Page 94 - Classical Singer magazine 2019 Fall University Issue
P. 94

Composer Jake Heggie
Get a closer look at a composer who strives to work with singers rather than making demands of them. His approach and techniques offer invaluable insight for every singer at any stage.
Since being pro led in this magazine eight years ago as
“A Singer’s Composer,” Jake Heggie’s star has continued to rise. These days, his best-known work, the opera Dead Man Walking, is receiving performances all over the world, and new works premier at an astounding pace.
In our hour-long interview, Heggie displays none of the intellectual stando shness many artists cultivate. There is no air of “I am an artist, not a fan.” Heggie’s musical crushes are passionate, and he is at least as eager to discuss the work of others as he is
94 Classical Singer | September/October 2019
his own. The day we meet, he is singing the praises of a young dramatic soprano named Felicia Moore, whom he heard at a recent masterclass he gave. “She sang ‘Do Not Utter a Word’ from Vanessa,” he says, “and it was as searing and beautiful as listening to a recording of Eleanor Steber or Leontyne Price.”
When asked which  ve operas a singer should study, Heggie can’t keep to that number but does his best with the impossible question. “One Handel,” he says. (He loves S emele but says to choose something for your voice type.) “One Mozart.” (Not “Flute” but rather “Così” or “Figaro.”)
For number three, he recommends an early Bel Canto. “Bellini, Donizetti, or early Verdi,” he says,
to understand the vocal lineage.
“I always laugh when a composer
says they are worried about writing something too di cult for the singer. You look at what they ask the voice to do; it’s insane. An awareness of Strauss is important,” he adds, and Debussy’s P elléas et Mélisande.
“Debussy is important harmonically because he was bending how the voice is used and what’s underneath it,” he says, “and the use of language has a speech-like patter.”
photo by Jamie Niebuhr
A Conversation with Jake Heggie

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