Soprano Stephanie Lamprea releases her performance of Georges Aperghis' genre defining 14 Récitations for solo voice, highlighting her precise approach to the notation. These works, written in 1977-78, stretch the voice into fertile extended technique territory, mixing sensuality with virtuosity in ways that had a profound impact on the solo vocal repertoire.
Colombian-American soprano Stephanie Lamprea presents a virtuosic interpretation of 14 Récitations (1977-78), a concert-length avant-garde song cycle for unaccompanied female voice. Abandoning traditional use of text, the Récitations sets phonemes and vocal sounds with atonality, extended vocal techniques, puzzles, and repetitions. Throughout the opus, the listener witnesses a woman attempting in many ways to speak, but not being understood, and thus trapped in her trauma. “We see and hear a singer realizing a musical score, but at the same time we witness somebody who can’t speak properly…” Aperghis writes. “That is the human dimension of this work. We see people in their daily life struggle, people who are not very healthy, people with trouble expressing themselves - elusive mental portraits en miniature.” The resulting work is an ode to the dynamism and humanity of the voice, but it is also a manifestation of the woman’s complex journey of personal authenticity in a patriarchal world.
Written in 1977–8, George Aperghis’ 14 Récitations are among the most challenging masterpieces of contemporary solo vocal writing. The fact that Aperghis originally wrote them for the French comedian and singer Martine Viard offers a clue to their aesthetic. Each Récitation operates in a similar emotional register to a miniature opera, but with a plot that is unknown and a text that at best teeters on the edge of intelligibility (the texts are in French, but cut up into syllables and jumbled, sometimes using homophones borrowed from other languages). Yet their dramatic form – like that of comedy – exists independently of semantic meaning. Like comedy, too, they subvert and demolish stereotypes. Whatever little else we know of her, the woman portrayed in the 14 Récitations is angry, empowered, sexual, violent, scared and glorious. In short, she is – like all of us – messy.Read More
The 14 Récitations have been at the center of Lamprea’s repertory since 2017 (she performs them both as a solo voice and with dance, in versions co-choreographed with Laila J. Franklin (USA), Anne Goldberg-Baldwin (USA) and Penny Chivas (UK)). She finds that the range of timbres required by the piece, and the consequent emotional range of the work, opens up a larger space in which she can explore gender identity. Within traditional operatic pedagogy, the voice and body type of the singer determine the sounds that are available to them, within quite narrow parameters. In the 14 Récitations, however, the reverse is true, and is deliberately built in. Although the notated tessitura appears very large (from E3 to E6), at the extremes of low and high the pitches are deliberately approximate (and often blurred by other timbre indications), opening the work up to a range of female voice types and characterizations.
Working within this space led Lamprea to think about resonance, and the spaces within her own body that could act as resonating chambers for her voice. The timbres required in 14 Récitations offer an opportunity to sing the same note in multiple ways, and thus step outside the classical regime. This is most apparent in Récitation 3, in which a text is spoken rhythmically and across a grid of different and rapidly changing expressions (‘commanding’, ‘mocking’, ‘amorous – sensual’, ‘clown’, etc); and Récitation 4, subtitled ‘Requiem en couleurs (dans l’intimité)’, in which concrete, often extra-human sounds (described in indications such as ‘javelin throw’, ‘hydraulic pump’, ‘boiling water’, and ‘object passing in front of you at full speed’) cut into sustained pitches that are more emotionally determined (‘passive – cold – distant’, for example). But it is a condition of all the pieces, in which pitch (where it is even notated at all) is not the medium of expression but simply a vehicle for it. We have already seen, in Récitation 1, how pitch is equated to syllable. Récitations 5–7 apply a similar technique, while Récitation 13 replaces syllables of text with imitations of percussion instruments – pure timbre, with no intermediary text.
An architect of new sounds and expressions as a performer specializing in contemporary-classical repertoire, Lamprea uses her coloratura voice as a mechanism of avant-garde performance art, creating “maniacal shifts of vocal production and character… like an icepick through the skull” (Jason Eckardt).
