The Lost and The Deluded

If you are an opera singer and have no experience and/or training in music theater, but you teach it, how could you possibly approach it without using classical tools? Would you even know that you don’t know? There are a lot of teachers in this category, as we discovered this in our research (2006 and 2008, JoV).

I noticed today in “Classical Singer Magazine” that the summer opera programs are offering all varieties of classical training……early music, Wagner, Italian opera, lieder, operetta……and, in some of them, oh yeah, there’s music theater (stuck on the end, like dessert). What, I wonder, are they teaching? Rodgers and Hammerstein? Lerner and Lowe? Sigmund Romberg? GREASE???? RENT??????? SPRING AWAKENING????????? ROCK OF AGES??????????????????????????

Cheez, Louise!

Why not hire people who are on Broadway NOW to teach music theater? Why not hire people from Broadway who have been teaching professionals on the Great White Way for decades? (There are quite a few of us here.) What good is it to stick “music theater” in with all the other disciplines, as if it were just something you could toss off or doodle around with, if all you have to offer is teachers from the world of opera?

Perhaps I’m wrong. I don’t know. Maybe they make it work. I have never been to one of these summer opera festivals and I have no knowledge of what actually happens in them. Still. It makes me wonder.


That’s not the only thing that makes me wonder.

There is an INTERNATIONAL CABARET CONFERENCE at Yale that offers training that costs about $3,000 every year. People come there to work with professionals (who often ARE from Broadway) on how to do cabaret. The brochures says, “Learning how to touch the heart may be the main goal of the conference. But the students also learn how to dress and do their hair and makeup. And they learn about sound, lighting and marketing.” MARKETING????????

You have to know, folks, that there are NO, and I mean NO professional venues for cabaret performers who are unknown. Here in NYC we have a few places like the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, Feinstein’s at the Regency, and The Café Carlyle where NAME performers do acts but please realize that only those who are famous or have a large loyal following can work in these places. There is also a separate Cabaret Convention every year in NYC, and the people who are performers in that Convention are only known to the other performers and to the small group of people who come every year to the Convention. You don’t know them and neither does anyone who doesn’t go to there. Philip Officer? Karen Akers? Not household names. Yet, the International Cabaret Conference program charges THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS for a short summer course…….guess who benefits from that? I think they should offer a course called “How to lose your shirt by attempting to perform cabaret in a dead market.” I consider this entire enterprise borderline un-ethical, as teaching people to do something that has no outlet, and hasn’t had one since the 1950s is outrageous but every year they advertise and every year people go. OK, you want to do it for fun, as a hobby, but WHERE? In your church basement? You can RENT “Don’t Tell Mama’s” on 46th Street here in NYC, which is a bonafide cabaret space, but it will cost you a bundle and then, when all your family and friends have come to see you, that’s it. No career to launch, as there is no marketplace in which to land. The person who thought up this “training” is raking in the dough, people, and no one can stop him. Hokey Smoke, Bullwinkle!

Makes my head spin.

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3 thoughts on “The Lost and The Deluded”

  1. It’s expensive, no doubt. But I will say (as a former Fellow at the conference’s previous incarnation at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center), that I did learn an enormous amount about interpretation, and the importance of text from a “non-classical” perspective, and the final project (having a group of us improvise an entire scene in front of a paying audience with only an thematic idea and songs) was hair-raising and brilliant. To Claudia’s point, it is in fact a “Cabaret Boot Camp;”and I found having that perspective going in to be very helpful. Instruction was, in fact, mixed, but the good was very, very good indeed (much like most other programs, I wold venture…). Working with Julie Wilson alone was almost worth the entire admission cost (there is scholarship available, BTW…).

    Hope you are fabu… Jonathan Kline

  2. If this is a class in improvisation, or interpretation, or stage deportment, then they should call it what it is. That has NOTHING to do with teaching someone how to market themselves as a “cabaret” artist, and, since there are no cabarets anywhere, this claim is misleading and false. AND, if you take acting (not for opera) you learn all this stuff, assuming you have a good acting teacher, and acting classes here in NYC are a lot cheaper than the $3,300 fee for the “conference”. Still, this is better than the department at NYU that teaches music theater but is very specific about “NOT teaching to the marketplace” (for $60,000 yearly tuition) even though they claim you can go “directly to Broadway” when you graduate. Huh?

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