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San Miguel Institute Of Bel Canto Returns With International Faculty And Students

By Alexis White

Last summer’s capacity audiences at El Oratorio de San Felipe Neri and Teatro Ángela Peralta, coupled with enthusiastic reviews from students who encouraged the program to continue, are the inspiration for the 2016 season of the San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto. The Institute is bringing world-class faculty and aspiring opera professionals to San Miguel, through August 25. It has increased enrollment by 40 percent, with student nationalities evenly divided between Mexican and American singers. The Institute is again headquartered at Bellas Artes, thanks to the generosity of Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez, of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Opera Bel Canto
San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto
Through-Thu, Aug 25
Bellas Artes
Hernández Macías 75
154 9837

This year, the Institute offers two tracks of study for students, who were selected through extensive applications and recorded auditions. “Both tracks of study provide an extraordinarily intense program for young singers with major career potential,” according to Institute co-founder, Joseph McClain, the founder and former general director of the Austin Lyric Opera. McClain also founded Ópera de San Miguel and is Director Artístico Emeritus of the San Miguel organization. “The Student Artist track,” McClain explained, “emphasizes opera and art song and is open to singers, ages 19 to 23, who either are currently enrolled in a university or conservatory or who have already earned a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent. The Young Professional Track focuses on opera, especially on role preparation. It is open to singers between the ages 24 to 35 who have demonstrated success toward an early professional path either by their skill level or professional experience. Four Mexican alumni of the Institute are returning to pursue this study track,” McClain noted.

In addition to the two tracks, Michael Sylvester, Institute co-founder and a retired American tenor who sang leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera and other world renowned companies, has announced two full-scholarship internship programs, one in Stage Directing and the other in Vocal Coach training. Three students have been selected, two of them for Vocal Coach training.

“Stage Directing will cover many aspects of opera staging, including conceptual processes that address the enigmatic but core relationship of word and music,” said McClain, who has directed productions of virtually all the international operatic repertoire on stages in the United States, Europe, and Canada. Opera staging studies include developing a practical form of movement notation and relationships handling conductors, singers, and production teams. The interns will learn about modern opera stage direction history since the early/mid-20th century and will have hands-on experience in aria and scene staging, including assisting with the Institute’s public performances.

“Vocal Coach interns will focus on the supportive role of a pianist in accompanying opera singers, dealing with text, both practically and aesthetically, and understanding its impact on scale and color of sound,” Sylvester said. “Their course of study will include training with our Music Director Ted Taylor, a renowned music director and vocal coach. Ted’s students and clients regularly appear with the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and other great performing organizations of the world,” he added. The interns will also study with Marcie Stapp, the Institute’s Lyric Diction and Vocal Coach. Stapp is the author of The Singer’s Guide to Languages. Leading music schools and professional companies perform her operatic translations across the country. She is also the editor of the Opera Libretti Series by the Metropolitan Opera’s renowned diction coach Nico Castel, who annually collaborates with her on the Castel-Stapp Master Classes in San Francisco.

“In designing the Institute,” McClain stated, “Michael and I envisioned a Bel Canto program comprising faculty from the United States and Mexico who have proven track records of bringing winners to important competitions, placing lead singers in the ensembles of major houses, and, most importantly, building a healthy vocal and musical foundation that would last a lifetime. The core of the Institute,” he said, “is its holistic approach. Besides top voice teachers, conductors, coaches, and experts in stage training, the faculty includes body work and life coaching professionals.”

Popularized during the 17th and 18th century in Italy, Bel Canto was espoused in the 19th century by Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and Verdi, who used it in his early operas. “The Institute’s voice faculty connects directly with and embodies a line of Bel Canto training, extending from the legendary Garcías of the late 17th century, through the work of Anna Schoen-Rene in the first half of the 20th century, to the important teaching of Margaret Harshaw in the latter half of the century,” Sylvester noted. “Popular singers, like Tony Bennett, studied Bel Canto as young singers. In fact, Bennett attributes his vocal health and longevity to this training,” he added.

For more information, contact Joseph McClain at 154 9837 or email him at


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