– Stephanie Lamprea and Tim Rutherford-Johnson (edited from the liner notes)
Producers: Stephanie Lamprea, Eric Chasalow, Tom W. Green
All tracks recorded at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, UK, December 2021 - May 2022
Recording engineer: Bob Whitney
Mixing Engineer: Eric Chasalow, April 2022 - July 2022
Mastering Engineer: Antonio Oliart, August - October 2022
Album Photography by Sam Walton, samwaltonphotography.com
Background image: “Photo of a Blurred Motion”, Loc Dang, Pexels
Design & layout: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com
Colombian-American soprano Stephanie Lamprea is an architect of new sounds and expressions as a performer, recitalist, curator, and improviser, specializing in contemporary classical repertoire. Trained as an operatic coloratura, she uses her voice as a mechanism of avant-garde performance art, creating “maniacal shifts of vocal production and character... like an icepick through the skull” (Jason Eckardt). She has been praised by Opera News for "her iconoclasm and fearless commitment to new sounds" and for her "impressive display of extended vocal techniques, in the honorable tradition of such forward-looking artists as Bethany Beardslee, Cathy Berberian and Joan La Barbara." Her work has been described as “mercurial'' by I Care If You Listen and that she “sings so expressively and slowly with ever louder and higher-pitched voice, that the inclined listener [has] shivers down their back and tension flows into the last row." (Halberstadt.de) Stephanie has received awards from the Concert Artist Guild, St. Botolph Club Foundation, the John Cage Orgel Stiftung, the Puffin Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Stephanie has performed as a soloist at Roulette Intermedium, Constellation Chicago, Sound Scotland, National Sawdust, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Casa da Música. She has collaborated with several leading new music ensembles and bands including the International Contemporary Ensemble, Wavefield Ensemble, So Percussion, Red Note Ensemble, Talujon, Guerilla Opera, and Post Coal Prom Queen. In 2022, Stephanie released her debut solo album, Quaking Aspen, on New Focus Recordings. Featuring new works for voice and electronics by Jason Eckardt, Wang Lu, Kurt Rohde, Hannah Selin, George N. Gianopoulos, and James May, the album was hailed by PopMatters.com as "a bold artistic statement that’s exciting and innovative... a magical, intense, and deeply satisfying journey." A passionate educator and speaker, Stephanie has taught and performed in residency for universities across the United States and Europe including the University of California at Davis, Temple University, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She has presented her artistic research for the Wildflower Composers (USA), the European Platform for Artistic Research in Music (London), and the 2021 Shared Narratives Conference (Scotland), and she was a featured TEDx Speaker for TEDxWaltham: Going Places. Stephanie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she worked with Maitland Peters and Lucy Shelton. She has received additional vocal training from Dr. Julian Kwok and coaching from soprano Sarah Maria Sun. Stephanie is a candidate for the Doctor of Performing Arts degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, under the supervision of composer/zoo-musicologist Dr. Emily Doolittle and co-supervised by Dr. Laura Gonzalez and Jean Sangster.http://www.stephanielamprea.com/
Georges Aperghis was born in Athens in 1945. He has lived and worked in Paris since 1963. His work is notably characterized by a questioning about languages and their meaning. His compositions, whether instrumental, vocal or for stage, explore the borders of the intelligible, he likes to create twisted tracks which allow him to keep active the listener (stories emerge but are suddenly refuted). Aperghis' music is not strictly linked to any dominant musical aesthetics of the contemporary musical creation but follows on his century by a dialogue with other forms of art and an extreme open-mindedness to the other. This otherness is combined with innovation when he includes electronics, video, machines, automatons or robots to his performances. Aperghis works closely with groups of interpreters who are entirely part of the creative process. They are comedians (Edith Scob, Michael Lonsdale, Valérie Dréville, Jos Houben), instrumentalists (Jean-Pierre Drouet, Richard Dubelski, Geneviève Strosser, Nicolas Hodges, Uli Fussenegger) or vocalists (Martine Viard, Donatienne Michel-Dansac, Lionel Peintre) . From the 90's he shared new artistic collaborations with dance (Johanne Saunier, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker) and visual arts (Daniel Lévy, Kurt D'Haeseleer, Hans Op de Beeck). The main european contemporary music ensembles have developed a working relationship with Aperghis through settled commissions that are now part of their repertory (Ictus, Klangforum Wien, Remix, Musikfabrik, Ensemble Modern, Intercontemporain, Vocalsolisten, the SWR choir). “Aperghis has certainly acquired the freedom to put himself on the high wire, to risk the fall. But the difference is he knows that when the acrobat fails, he doesn't fall into emptiness: he falls onto other wires, from which he can jump even higher!! You can negotiate with danger, play with it, turn it into a vanishing point on the horizon. In his case, he is always present. It re-emerges incessantly, all the time, whenever unforeseen elements are introduced; not to break with the formal chain of complexity, but to find other forms of expression.”* Recent distinctions: the Mauricio Kagel Prize in 2011, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement - Venice Biennale Musica 2015, the BBVA Foundation Award “Frontiers of Knowledge” in 2016 (category contemporary music), the Foundation Kaske-Munich in 2016, Grand Prix SACD 2018, Ernst von Siemens Music Prize 2021.
*Excerpt from L'héterogénèse, an interview between Felix Guattari and Georges Aperghis transcribed by Antoine Gindt.