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French song is typically not used in early classical vocal training in the studios of North America, presenting distinct challenges for the non-francophone singer. Though French is a resonant and lyric language with its nasals and liquid lines, the precision of pure, mixed, and nasal vowel sounds requires hours of mastery, proving difficult to young singers. Additionally, mélodies of Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel employ a vast palette of harmonic colors, rhythmic complexities, and strong independence of voice and piano. How then can young singers reap the benefits of studying French song at the beginning of their development? 

The vocal music of Pauline Viardot is a valuable gateway to both French song and voice building. Many of these pieces are marked at manageable speeds, affording the non-francophone singer time to negotiate the language. Her compositions rely on declamatory text setting, and her piano accompaniments support the vocal line. Most importantly, her personal training in the García method accesses the most respected ideals of vocal pedagogy, and is incorporated throughout her compositions.

This recital will explore the French vocal repertoire of Viardot. Investigating both the artistic and pedagogical value, we find that her vocal works manifested the pedagogical aims of the García method, offering today’s vocal students both an entrée to nineteenth-century French mélodie and a means to build technique. Throughout these analyses, compositional components are explored, focusing on those which influence vocal technique, to uncover the key pedagogical points of each piece, demonstrating Garcia’s influence, and how each can be utilized in the voice studio.

Meet the Artist

Soprano Sarah Luebke has appeared in opera, musical theater, and concert stages throughout the United States. Upcoming performances include residency with composer, Chen Yi, at the Chautauqua Institute, and soprano soloist in Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus’ performance of James Whitbourn’s Annelies. Stage roles include Masha (Enemies: A Love Story), Isabelle Eberhardt (Songs from the Uproar), Yum-Yum (Mikado), Rose Maybud (Ruddigore), La Fée (Cendrillon), Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Najade (Ariadne auf Naxos), Monica (The Medium), Serpina (La Serva Padrona), Nora (Riders to the Sea), Nella (Gianni Schicchi), Lucinda (Into the Woods), and Jane McDowell (The Stephen Foster Story). Solo concert performances include appearances with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Rochester Oratorio Society, Brevard Music Festival Orchestra, WNY Chamber Orchestra, Amherst Symphony Orchestra, Ashland Chamber Music Society, Camerata di Sant' Antonio, Chequamegon Symphony Orchestra, Houghton College Orchestra, and the St. Olaf Orchestra. She performed as a young artist with the Twin Cities’ Opera Guild and the Janiec Opera Company of the Brevard Music Festival.

An evolving educator, Ms. Luebke was selected for the prestigious 2022 NATS Intern Program, working with Barbara Hill Moore. She is the recipient of the Mario Martinez NATS Intern Award. She is certified in CCM techniques, attending the Contemporary Commercial Music Institute at Shenandoah University. She won the Teaching Assistant Prize at the Eastman School of Music for studio teaching in 2020. Her students have been named winners and finalists in the National Classical Singer Competition, the Schubert Club Competition, and state, regional and national NATS Competitions, including the first-place winner of the 2014 National NATS men’s high school division. Her students have been accepted into top music schools and performance programs, including The Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, Boston Conservatory, Interlochen Summer Music Festival, and the Brevard Music Festival.

Ms. Luebke is a DMA candidate in vocal performance and literature at the Eastman School of Music, studying with Kathryn Cowdrick. She received the MM in vocal performance at the University of Kentucky and the BM in vocal performance at St. Olaf College. She currently serves on the voice faculty at SUNY Fredonia, teaching applied voice and vocal pedagogy, and the Eastman School of Music, teaching French Lyric Diction.

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  • Bowen, John

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