Sunday, January 25, 2009
Recently, I heard a story about the classical singer Thomas Quasthoff. Thomas is a soloist who sings with the leading conductors the world over, but here is one thing that makes Thomas's story so remarkable:
He was born, almost fifty years ago, in Hildesheim, Germany. While his mother was pregnant, she took the drug Thalidomide to combat morning sickness. As a result, Quasthoff was born with severe defects - shortened arms and legs, missing fingers. Even now, he stands only about four feet tall.
He gets high praise from the critics,like Anthony Tomassini of The New York Times":
TOMASSINI: "It's a warm, rich, full, robust sound. There's just a sense of something elemental and honest and true and authoritative. You sit up and listen when he sings."
Elemental and honest and true and authorative: what a great description of what we strive to achieve in class at Mother of Invention. In session 1, I always read a passage from Boleslavsky's Acting The First Six Lessons, in which he describes the challenge of the actor to a young student: he tells her she must be able to make the audience forget whatever is important to them in their life, and believe that what is happening to her is much more important, in other words, "to sit up and listen."
Also, see what a colleague says about him:
Tenor Michael Schade frequently performs in duo recitals with Quasthoff. He says he's impressed by Quasthoff's ease as a performer - how he can turn a large concert hall into an intimate parlor.
SCHADE: "Thomas walks out onstage and, like in life, you have the feeling that you've always known him. And he looks at his audience - you have a feeling that he looks everyone in the eye - and there's sort of an excited hush that happens. And you suddenly have the feeling that, due to this masterful control that actually Schubert himself, or Brahms or whoever he's singing, is actually talking to you, in persona.
He looks everyone in the eye: I also remind everyone in session 1 that the eyes are the windows of the soul. And the fact that Quasthoff, according to Schade, appears to channel the composer is also very important to us at Mother of Invention. Necessity is the mother of invention, according to Plato, and when we act, we in some sense are attempting to connect with the same need in ourselves that the writer was touching in herself when she wrote the text.
I downloaded a Quasthoff album, first chance I got. Classical is not really my thing, but when experts the world over are characterizing Quasthoff in this way, I thought it was worth a listen.
Here's a link to the story on PRI:
(This post is from the blog of the Mother of Invention Acting School in Los Angeles and San Francisco (www.utteracting.com): an acting class in Los Angeles and San Francisco for serious, motivated students.)