Marc-Antoine D’Aragon: The Perspective of Versatility

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Once active on the opera stage, baritone Marc-Antoine D’Aragon now enjoys the pleasure of singing in the Bohème group along with his friends Nadia Monczak (violin), Steven Massicotte (piano) and Denis Chabot (double bass). He is also the ­current Artistic Director of Choeur de la Montagne, is operating a recording studio and teaching.Versatile and committed, he sheds some light on the institution of singing and shares his insights.

Role of the Director

A word of caution to musicians just starting their careers: if there’s one thing you need to know before recording a demo, it’s that you need a director. As a recording engineer and director of the Tourneson studio he founded in 2002, Marc-Antoine D’Aragon has helped several young artists accede to the first rounds of ­international competitions, get auditions, or even clinch roles thanks to the quality of their demos.

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He is of the opinion that three factors are paramount in achieving great sound quality in a recording: the quality of the performance first, of course; then the director; and finally the acoustics. D’Aragon insists that it is not necessary to use $3,000 – $4,000 microphones: “Even though the microphones are of some importance, the real game changers are the director who positions them effectively as well as the acoustics.”

The career of a singer is a demanding one. After having sustained the lifestyle for a few years, D’Aragon is now focused on his related passions. He cannot overstate the importance of giving thought early on about what he likes to call the “alternative career.”

Alternative Career

Singing is a demanding career physically, ­because one has to stay in shape at all times; psychologically, because criticism is ­omnipresent in classical music; and financially, because even after paying for studies and ­investing large sums in order to break through (travel costs, audition fees, pianist, ­rehearsals), the opera singer must continue to pay a vocal coach throughout his career.

The financial outlook for those pursuing a singing career is not very encouraging: “Twenty-seven percent of professional singers in Quebec earn less than $10,000 and 60% earn less than $20,000 a year.”

One of the observations he presents in his doctoral thesis and in his forthcoming book Guide pratique pour chanteurs lyriques émergents is the absence of consideration in educational institutions of a Plan B. “In ­university, we are taught that there is only one career, the great career of an opera singer. ­Institutions even discourage students from joining choirs or becoming church singers, even though there is a lot to be learned by doing choir and the majority of students will work in choirs or as church singers, which are in fact very laudable professions.”

“Fewer than 10% of people who are trained in the most renowned institutions will achieve careers as great singers. Thinking about having a Plan B should therefore be an integral part of what is taught, starting from the baccalaureate.”

AN AILING BUSINESS

D’Aragon expresses dismay at the financial burden that singers have to bear throughout their careers, especially at the onset, and is critical of audition fees in particular. He notably helped to abolish these fees within the Société d’art lyrique du royaume in 2011 while he was artistic director.

“Singers have to pay $50 to audition, in ­addition to having to pay their pianist and their plane tickets. It’s sick! On top of that, the fees for programs for young artists, which often take place in the summer, are used for all intents and purposes to offer paid vacations to university professors who travel first class to hear singers in another city and are treated like royalty, staying in five-star accommodations in luxurious resorts where they can take it easy. It’s indecent.”

Promotional material for artists starting their careers is also very expensive. Accordingly, it is with the aim of helping artists to launch and manage their careers that D’Aragon has created, in extension of his web company OpéraOp.com, the site ArtistsCenter.com. (Note to those who would be ­inclined to invest in the project: $30,000 is still needed to put it online.) “It is a tool for opera singers, performing artists, symphony orchestras, agents and producers to find jobs, do interviews directly on the platform, as well as post their CVs and material at a much lower cost than that of maintaining their own websites.” 

Is School of Any Use?

Despite his grievances against singing institutions, having himself acquired diplomas and training from different schools and becoming enamoured of teaching, D’Aragon believes that studying singing is not all in vain. “It is possible, of course, if you have an exceptional ­private teacher, to be given opportunities to start with independent opera companies ­without going through the university circuit. But my singing training has allowed me, in ­addition to studying what I like, to build ­contacts that I would not have had otherwise and to work with people who have helped me enormously.”

www.marcantoinedaragon.com

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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