For Tenors Only! George Shirley Teaches Rodolfo

For Tenors Only!  George Shirley Teaches Rodolfo


Kashu-do Opera Studios, organizes several workshops throughout the year in idyllic settings that encourage the singer artistically and humanistically.  The 3rd workshop of the season is a role-study class on the character of Rodolfo from Puccini's La Bohème taught by   legendary tenor, George Shirley, known for his refined interpretation of the role. Details are included below. Kashu-do (歌手道):  The Way of the Singer is a philosophy of vocal artistry developed by Dr. Jean-Ronald LaFond.  In short, it is a process that opens the developing singer to the awareness of the many elements that must be mastered in order to achieve true competence as a vocal artist. Toward this endeaver, we are honored to be able to present George Shirley who represents the best of everything to which we aspire.

George Shirley is The Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of Music (Voice) at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. He was a leading tenor with the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera (Covent Garden), Deutsche Oper (W. Berlin), NYC Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and others. His performance career spans 55 years. Of his debut as Rodolfo at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence, Italy, the arts critic of the Giornale del Mattino wrote, “…George Shirley quickly convinced us by his clear phrasing, by his stupifying Italian diction, for the very appropriate scenic play and for the enchantment of [his] soft singing…”










VENUE: Tingshuset (Courthouse) Nyland, Sweden
DATES: 5-12 July 2017 (Arrival 4 July, departure 13 July)


Rodolfo is one of the most desirable tenor roles in the operatic universe. Given great, soaring melodies to sing, it is easy for us to allow the music to carry the day without making of the character more than a clichéd, “tenorial” personage. Rodolfo deserves more than this, and this workshop will explore, through the power of the sung and spoken word, the avenues open to interpreters of this appealing role.

Each day of study will consist of 8 hours, with an hour break for lunch. Participants will study recitatives and arias in depth, with texts spoken as well as sung. Verbatim translations, syllabic emphasis, phrasal doublings, and prosidy will receive especial emphasis. Participants will bring to the workshop word-for-word translations of Rodolfo’s text, said translations written below each word; the Italian text must include phrasal doublings prominently marked*, and stressed syllables in words of two syllables or more must be highlighted in some manner so as to insure proper syllabic emphasis. Analysis of Rodolfo’s character will be the thread that binds these elements together. Each participant will have his opportunity to speak and sing the aria and the most challenging solo lines, as well as the tenor parts in as many of the ensembles as time will permit. The purpose of this workshop is to focus on the basics of preparation in a structured, intensive manner, targeting the exposed places in the score for meticulous attention, and leaving the participants to apply the tools and techniques in like manner to any ensemble material not covered due to constraints of time.

At the end of the week participants should, 1) possess a clearer understanding of the character of Rodolfo, 2) possess a more thorough mastery of the dramatic pronunciation of the Italian text, 3) possess more respect for and mastery of the verbatim meaning of the text, 4) possess a deeper understanding of the prosodic implications inherent in the contours of the melodic line, and, 5) possess additional tools and interpretative techniques that ensure efficient and thorough study of character development of future roles or of other song literature one may desire to perform irrespective of musical genre.




Who is Rodolfo? To obtain a somewhat clearer picture of this struggling poet and the atmosphere in which he lives his bohemian existence, you can read through Henri Murger’s novel Scènes de la vie de bohème, the work that gave life to the characters that inhabit Puccini’s opera. The text and musical score will provide you information necessary for your re-creating their lives on stage, but will not supply you with input necessary for understanding why they are the way they are, information essential for your making sense of their actions. Without knowing why they react to the events they encounter as the story unfolds, you cannot successfully convince the audience of the truth of their actions because you yourself are not rooted deeply enough in their essence.

To accomplish this vital connection to Rodolfo’s character you will need to construct a “back story” or history that makes his behavior credible to you and, thus, believable to the audience. In pursuing this task, you must ensure that you create a character that is reflected in the libretto and musical score. Begin the exercise by creating a series of questions the answers to which are not provided in the libretto or any other source you can find. Examples of questions you may ask are:

1. How old am I?
2. Where was I born and to whom? Do I know my parents or am I an orphan?
3. What was my family life like? Do I have siblings? If so, do/did I get along with them? Was I jealous of any of them? If so, why? Was my childhood a happy one or filled with strife? Did we have money or were we poverty stricken?
4. If I wasn’t born in Paris when and why did I come here?
5. What led to my pursuing writing as a career? What feeds my need to express myself through the written word? Did I undertake formal studies in literature? If not, why?
6. Do I like my present lifestyle? Why? How did I meet my housemates? Who among the four is my closest friend and why? What do I share with him that makes our bond stronger than with the others? Or, is my bond with the others equally strong? What do I like/dislike about: Marcello? Schaunard? Colline? And why?
7. Am I outgoing or guarded when it comes to meeting people and establishing friendships? What in my background governs these reactions?
8. Have I ever been in love? If not, why?
9. Have I ever been disappointed in love? If so, why? Who was my first love interest and how did it work out? Did I experience pangs of jealousy? If so/not, why?
10. Did I ever see Mimì before she knocked at my door on Christmas Eve? If so, when did I first notice her, and what was my reaction? If not, what was the impact upon me when I opened the door and saw her?

