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Opera tenor talks business

Brenau music students get lesson in industry

POSTED: October 19, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Opera singer Robert Breault speaks to a Brenau University master class Tuesday afternoon at the school's Byrd Center. Breault performed at the school Monday evening and stayed to speak with the music students about life as a professional musician.

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On the afternoon following his rousing recital at Brenau University, critically acclaimed opera tenor Robert Breault discussed the business of professional music with students aspiring to be opera stars and world class pianists.

Several Brenau music students attended Breault’s recital Monday at Pearce Auditorium and his master class Tuesday at the Brenau University music department.

Breault, director of opera at the University of Utah, said his visits to music schools like Brenau’s allow him to intermingle his academic responsibilities with his love of performing. William Fred Scott, director of the Brenau University International Opera Center, said Breault is able to juggle a career in academia with a successful performing career.

Scott said as Breault grew the Utah university’s opera school from a dozen students to hundreds, Breault also regularly performed with opera companies abroad and in the United States, including The New York City Opera and the San Francisco Western Opera Theatre.

Although Breault performs on stages in Europe, Jerusalem, Montreal and Toronto, the Wisconsin native landed his first gig, a small role in "The Merry Widow," as a student with the Atlanta Opera. At that time, Scott was the Atlanta Opera’s principle conductor before he joined the Brenau opera program.

The conductor and fledgling tenor struck up a friendship at the Atlanta opera, and 20 years later, the two aim to inject fine arts into American culture one student and one performance at a time.

"Here I realize people have probably seen more American Idol than opera performances, but that doesn’t mean there’s not incredible talent here," Breault said. "Whether you’re in Texas or whether you’re in Georgia, everybody seems to have the self-deprecating idea that they don’t know anything about the arts.

"That’s what Dr. Scott and I are trying to do, is hook up students to that pathway to Paris or Venice, whether it’s through art or literature or opera," he said.

During his master class, Breault asked how many music students present had attended a full-length opera. A few raised their hands.

He looked in the direction of one student who hadn’t ever attended a full-length opera and said, "I started where you are.

"The first opera I saw was from the stage. I was in one before I’d seen one," he said.

Breault told Brenau opera students they must cultivate themselves to be great actors, historians and linguists in addition to developing a beautiful voice if they hope to compete with the 10,000 singing majors who graduate from America’s music schools every year. He said having a steadfast grasp on music theory and piano skills are also crucial to maturing a musician’s technique.

He said it’s important opera students learn basic German, Italian, French and even Spanish if they want to convey the emotion of the lyrics in most classical operas. Breault said he encouraged one student he taught to relate the pain of a lost love in an opera performance by drawing on the death of her puppy during childhood.

"It’s very important that you are a credible actor. Going up there and sounding good is not enough any more," he said.



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