Congratulations On Your Play

I certainly was very moved and intrigued while watching your play today at Round Top. It was probably the most fitting performance to close your work at your center there. It was really excellent, and an indication of more to come.

Regarding the play — I am glad you added the section about the childhood relation of the young Verdi and Margherita, which was really beautifully done, and the stated shock of the death of Margherita and the children, and the descriptions of the young Verdi seeing the impact from the deaths during the war. This definitely suggested background regarding his personal turmoil. There were probably more changes that have been made, but I had not seen or heard the full play before today. I thought the acting was excellent all the way around, and the characters were really presented fully and exactly as Malouf said: “You really care about these people”. Yourself, Boito, Verdi and Santa were very strong. The music was wonderful, and the use of the chorus was just right, and the shift from comedy suddenly to tragedy was quite uncompromising and severe. As it was meant to be.

I was really surprised by the ending, and wonder how you thought to do this. The entire play shifts completely and irrevocably after the letter is read. And the letter is read very well. There is no going back, everything changes with the letter. And then the scene of Othello is played out, with Santa and Verdi and the character of Othello killing that which was most important to him – a curse, or a failing.

The message is the strength of the Verdi characters, and the tragedies they portray and present. It is interesting to consider what Verdi and Boito say in their discussion of presenting the Shakespeare characters, which they describe as having a character which is not “Italian”. I don’t remember exactly how you put it, but these sections were very quotable – it would be interesting to see the dialogue of the play.

I wondered what was the opera that Boito said they could not reveal …

In any case, congratulations on the determination of your work – you did seem exhausted and devastated as the play continued, and that fit the part powerfully. However, was this just excellent acting here? I am sure you are tired IN FACT, and now can take a 5minute break as you move onto the competition!

– Suzanne Klebe –

Rev. Robert P. Mitchell

Dear Carmela,

Robert-P-MitchellHardly a day goes by that I don’t think of you. Why?
You may remember several years ago I came to your apartment to sing for you, and you turned it into a voice lesson. You told me to open my mouth — wide. Drop your jaw, you said. Loosen up.

After that I started watching YouTubes of my favorite singers who up to now I had only heard on recordings. SEEING them sing, I saw that you were right. So I started opening my mouth to sing. At first it felt very strange, and I couldn’t sustain the line. And my high notes just didn’t work. But I kept at it.

It’s probably been two or three years since I visited you, but now you should hear me! Today I sang the entire role of Don Jose cover to cover, leaving out only the duet with Escamillo. You should have heard it. Even my wife couldn’t believe the change. I wanted to record it to send to you, but I don’t have the facilities for doing so.

Earlier this week I sang through Cavaradossi. Again, you should have heard the sound that’s coming out now. My high notes are easier than ever. Oh, and I sang the FAUST aria with the high C. Better than ever.

So, I want to say, mille grazie! Thank you, thank you. And you know what? On July 15th I’ll be 77 years old. I now have the pipes, (but not the looks any more)!

All the best to you and your family. I expect you’re up in NY State by now, so let me wish you a wonderful, successful summer.

This was my voice of old:
I wish I could record it today!

Yours in Christ,
Bob Mitchell

Rev. Robert P. Mitchell
Designated Pastor, St. Jacobi Lutheran Church, Shohola, PA
Author; Retired pastor, former opera singer and manager at Scholastic, Inc. for 30 years.

Sydney’s Letter

Dear Carmela,
When you were casting people for La Serva Padrona, I don’t think I ever would have thought how much that one meeting would change my life. Before that, I was an unhealthy belter, I barely had any technique, and to sing opera seemed like an unattainable goal. But now, not only is that the complete opposite in my perception, but it’s my main passion! It was really fortunate that I met you, because had I not, my vocal chords would be in shreds! I would have had no career!

Singing now comes naturally for me. Whenever I sing, it lifts my spirits, and the technique resonates through my body like I’m standing in the waves of an ocean. It’s gotten me noticed by scholarships, contests, and competitions, been my ticket to Italy, and the main source of my income! Even though I’ve come a long way, I still have a long way to go. Your voice lessons make me feel like I can do anything! I’m always eager for the lessons, and after I leave, I listen to the recordings nearly every day, in the hopes that I can get my voice to that sweet euphoric place I reached with your help in the lesson.
Sure, anyone can belt, but it takes a lot of practice to become an opera singer. I hope to one day perform as Floria Tosca, or Adele, or Nedda. Maybe I’ll be a coloratura one day and sing in one of my favorite operas of all time, Die Zauberflöte! But I can’t do it without your help. Your lessons get me to push aside any limits I give myself, and do things I’ve only ever dreamed of doing…especially that high E-flat!
There truly is no one like you in the academic or singing world. While I had a great time in Florence, Italy last summer and learned a lot of Italian language and vocal technique, the way they taught me was very inhibiting. It took away the joy of classical music that is, until I started studying with you again. I wasn’t able to find any teachers I wanted to study with in more than thirteen college visits this fall – or that were even satisfactory at their job! So, I’ve decided to take up Art History with a Dance minor at the college I will be going to. However, I am obviously going to continue studying with you! As one could imagine, the tuition fee will be taking quite a toll on my family’s wallet and there’s no way I want to stop studying with you! It’s important for my developing career and voice to keep going to you. The scholarship I received from you and the Agnes Varis Foundation was extremely helpful for all of us.

I don’t think that opera is a dying art form at al. It is young people like me and my friends that keep forwarding it, and even though it evolves and goes into different incarnations, that’s only because society does too. I hope to be one of the next great innovators of opera!

— Sydney T. Harris —

Pauline’s Letters

Dear Carmela (2015)


Pauline van der Roest

How are you?
Life has turned back to normal here. Work, family, household and study have been my life since I returned from NY.
I had a wonderful time is NY. A full filling feeling after great lessons with you.

I had my performance of ‘Mon Coeur’yesterday afternoon and I dare to believe it was a great success. I was super happy with the way I sang. I was a bit nervous, but I managed to keep it all together. First time with this piece without the score.
The audience simply LOVED it! I am overwhelmed with only positive commends and I apparently made people cry. And I do want to believe it was because I touched there hearts and not because I ‘hurt them’. 🙂

Thank you for being such an amazing teacher and a huge inspiration to me. Thank you for teaching me to discover my own voice! It feels wonderful and people mentioned they could listen to my singing voice all day.
Even one commend from my very experienced and wonderful accompanist Evelyn Greenberg was that the audience felt like they were ‘at the Met’. 🙂 and that you could hear a pin drop.

So, I am sure there is still lots to learn and things can get better, but I am very happy with where I am now. I feel I have arrived at a point where I can entertain people with beauty and warmth.

I will talk to you soon.

Dear Carmela (2014)

Thank you for your e-mail.
I truly enjoyed the lessons with you last week.
Luckily we have arrived at another weekend and that will give me some time to listen and work.
At the moments I did find some time to try out my ‘new voice’ it is interesting to feel how you simplify my singing and make it sound so much more natural and better! 🙂

I can sing any time and place on the day and it feels like me. I loved Danielles commend on the voice: It sounds not like you trying to be an opera singer, but you sound like yourself! 🙂

Have a wondeful trip to Italy!
Say hello to Lorenzo.
Look forward to see you soon again.
Thanks for everything and your faith and trust in me!