If other questions come to mind that will make you think more deeply about Rodolfo’s character, explore them.


Course Plan


Tue 4 July:  Arrival throughout the day.  (18:00) Welcome and Orientation

Wed 5 July: (9:00-12:00 with half hour break midstream) Text study Act 1 (12:00-13:30) Lunch (13:30-17:30 with half hour break) Act 1 Singing

Thu 6 July: (9:00-12:00 with half hour break midstream) Text study Act 2 (12:00-13:30) Lunch (13:30-17:30 with half hour break) Act 2 Singing

Friday 7 July: (9:00-12:00 with half hour break midstream) Text study Act 3 (12:00-13:30) Lunch (13:30-17:30 with half hour break) Act 3 Singing

Sat 8 July: (9:00-12:00 with half hour break midstream) Text study Act 4 (12:00-13:30) Lunch (13:30-17:30 with half hour break) Act 4 Singing

Sun 9 July: Free day! 

Mon 10 July Singing Act 1 and 2

Tue 11 July Singing Act 3 and 4

Wed 12 July  Wrap-up

Who should apply


The course is open to singers of a reasonable level who consider Rodolfo an role suited to them. Participation in this workshop will be limited to 8 tenors only on a first come first serve basis. Space will be available for up to 10 auditors.

Fees: Tuition, Room and Board

Tuition for the workshop is SEK 12000,00 (approximately $1,300.00) ; auditors fee is SEK 500,00 per day, SEK 250,00 per 1/2 day (approximately $55.00 and $28.00 respectively). Required texts for the workshop include 1) a score of the opera plus 2) a copy of Evelina Colorni’s book, Singers’ Italian, published by G. Schirmer. Participation will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The first complete applications received will be accepted.  The application fee is SEK 500,00.

Participants reside in simple guest rooms (shared bathroom and shower in the hall) at the Courthouse (double occupancy for a symbolic fee (suggested 200 SEK per night—9 nights, 4-13  JULY (Arrival 4 JULY, departure 13 JUY) 2017. A kitchen is available if participants wish to prepare their own meals  In previous classes participants took turns in groups of 2 to cook for each other, creating a really genial atmosphere.  A convenient supermarket (ICA-Rosen) is nearby. Dallas Pizza offers a variety of common dishes at very reasonable prices.  Hola Folkhögskola nearby will be on break but their kitchen will be open.  They provide excellent lunches.  If participants wish more prestigious accommodations it is possible to book double or single rooms at Sandslåns Hostel nearby (participants would be transported back and forth between their accommodations and the Courthouse.


Travel to Nyland

By car or by bus: The E4 travels from south to north through the High Coast.  From E4 take route 90 towards Kramfors and Lunde and follow signs to Nyland. Daily busses from Stockholm to Kramfors with The busses are of a high standard.

By train:

By air: Kramfors (Höga Kusten) Airport is at a 5  minutes distance from Nyland.  There are direct flights from Stockholm-Arlanda, Those traveling from outside of Sweden should arrive at Arlanda and then to connect to Höga Kusten Airport.

For traveling advice assistance and other logistical details, contact: Dr. Jean-Ronald LaFond:

For specific details about the course, contact George Shirley:


Enjoying Nyland’s peaceful environment:

The picturesque  little village of Nyland borders the Ångerman River leading to the Baltic Sea.  It offers lovely walks by the water as well as hikes in the nearby hills and forests—As with all Kashu-do Workshop settings, Nyland provides an environment that inspires artistic work.

Nylands Tingshus (Courthouse), a former municipal courthouse is home to Kashu-do Opera Studios, Courthouse Music and other artistic entities under the umbrella of the company iOpera AB. Managed by celebrated Swedish Composer, Fredrik Högberg and international voice pedagogue, Jean-Ronald LaFond, “The Courthouse” has become synonymous with artistic activity.  The superior acoustics of the the “Courtroom” (turned into a concert hall), equipped with high definition recording equipment (including a green screen) makes it a popular destination for recording projects.