My Masterclass with David Butt Philip

Gareth Edmunds, tenor, has been a contributor to St Paul’s Opera over the last 18 months and was one of the candidates at our 2017 Masterclass with David Butt Philip. Here, he recounts the experience.

Participating in a masterclass by David Butt Philip was a rare opportunity to perform in front of a British tenor that has vast experience on the operatic world stage. On a personal level I find David's story intriguing - the fact that he started as a baritone and is now singing as a heldentenor* is truly inspirational.

I presented 'Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schon' from Mozart's Magic Flute. David mentioned that it was a good audition-aria to bring as it demonstrates breath control and technical ability throughout the vocal range. After singing the aria, David was encouraging and commented positively on my musicianship, but offered much in the way of constructive criticism and ideas. We worked on some of the pronunciation of certain German consonants which were being heard slightly differently as an audience than they were to my own ears. Essentially, it became clear that the harder consonants needed a bit more clarity and energy. He also helped me with my projection and we worked on using the voice consistently throughout the tessitura (or range).

I was so grateful for his instant impact that I asked him if we could meet up again in the future. As a result, I was lucky enough to see David for a session at Covent Garden to bring along further repertoire and continue working on issues that had come up in the class. He also suggested some teachers that I should consult in my search for more regular lessons.

I owe a lot to St Paul's Opera; the company has allowed me to perform new roles and meet many new faces. The fact that this small opera company can attract singers of such calibre to invest in the next generation is remarkable. To all the candidates; cherish the chance and go for it!

* Heldentenor is a tenor voice of considerable weight and sonority, with significant strength in the middle and bottom of the voice, with some of the characteristics of a baritone but with the ability to sing high. Very often, this term also implies the singer specialises in the Wagnerian repertoire.