, we will start working on the more complex task of rendering recits, both secco and accompanied.

The course will offer support to any IOA project based on Italian repertoire.

French Language Coaching

A young singer’s primary concern is his/her vocal development. Yet it is equally necessary for developing singers to focus on their musical development, both on stage and in their use of languages, as well as on their growth as human beings and artists. During French Language Coaching, teacher and student consider the language in relationship to the voice, the music and the meaning of the text.

Classes are individual and based on each student’s growth and needs (both singers and repetiteurs).

Special attention is paid to the way in which a singer produces a sound when he or she sings a text. The student develops an understanding of how to sing and mean the text in respect to his/her voice and body.

German Language Coaching

German Language Coaching provides students with tools to prepare and interpret German repertoire independently.

In the second year, students only have individual sessions, working on their actual or future German repertoire, intensively training their performance in both speaking and singing and learning to become increasingly independent in their preparation.

English Language Coaching

English coaching classes will explore the nature of the English language in relation to the singing voice, focusing on vocal music from the opera, operetta, oratorio and song repertoire. English is the common language spoken between international students at the IOA and therefore it is all the more important that attention is given to ensure English is learnt and applied accurately when singing. The technical elements of each session will focus on all aspects of diction, concentrating on the correct pronunciation of vowels, diphthongs and consonants in sung English.

The overall aim is that during the first year, each student has acquired the tools to be able to pronounce and enunciate in English at a high level. In addition to these technical abilities, in the second year, students should have the knowledge and confidence to be fully able to express a vocal text in English. Successful communication of a text will be at the heart of each session. The pronunciation of and differences between British Received Pronunciation and American Standard will also be addressed.

Having mastered the technical foundations of the language, the focus of the second year will be on encouraging physical freedom in the student to enable students to fully communicate a text and inhabit a role in English.

b. Workshops


On several occasions during the academic year, members of staff conduct workshops regarding specific themes (for example: operetta, baroque, audition training). These workshops last several days, up to a week. The results may be presented to the audience during a (semi-staged) concert. Each year, new workshops are planned.

Find below the workshops 2020-2021:

Workshops Repertoire

This academic year, both workshops are similar in content. These don’t focus on a specific part of the repertoire, or a specific genre. In reality, the workshops prepare one or more concerts that will follow afterwards. The repertoire allows for the wishes of our partners or sponsors who are organizing these concerts. In order to present a different programme from last academic year on the same concert location, we need to provide the necessary variation in what we offer. The programme will therefore contain less Operette.

In addition to classical opera repertoire, the January workshop will definitely focus on entertainment repertoire: jazz, musical, cabaret,… This programme will be put together on the basis of the playlist of the radio show CARAMBA, which airs on Belgian public radio KLARA every Saturday evening between 6 and 8 p.m. Cara Van der Auwera, presenter and compiler of this show, will assist in the coaching of this repertoire.

Workshops Audition Training & Meet the Agent

These shorter workshops, which may be extended with short sessions, will allow Guy Joosten and Hein Boterberg to prepare you for auditions. The workshops will consider all aspects that you need to take into account while preparing and performing an audition. Possibly, we may invite external jury members (without warning), experts who will judge your performance too. Our aim is to prepare you as well as possible for auditions taking place later during the academic year, and at further times in your career. The repertoire for this workshop, of course, is your own audition programme.

Workshop Henderickx

Singing Mantras, see Henderickx’ composition 2 Mantras

Working on rhythmic Grooves and movement

Giving an overview of contemporary opera, also a bit of the artist’s own work

Coaching contemporary Opera singing

c. Specializations


There are specializations for singers and repetiteurs.

Specialization for singers:

Option singer – Vocal Advice Workshops

Vocal Advisor: Dietrich Henschel

In this course, students will receive individual training with specific focus on breath: its use for phrasing, its importance for resonance, its control when moving on stage. The control of muscular activity in a balanced breathing process as a basic element of sound production. We will work on the particular demands for roles in preparation of the different stage projects during the season as well as on the individual repertory of the students.

