Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: The Inscrutable Clyfford Still
Next story: All Shook Up at Artpark

Cue The Cadenza

Soprano Sebnem Mekinulov teaches students singing and stage presence.

The inaugural Cadenza Workshop welcomes young opera singers

Live opera has been making something of a comeback in Western New York. Leading the way, the Nickel City Opera, under its artistic director Valerian Ruminski, delivered a pair of warmly received, well attended performances of Verdi’s Rigoletto in the Riviera Theatre to open its second season this past June, and it is preparing Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, a Christmas season favorite, for an early December production.

The process of learning how to be an opera singer is long and complex, and Buffalo-based soprano Sebnem Mekinulov felt there was a need locally for an intensive summer workshop that would give young, aspiring opera singers the opportunity to develop some of the many skills necessary to sing operatically. Mekinulov is the artistic director for the newly launched Cadenza Workshop, a comprehensive, four-day workshop that runs from Thursday, August 19, through Sunday, August 22 at the Buffalo Seminary on Bidwell Parkway. Founding music workshops must run in the Mekinulov family—Sebnem’s husband, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra principal cellist Roman Mekinulov, just concluded the sixth edition of his highly successful Bravo Chamber Music workshop for string and piano students on the Niagara University campus.

Sebnem Mekinulov, a leading soprano at the Istanbul State Opera in her native Turkey, completed her studies at the Juilliard School, and she was one of top prize winners in the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions. Since coming to Buffalo in 2002, she has performed frequently with the BPO, both at Kleinhans and at Artpark, with the Ars Nova Chamber Orchestra, and with the Buffalo Chamber Players, in addition to teaching vocal students.

Mekinulov feels that it is important that she pass the skills that she has learned on to the next generation of opera singers, so the new workshop is aimed at 19- to 30-year-old singers, and the 20 or so participants were selected based on self-submitted DVDs of their performances. The workshop will focus on acting as well as singing, exploring the psychological motivations of the characters in the historical context of the operas, and the use of body language and voice in developing that elusive quality known as stage presence. The use of language to convey character, with an emphasis on diction, will be stressed, along with the teaching of techniques to overcome that bane of many a performing artist, stage fright.

Other faculty members include Holly Bewlay, who, in addition to her duties as an assistant professor at Buffalo State College, where she serves as vocal coordinator, teaching vocal pedagogy, applied voice and aural perception, pursues a very active career as a vocal recitalist and performer in both opera and oratorio. Canadian pianist Isabelle Aubin is a vocal coach at Buffalo State who has performed extensively worldwide, and who coaches and performs fluently in French, English, German, and Italian. One of Buffalo’s very busiest classical musicians—educator, pianist, choral director, and composer, Ron Martin—will provide piano accompaniment. Lastly, Raffaele Ponti, the dynamic young conductor and music director of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra, will lead a special master class focusing on the onstage interaction between singer and conductor.

On Sunday, August 22, at 4pm and 7pm, the workshop concludes with two performances, open to the public, of semi-staged complete scenes from three operas, with the singers accompanied on the piano by Ron Martin. A scene from the first act of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro will offer the students the opportunity to try out their newly acquired skills in the pure, Viennese classical style, while the party scene from the Act I of Verdi’s La Traviata features one of the most immediately recognizable tunes in the entire operatic repertoire, the drinking song (“Brindisi: Libiamo”). The mood will quickly become more sober, when the troupe tackles the final scene from Verdi’s Rigoletto, where the vocal techniques and emotional requirements challenge even the most seasoned performers.

Tickets are $7 general admission, $5 for students. For more information, visit

blog comments powered by Disqus