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June 23, 2003

Practice makes perfect with new teaching tool for opera students

By Scott Rappaport

UC Santa Cruz opera students may find preparing for their roles a bit easier in the future thanks to a new teaching tool just donated to the campus library.

Photo: Brian Staufenbiel

Brian Staufenbiel, director of UCSC's opera program, initiated the acquisition of Opera Practice Perfect. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Staufenbiel

Opera Practice Perfect is a comprehensive audio catalog of 209 CDs, including 20 operas in both complete versions and broken into operatic roles, and 15 discs containing arias for five vocal ranges.

Providing the played piano part of the vocal score, it allows singers to practice their parts at any time of the day and in any location--without live accompaniment.

The tempo for each opera is additionally matched to historic recordings by famous conductors.

Acquisition of Opera Practice Perfect was initiated by lecturer/voice instructor Brian Staufenbiel, director of UCSC’s opera program. He had used selected discs with his students to prepare for performances of Donizetti’s Elixir of Love two years ago for UCSC’s annual spring opera production.

"I think it makes it easier for them to prepare," Staufenbiel noted. "It can’t replace coaches because you lose the live interaction between the accompanist and the student. But what it does do is allow the students to practice with accompaniment as much as they need to gain a solid understanding of their part. It helps them to practice more efficiently.

"My students were certainly happy to have had a copy of their entire role and to be able to practice any time they wanted," he added. "I’m very happy that we have it."

McHenry Library bibliographer Paul Machlis said the collection--worth more than $8,000--was made available to UCSC at less than half its retail price by Opera Practice Perfect founders Cary and Carole Fisher. Substantial donations by an anonymous donor, Razia Nathani-Suleman, and the Friends of the UCSC Library combined to help make the gift possible.

"The Music Department is one of the strongest supporters of the library," Machlis noted. "Musicians depend upon a strong score and recordings collection that only an academic library can provide. So it’s a particular pleasure for the library to be able to support the department with the acquisition of this teaching resource."

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