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  • Sabrina Zimmerman

My Practice Diary - Telling a Story Through Song




I'll be perfectly honest. I love everything about singing - I love the entire process from learning to studying to applying the technique to performing. I love it all! But the one area I never really had a chance to fully explore in my vocal life was storytelling. All of my past teachers focused mainly on teaching the technique and getting the rep learned for a performance. And though many people I know that have watched me in live performances have said they could feel the emotion I was conveying, I know I wasn't telling a story.

That all changed, though, when I started taking lessons with my current teacher. A master at story-telling, Claire, my teacher, is exactly what I needed to help me become the same. And though I already know how to tell stories - as a visual artist, writer, and poet, but it's not the same as doing it through song. Especially when singing in another language. Opera arias are a bit easier to convey what's going on because all of the who, what, where, when, why, and hows are all set up - all we need to do is become the character and do the thing.

Art Song, however, has been a bit trickier for me, because I, as the singer, need to figure out all of the who's, what's, where's, etc...by interpreting the poetic and literal text. And because sometimes it can be subjective as to what the poet was actually talking about, it opens an entire world of possibilities of which direction the story can go.

And as a writer with an extremely active imagination, I can get pretty inventive with the story. ;-)

For example, I am currently working on 3 Art Songs for an upcoming (TBD) online recital. They are - Amarilli, mia bella, Ah! Mio cor! and Vittoria, mio core.

My goal was to somehow link the 3 songs together to tell a cohesive story - one scene with 3 parts. So, I asked my teacher, "what if Amarilli was the link? What if all 3 songs are told from her perspective?" Now, I know that first of all, Ah! Mio cor! is from the opera Alcina, who sings this piece. However, for the sake of my story, I decided to ignore all of that. I wanted to create a narrative of a woman who is telling the audience (or a friend) about a not-so-great relationship and what she went through. So, the writer in me went to work. And here's what I came up with. It's completely far-fetched and not at all what the composers or poets intended, but for the sake of me being able to convey the right emotions and character for each, this is what I decided to do. I created my own characters, with their own story and back-story. So far, it's been really helping me!

Part (song) one: “Amarilli, mia bella” - Amarilli is sitting with her friend talking about relationships. She tells her friend about a recent boyfriend and how he had convinced her of his feelings for her. She sings Amarilli, mia bella as if it were her ex.

Amarilli’s new boyfriend is professing his undying love for her. She’s a little unsure if she should trust him as she has been hurt by other men in the past. But he’s so convincing in his adoration and sincerity that she finally relents and gives in.

Part (song) two: “Ah! mio cor!” - Amarilli continues her tale.

Amarilli’s fears have been realized and she has been betrayed. Heartbroken and bitter she cries out to Heaven for comfort. She still loves her boyfriend, and that makes his betrayal all the more painful.

Part (song) three: “Vittoria, mio core!” - She finishes her story, albeit wiser, but also happier.

After allowing herself time to grieve, Amarilli strengthens her resolve and decides that breaking all ties with that lying, deceitful jackhole is the best thing for her. Once free, she realizes she’s much happier without him and is able to move on and regain her confidence. In the end, she comes out victorious!

I know this is all super far-fetched, but for the purpose of helping me to develop a character and narrative, this is what works for me. I just hope that when it is all ready to go, you the audience can see, hear or feel the story that I am telling you.


Until next time,

Sing on,

Brie xo


#music #singing #storytelling #practice

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