— Académie — At the Festival

Published on July 19 2017


Mozart et "papa" Haydn - Samedi 17 juin 2017
© Clément Vial

Since the curtain was first raised on the Festival d’Aix, it has always featured Mozart! The Mozart residency of the Académie du Festival d’Aix, which is part of the enoa’s Young Opera Makers programme, is a special opportunity for singers and vocal coach pianists to perfect their interpretation and knowledge of the Mozart repertoire. From 12 to 24 June, ten singers and three pianists took part in this residency supervised by vocal professor Susanna Eken, the talented vocal coach pianists Ouri Bronchti and Bertrand Halary, stage director Joseph Alford and coach of Italian language, Roberta Salsi.

Four singers – counter-tenor Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian, tenors Maciej Kwaśnikowski and Stefan Sbonnik, and baritone Mikhael Piccone – share their experiences and their view of this residency with us.

What was your experience of this residency?

Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian – For me, working with Joseph Alford was a revelation. Singing on stage is what allows us to express ourselves more, to explore ourselves and discover new emotions... Vocal technique comes second; instead you have to concentrate on the stage. But then you realise that you are actually controlling your voice better! This was the only joint class: we got to know one another and to work together. The group element is part of singing: you have to face the looks of other people and communicate with them.

Maciej Kwaśnikowski – Everything was done to make us feel at ease, so that we could get the most out of this experience.

Mikhael Piccone – The interesting thing was being with young international artists, on a professional level, but the human exchanges are very enriching too.

Which approaches to Mozart did you develop during the residency?

Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian – Ouri Bronchti, one of the vocal coach pianists, has excellent knowledge of the repertoire. We worked with recitatives, we got as close as possible to speech by integrating the notions of accents, vocal lines, etc. It was very interesting.

Stéphan Sbonnik – This residency gave me new ideas for tackling this repertoire; that’s an advantage.

Mikhael Piccone – Mozart has always followed me. For a baritone, that’s what you start with. It allows you to develop the purest, richest technique. In this residency, you explore the pure Mozart style. It allowed me to develop my repertoire in a new and more precise way. It was very interesting. It’s definitely a bonus which rounds out my training!



What was working with the coaches like?

Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian – For two weeks, we gathered a lot of information, sometimes contradictory. You turn up with your luggage and your habits: you have to make an effort to play the game and do what they ask, without losing your naturalness and freedom. The coaches really wanted us to experiment with new methods.

Mikhael Piccone – There is genuine complementarity. It’s really interesting to get the advice of these experts. They sometimes had different orientations, and this allowed us to interpret the piece as we wanted, to choose from all of the ways suggested to us.

What are your expectations from this residency?

Stephan Sbonnik – I hope to be able to take part in a production at Festival d’Aix. It’s an important step in my career.

Mikhael Piccone – I think that this residency came at the right time. I am starting my career. We are young artists and we must continue to search, to perfect our techniques in order to be able to take on the next steps that await us. It makes me want to be on stage at Festival d’Aix! It’s exhilarating and exciting…We tell ourselves: that could be me one day...

Would you recommend this residency to young artists? Why?

Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian – This residency is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who all bring their musical point of view with them, their way of singing, their culture. We are also lucky to perform in some pretty unique places (such as Silvacane Abbey, Hotel Maynier d’Oppède) and to be embraced in the Festival’s atmosphere.

Maciej Kwaśnikowski – The work conditions are excellent! It is also an opportunity to meet other artists and get a better understanding of the daily life of a singer.

Stephan Sbonnik – Do it, without hesitating, even though the work is intense! Above all … Take it easy!

Mikhael Piccone – The place, the work conditions, the reputation: it’s got everything! The residency is very intense... But I can only recommend it and hope that artists have the chance to take part!