Vocal Advisor: Charlotte Margiono

As Vocal Advisor, Charlotte Margiono is available for individual and group advice to the singers, in order to refine their repertoire at a vocal level. Working with this group of young singers within different Fachs, Margiono will offer workshops that also pay sufficient attention to ensemble singing.

First, the Mozart ensembles will be approached. Subsequently, other genres will be considered: early and late Romanticism, as well as German, Slavic and (definitely) Italian repertoire.

These vocal advice workshops will specifically pay specific attention to the following issues:

  • finding an ensemble sound that is homogenous with the sound of colleague-singers;
  • incorporating one’s own direction in musical interpretation and expression;
  • learning safe singing techniques to use when following complex direction advice;
  • focus on symbiosis of acting, theatre and singing;
  • preparing for auditions: finding and studying the best arias for the student, and learning to acquire sufficient flexibility to cope with high-stress situations.

Specialization for repetiteurs:

Option Repetiteur – Singing Lessons for Repetiteurs

Singing Lessons for Repetiteurs aim to develop the voice and posture of each individual pianist and help students to prepare for specific professional situations including auditions, rehearsals and internships. The course focuses on the development of healthy vocal technique. Focus on good projection, the ability to sing and play the piano simultaneously and the use of different languages in an assortment of relevant repertoire are central to each lesson. There are various circumstances in which a repetiteur may be asked to sing an absent singer’s part. In this situation a repetiteur will often have to sing from offstage, possibly from the orchestra pit. Therefore, vocal projection, confidence and stamina are of great importance for students training for this role. The course will prepare students for precisely these circumstances. Warm-up and voice exercises accompanied by the teacher will lay the foundation of each lesson. Students will gradually engage in simultaneous playing and singing, using repertoire relevant to their own personal journey.

During year two, repetiteurs will work in a variety of languages to develop further their knowledge of operatic repertoire (arias and ensembles) and be expected to approach their simultaneous playing and singing in all of these languages, with conviction and a high level of authority. Audition and rehearsal circumstances will be re-created during class in addition to preparing the students for productions in and away from the IOA.

Option Repetiteur – Harpsichord

The goal of this course is twofold:

First, the repetiteur acquires a thorough understanding of the harpsichord. The student understands how the instrument works, what types of harpsichords there are and how to play them, how one can obtain a maximum of expression by using certain techniques, what the differences are in approaching the harpsichord keyboard and literature as opposed to the piano, etc.

Second, these technical aspects are put into practice through playing baroque and classical opera repertoire. Students learn (1) to perform baroque music on the harpsichord (orchestral overtures, arias etc. as well as smaller solo pieces); (2) to accompany a recitativo secco; (3) to distinguish and apply different stylistic approaches and (4) to find a musically convincing alternative by using these ‘early music solutions’ on the modern piano.

Option Repetiteur – Conducting Technique

Repetiteurs are taught to focus on the functions of the conductor. What does the conductor do? How do I follow a conductor when he’s beating? What is important to a conductor? What does he expect to hear? How do I make the piano sound like an orchestra? How can I reduce my score but keep the conductor satisfied? We study piano reductions and learn to deal with them.

We study basic techniques to conduct ourselves. In later professional life, repetiteurs may have to conduct off-stage choruses or orchestras (so called ‘banda’), or they conduct entire rehearsals when the real conductor is absent. We learn to beat the diverse time signatures, the functions of both arms and hands, giving cues, analyzing and arranging scores for clarity etc. We find out what singers and the orchestra need to see from a conductor.

As such, repetiteurs are trained both as replacers of orchestra and as conductors, so as to be in charge of guiding soloists or ensembles in rehearsals and concerts. When singers feel that the repetiteur is on top of his profession, they are more likely to have faith and feel more comfortable, and will therefore perform better themselves. This, in turn, benefits all masterclasses and projects of the IOA.

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