During his sabbatical during the most recent spring semester, University of the Pacific voice teacher Daniel Ebbers went to a voice teacher for the first time in 25 years.
A professional opera singer, Ebbers sought Los Angeles-based Fred Karama.
“The reason I was drawn to him is I’d heard of him for more than 25 years,” Ebbers said. “My colleague spoke highly of him and he’d had great success with former students from Pacific.
“I wanted to see if I had any tendencies as a voice teacher I was experiencing in my students, like students that have tongue tension, that he could address, and I also was curious what he was doing different.”
What he also learned is that his voice has changed as he’s aged and he’s no longer a light, lyrical tenor. He’s a heldentenor and he’s taking his newfound voice out for its first spin on Saturday, when he performs pieces by Wagner, Verdi and Giordano when the University of the Pacific Orchestra performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Faye Spanos Concert Hall.
“I only fantasized about singing these arias,” the 53-year-old Ebbers said. “Every young tenor takes out the tenor book and tries to sing — unsuccessfully — as many arias that are available. This is the first time I’m able to sing anything out of it.”
It’s not so much that his range has changed. Tenors normally reach a high-C and heldentenors a B-flat, but Ebbers said he’s always peaked at B-flat.
“Because of the way I’ve been singing, I haven’t had access to (Wagner-type pieces),” Ebbers said. “I had to change my body setup. It requires more breath. I need more length in my spinal column and that gives me more capacity. When I first started singing this way I was running out of breath every three or four beats. My body’s gotten accustomed to it and the support systems have learned to adapt.”
His new singing style, Ebbers said. “fills in answers to a lot of questions I have had about my voice all my life.”
When he posted on social media his plans to perform, former voice teachers responded they had seen signs of his newfound ability early in his career, but it’s not something a young singer should try.
“You don’t want to go too big too early,” Ebbers said.
He’s ready to go big on Saturday, backed by the orchestra under the direction of Nicholas Waldvogel.
Waldvogel applauds Ebbers’ choice to sing Wagner.
“He hasn’t done it in public before,” Waldvogel said. “It’s one of his early operas (‘Lohengrin’). He’s doing the end scene where Lohengrin, the king, bids farewell to his wife. It’s a touching scene and challenges him in different ways. He’s taking a plunge there.”
Ebber also will sing “Amor ti Vieta” from Gordano’s “Fedora,” “one of the pieces in the aria book I fantasized about singing,” Ebbers said. He’ll also perform a song from Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”
Sandwiched between Ebbers’ arias — which provide the orchestra the opportunity to accompany a vocalist, something Ebbers said the students will mostly do as professional musicians — the orchestra will perform Mozart Symphony No. 39 in Eb major and Hindemith Mathis der Maler.
“This is a beautifully complicated program,” Waldvogel said. “They’re unusual pieces that demand a great deal of attention. They’re written in a style that doesn’t reveal itself immediately.”
Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.