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Berkeley Springs grad says singing in Italy was magnifico

August 15, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Spending time in Italy this summer was worth the hard work for budding opera vocalist Morgan Harmison.

"It exceeded my expectations. It was fun, but was also challenging. I learned a whole lot," Harmison said.

Harmison, 20, chose the five-week advanced accredited program to continue her studies at the Opera Theatre and Music Festival in Lucca, Italy.

It was offered by the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and co-organized with Centro Koine, the distinguished language institute of Lucca, she said.

Harmison, a Berkeley Springs resident and graduate of Berkeley Springs High School, will begin her junior year at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh at the end of the month.

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She is working toward a bachelor's of fine arts degree in vocal performance, which includes studies in vocal, dance and acting at Carnegie Mellon, she said.

Harmison was the 2006 recipient of the Morgan County Forum for Arts, Sciences and Technologies Inc. (FAST) Advanced Training Fund, which paid for a portion of her travel expenses to Lucca.

Last May, she performed a recital in Berkeley Springs, sponsored by FAST, which is a nonprofit organization to support advanced training in arts, sciences and technologies for talented residents in Morgan County.

She chose Lucca over Salzburg, Austria, because she needed more Italian language study to enhance her singing, she said.

"I am more comfortable with German and I needed to work on Italian," she said.

"This was an opportunity to perfect the language and to perform in an opera while I was there. Most of the operas are performed in Italian," she said.

She said she spent about two hours each day studying Italian with Centro Koine professors. In her master classes, she studied improvisation techniques in English and Italian, and then sang in Italian.

"It was to show your talents and to find which part in the opera performance you would be suitable for," she said.

Harmison said she enjoyed studying under Claudia Catania, the head of the master classes, who ran the studio program designed for undergraduate vocalists. Catania has performed at the Metropolitan Opera and on Broadway in New York City, Harmison said.

"Master class perfects technique and performance," Harmison said.

Harmison has been working on vocalist training since age 11, and breathing and stage presence are still important to learn.

"A new professor has a different way of critiquing, and I learn something new," she said.

"Catania told me I know my voice better than most other 20-year-old singers and what I need to do to improve it."

"I knew what needed to be fixed in order to perform at my very best," Harmison said.

She said the students also performed cabaret songs from a Fellini film, which were sung in Italian.

"Everyone was very supportive and I hope I've made everlasting friends. The music world is so small, I know our paths will cross," she said.

Harmison was able to do some sightseeing on weekends. She said she took trips with friends to Cinque Terre, Rome and Verona, and got to see "many beautiful sites," she said.

She is looking forward to her studies with Carol Anne Page, a stage director who teaches at the Manhattan School of Music's summer program. Harmison said Page will be directing a fall Carnegie Mellon performance of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music." Harmison will perform the role of Fredrika and sing a solo, "The Glamorous Life."

FAST board member Larry Springer said, "Obviously, Morgan is a very talented artist, but she knows it will take a lot of hard work and dedication to pursue opera as a career."

"It was a wonderful opportunity to experience Lucca," Harmison said. "FAST really helped me to fund the trip, and I appreciate the support of my community."

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