Ted Soluri, principal bassoon of The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, played on our Bancroft Family Concert in February 2017. He was kind enough to answer our “Now Hear This” questions at that time, which you can revisit here. For this go-round, Ted is telling us a bit about his debut CD, Sempre Libera, which is the basis for his April 14 Bancroft concert.
Where did the idea to do the CD, and this repertoire, come from? I always knew my first CD would be music “stolen” from another instrument. Bassoon music just isn’t what I wanted to do as my debut offering. With that in mind, I went through a fair amount of music for cello, violin, voice, anything I could find. Ultimately, I decided on vocal music because of the enjoyment I got from working on it.
What is it about opera, specifically, that drew you to the program? What is it about the bassoon that made opera arias a good fit for your recording? I fell in love with opera in college after I attended a performance of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at Florida State University. After that I surrounded myself with singers and opera. In graduate school, I was introduced to the recordings of Maria Callas. I was so taken with her concepts of breath control, phrasing, vibrato, etc. that she has since become, in many ways, another teacher of mine. So, when I was looking at voice music to put on a debut album, opera arias made perfect sense!
How did you select the pieces? Honestly, there was a LOT of trial and error. Arias I may love might not work on the bassoon. In fact, we made last minute changes due to that very thing. You get through a first reading of a piece and you know right there that it isn’t going to work. So, you try another. And another. I also wanted to make sure that I represented as many different voice-types as I could. I didn’t want an album of all-tenor arias, for instance.
For the most part, what voices typically sing the arias featured? What voice most easily lends itself to transforming into a melody for bassoon? The arias are for all voices. I have soprano, mezzo, tenor, and baritone arias. And within that, there are differences in the voice-types. i.e. coloratura soprano, dramatic tenor, lyric baritone. Incidentally, I also tried to get a variety of countries represented as well as varying musical eras. The tenor fits most naturally in the bassoon’s own register, but other voices work well, too, as you’ll see.
The pianist on your program, Valerie Trujillo, joins us from Tallahassee. How did you two begin working together? And, how do you prepare for performances when you live so far away from one another? Valerie and I have known each other for many years through some overlap at Florida State and a few summers we were both working at the Santa Fe Opera. About two months before we were to record, she and I met, read through everything, and worked on the more difficult arias right then. Everything else came together in the days before the actual recording. For this concert, we will work for a few days here in Dallas.
Valerie’s position at Florida State University is professor of vocal coaching and accompanying, and the coordinator of the voice and opera programs. [NOTE: read a Q&A bonus with Valerie below] Does Valerie’s experience with opera help you as a performer and, if so, how? Valerie’s input was immense and invaluable! Her knowledge of these works was a constant guiding force. We talked a lot about voice-isms and bassoon-isms and how to marry the two while always keeping our eye on the musical integrity of these composers.
And, in a nutshell, what was the process for creating a CD: from idea to recording to release, can you walk us through that? This project was a long time in the making. But that is mainly due to funding and timing issues over the years. After arriving here in Dallas three years ago, I checked with Valerie to see if she was still up for it–and she was. I already had Azica Records in mind as the label because I’ve known those guys for 25 years and their work is incredible. With everything finally lining up, we set up a three-day recording session and the rest is audio history!
Spotlight on Valerie Trujillo, piano
Valerie is on the faculty at Florida State University, where she is professor of vocal coaching and accompanying, and the coordinator of the voice and opera programs. We wanted to get her perspective on what vocal coaching is, and how that relates to this program. She explains:
A vocal coach is not a voice teacher. A coach is usually a pianist (not a singer!) who works with singers on language, style, and literature. That person usually serves as the singer’s accompanist as well. Most singers have both a teacher and a coach who work together to develop the singer into a complete performer. Vocal coaches receive training in the three main singing languages (Italian, French and German), song and operatic repertoire, as well as accompanying vocal music. It is, indeed, a specialized field!
In the repertoire that Ted and I will be performing, Ted plays these arias the way a singer would sing them–minus the words, of course. He breathes where they breathe. He phrases the way they phrase. Even though he has no words to sing, it is clear he knows the meaning of what he is playing and where the arias occur within the context of each opera.