I met Enrico di Giuseppe for the first time at Julliard in a lesson that I think Sherri Phelps set up for me back just before I left for Zurich back in the Spring of 1987 sometime. Not living in New York City, or close to it and the not too close proximity to Rochester made it impossible to study with him.
But, when I moved to NJ in circa 2000 Vincent La Selva put me in touch with him and I had rather intensive lessons with him down in south Philly, which then was only about an hour's drive. He was one of several voice teachers that never looked at their watch, and we worked for hours on end mostly me trying to figure out how he could just glide up to a high E at the drop of a hat.
I became a much better singer because of him, but didn't really figure out how he could sing seamlessly from basically two octaves from a low D to a high D with basically no change in sound. He would demonstrate 4 different ways of singing a high C in the Faust aria and he said he often made the decision on which path to take in the moment. Of course, we have different voices.
He was a great singer, and even at 70 + he could sing great, we did a small concert in the Weill Recital Hall in the Carnegie Hall building where Vincent had his office/studio. He sang the two Tosca arias, and I sang the first act of La Boheme after Mimi's entrance, and there were others who were on the program but it is foggy in my memory right now who. But, he sang basically perfectly with absolute grace. In this video you hear that his voice isn't necessarily huge, but it carries like gangbusters, proven by his many years of singing at City Opera and the Met. His vocal production was very forward, as you can hear, but it wasn't nasal, it was open to all resonators which placed it and made it sound very pointy, but he didn't actually sing in the nose at all, nor did he teach that. This shows his absolute mastery of legato, consistent vocalization through the registers, and the undeniable fact that he was a completely regular guy, no affectations or anything to him.
The thing that was absolutely great about Vincent and Enrico is that they had a 100% love and dedication for opera, the voice, and singers. It just puts me in a good mood to watch this. Of course, the set and costumes are historically accurate, but I've done so many modern productions that this looks very old fashioned to me.
"Confidence is something you give to yourself. The ability doesn't give you confidence, rather, confidence gives you the ability."
Enrico di Giuseppe
On a sunny Saturday afternoon in South Philly, we were driving to go and grab a bite to eat, and we were listening to the Met Live Broadcast of "Tosca" with, you guessed it "The Pav!" Luciano Pavarotti. So, while we are driving Enrico is commenting on what the Pav is doing. First on the list of things he mentioned was Pure Vowels. Italian is a language spoken with pure vowels, and Enrico was constantly on me to sing the vowels purely and then you attach one vowel to the next and not letting the constant disturb that connection, which makes legato. Yes, there is the matter of covering the vowels in the passagio but not to make a big deal out of it. Then the Pav sang a high note and of course it was amazing, well, it was either an A or a Bflat, which is a cake walk for these guys. But, at that time, even though I had always had all of the notes, I still wasn't getting the bang for my buck on high notes like I should have been getting and it was one of the things that got on my nerves because I knew there had to be a way to do it for me, that wasn't ridiculously difficult.
Enrico said to me that I have to be more confident, and that I shouldn't be "modest" when singing. I said I would be more confident if I knew that I could sing those notes well. He told me that my thinking was backwards and that you don't become confident after you learn to do something, confident gives you the ability to get it.
Across the street from his studio, which we sometimes used, but we also used the cafe there next to it, there was an Italian Pizza place with a nice little restaurant attached to it where every Thursday night we had "Open Mike" for Opera. A lot of people studied with Enrico and some of his students worked at the Restaurant as well. So, during the evening everyone would sit around, order something and take turns singing. The placed was always completely packed out and everyone had a fabulous time. The Pav came down to that restaurant on occasion when he was in town, but I was never there when he came.
I loved being in South Philly, Mario Lanzaland! I love the rows on end of small townhouses and the neighborhood character of it and you just jump on the subway and poof, you are in downtown Philly. The town has a great feel to it, and of course the historic element still has a lot of influence in town. Visiting Independence Hall is one of those things every American should do, because it is quite moving to think that the great minds came together there to create one of the greatest documents penned by human hand, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
This city has a lot of cultural differences in it and the influences of the cultures is great. Italians, Irish, German, African-Americans are the main cultures represented along with the "English", which nobody refers to because they are now Americans. But, you really have a feeling of a tight knit city woven together by these different cultures.