On January 24, 2011 the voice students
of the John J. Cali School of Music experienced a rare artistic and educational
event. The young professional operatic tenor Luigi Boccia shared his experience
in the field of opera, his gorgeous voice and his substantial artistry in an
Opera Workshop for students in the Opera Workshop classes. His visit was sponsored by the Joseph and
Elda Coccia Institute for the Italian Experience in America and the Coccia
Foundation and co-sponsored by the John J. Cali School of Music. The event was
organized by Elisa Coccia, vice president of the Coccia Foundation; Dr. Mary
Ann Re, director of the Coccia Institute; Dr. Lori McCann, assistant professor
of voice, John J. Cali School of Music; Dr. Jan Prokop, acting director of
opera workshop and adjunct professor of voice, Cali School of Music; and LeAnn
Overton, adjunct professor of opera workshop and vocal coaching, Cali School of Music.
After an introduction by Elisa Coccia, Mr. Boccia spoke to the students about the business of being an opera singer. Our students are focused on building their instruments and developing all aspects of their musicianship and artistry. This includes work on languages, acting, diction and interpretation, in addition to technique. When these skills are honed and it is time to begin looking for work, they often do not know how to begin, or what their lives will be like as working professionals. It is extremely important for them to have the opportunity to meet and speak with young professionals in the field such as Mr. Boccia. He was not only informative, but refreshingly honest with regard to the difficult demands of the job of a working opera singer, in addition to the rewards.
Mr. Boccia spoke about finding a way to connect one’s artistic and financial goals. He told of the price range and “categories” for each singer as they advance through the hierarchy of companies and roles. In addition, he spoke of the importance of regular practice and study as well as physical conditioning. “Make no mistake. This is a PHYSICAL job!” he stressed. Some of the students had never thought of it that way before.
Mr. Boccia gave recommendations about outstanding summer programs in Italy. He also encouraged the students to develop their own unique style and personality in their artistic expression, especially in terms of repertoire. For example, he said that his specialty is in Neapolitan songs because he is from a small town outside of Naples. This gives him a unique perspective, especially here in the U.S.
After speaking for over an hour and without warming up, Mr. Boccia asked the students if they would like him to sing. “Yes please!” they responded enthusiastically. He then sang two lovely Italian songs by Neapolitan composer Francesco Paolo Tosti: L’ultima canzone and Non t’amo piu. His full, resonant, ringing tenor voice resounded throughout the room. Added to this was his musically and dramatically sensitive interpretation. The students were thrilled.
Afterwards a group of students (primarily tenors!) surrounded Mr. Boccia and crowded around the piano with questions for him about repertoire and technique. Mr. Boccia proceeded to sing and demonstrate as he encouraged the students to sing as well. He gave them a mini voice lesson on the tenor aria “Una furtive lagrima,” from Donizetti’s opera L’Elisir d’amore.
After Mr. Boccia finally took his leave of these eager students, promising to return, they continued to linger around the piano singing and talking about what they had learned from him that evening.
The students and faculty of the John J. Cali School of Music are grateful to the Coccia Foundation and Institute, Mary Ann Re and Elisa Coccia, and most especially to Luigi Boccia, for making this educational and inspiring evening possible.