"My system differs from the one used by the language professors who teach spoken Russian. The problem is very simple. It’s a question of positional adaptability of the vocal apparatus to diction in any language.
Phonetics is a sound, it’s what is sung. In addition, phonetics is a science. The complexity of my task was to, having studied this science, be able to convey this knowledge to the singers.”
- Vera Danchenko-Stern
Learn to transliterate and sing with authentic Russian diction!
Taught by master teacher Vera Danchenko-Stern, this 8-week online course will guide participants through the process of transliterating, pronouncing, and singing Russian repertoire.
Vera Danchenko-Stern is a Russian diction specialist with over 50 years of teaching experience. Her expert Russian diction coaching skills are in demand by world renowned institutions such as the Washington National Opera and its Cafitz Young Artist Program. She has collaborated with WNO on highly acclaimed productions of The Tsar’s Bride, Boris Godunov, The Queen of Spades, The Maiden of Orleans, and Eugene Onegin. She coached singers and the chorus for Eugene Onegin, The Honolulu Opera’s first ever production in Russian. Ms. Danchenko-Stern was also invited to work on Ivan The Terrible with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of Yuri Temirkanov.
“Vera Danchenko-Stern is not only one of the world’s most experienced teachers of Russian diction and phonetics, but also a first-rank collaborative pianist and musician, with an unerring sense of the style and its unique demands. Her commitment to the legato possibilities of the language ensure that all her advice is grounded in optimal vocal technique, and she communicates this with uncommon dedication and energy.”
– Robert Ainsley,
Director of the Cafritz Young Artist Program,
Washington National Opera.
Weeks 1-3: Phonetics and Transliteration
Week 5: Performance Masterclasses
Enrollment is open and first come first served. This course is designed for singers and collaborative pianists at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate level.
Voice teachers are also welcome! The class size is limited to 10 participants.
This allows each student to receive individual attention from Ms. Danchenko-Stern.
Students are required to submit a link to a recent performance (Russian repertoire not required). This does not have an impact on your enrollment. It is for repertoire selection purposes only.
Cost and Scholarships
The five-week program costs a total of $799.
The Russian Chamber Art Society is happy to offer $150 scholarships
to reduce the overall cost of the program to $649.
Opera Role Preparation & Individual Coaching
Ms. Danchenko-Stern offers individual coaching and role preparation for singers learning Russian repertoire. Role preparation is tailored to Russian repertoire staged in the United States.
This program is designed for professional singers and singers with experience singing in fully staged operas.
Role preparation is available at $99/hour.
Students of Ms. Danchenko-Stern have performed on stages around the world including The Washington National Opera, The Metropolitan Opera, and more.
Singers interested should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The vast Russian repertoire, so much of it sadly unfamiliar to American audiences outside a small number of popular titles, is a treasury of color, imagination, character, emotion, culture, style, and story-telling. From the extraordinary songs to the vast operatic canvases of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and more, Russian repertoire offers a whole new frontier to the average student, at least as broad as the Italian, German, and French standards – if only the keys to the kingdom are made available through a grounding in the phonetics, language, and style by an experienced hand. Vera Danchenko-Stern has devoted her life to passing on her vast experience of this repertoire and her deep love of her native language and its poetry. There is no better guide through this new territory than Ms. Danchenko-Stern!
Ms. Danchenko-Stern is not only one of the world’s most experienced teachers of Russian diction and phonetics, but also a first-rank collaborative pianist and musician, with an unerring sense of the style and its unique demands. Her commitment to the legato possibilities of the language ensure that all her advice is grounded in optimal vocal technique, and she communicates this with uncommon dedication and energy.
Robert Ainsley – Director of the Cafritz Young Artist Program, Washington National Opera
I was interested in the Russian vocal repertoire right from the beginning of my vocal studies, coming from a love of the piano and orchestral repertoire of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, as well as the wealth of literature. The wealth of melodies, the intensity of the writing, and the passion expressed in the music is truly unparalleled- from a simple art song to grand opera. I have turned to the repertoire consistently throughout my career in auditions and competitions, and the Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin and the songs of Rachmaninoff's opus 38 were instrumental in my prize at the Maria Callas Grand Prix. There is still so much material to be discovered, and I was very lucky to have Vera's guidance at the beginning towards beautiful repertoire that otherwise might stay unknown.
I began studying with Vera at 18, as a freshman in college, and her simple and straightforward explanation of the language provided a foundation that has never left me. With a basic understanding of the Cyrillic alphabet, her system has allowed me to transliterate for myself, in a way that makes sense and can be applied to any text. She is a champion of the lesser known repertoire, and her passion and energy for this music is truly infectious. I have been complimented on my Russian throughout my career, in many countries, and I owe this all to her!
Shelly Jackson – Soprano Silver Medalist of Maria Callas Grand Prix Competition
What attracted me to Russian Vocal Repertoire was how HEALTHY the vowels are when singing. It’s an absolutely lyric and lilting language.
My experience with Vera was so generous. She took her time to help me understand how to approach the language and syntax AND the meaning behind Tatyana’s pain. She also made sure I was comfortable at all times and made me feel at home - as if I could stay and learn all day and night. As long as I could keep learning, she was there. Thank you, my Vera. Forever. You made Tatyana sing!
Melody Moore – Soprano IMG Artists
Russian Vocal Repertoire is an incredibly beautiful treasury of moving melodies and profound emotion, which can be communicated and accessed well by both native and non-native singers. The repertoire is also quite wide, thus to singers of all ranges and training, and will certainly provide a vibrant and unique addition to any recital or concert.
Working with Vera has been an incredibly enriching experience. Even as a native speaker of Russian, I was still able to improve my pronunciation, diction and sharpen the nuances of singing in Russian. In addition, my dramatic interpretation of the songs has been increased immensely following the detailed and informative guidance and coaching with Vera.
Timur Bekbosunov – Tenor Robert Gilder & Co.
I have always loved singing art songs and arias in Russian. Even before I studied the language I was drawn to the music. The question to ask is why wouldn’t you want to sing in Russian? It is an inherently vocal style of music. Very approachable and expressive. Learning to sing in Russian helped my legato and attention to diction. It should be taught in the conservatories!
Vera exudes musicality and she is a gifted teacher. The combination allows you to get lost in the music making and learn to make the necessary adjustments naturally. She will teach you to use IPA that makes sense and gives you confidence to do your own transliteration. After working with Vera I am not afraid to pick up Russian scores that are only in Cyrillic. It is an added bonus that Vera is not only a teacher but a consummate performer herself, so working with her you know you are learning how to perform at the highest level.
Jennifer Casey Cabot – Soprano Voice Faculty, University of Maryland
The extraordinary music, literature, and history of Russia, as well as the artistry of so many of my Russian-speaking colleagues—and performers of the past—which is so clearly rooted in all of them. I can speak to my work with Vera as a student, and as a colleague. A coaching with Vera is never limited to mere pronunciation and phrasing, but ventures deeply into poetry, drama, culture, and tradition. It is rather like an extended musical conversation, and ranges from highly detailed work to genuinely earned abandon. As a teacher, she is warm, nurturing, and highly energetic. Ms. Danchenko-Stern’s love for the repertoire is infectious, her knowledge profound, and her musical qualities remarkable.
As a fellow teacher of lyric diction, I commend her on the artistic gestalt and integrity of her work, and I am grateful for her expertise and insights, as well as her musical partnership on stage, which have opened the door to a repertoire that has become most dear to my heart. I endorse Vera highly to anyone wanting to explore this language and this treasure of a musical legacy. Whether one is just starting one’s discovery of Russian vocal music, or already seasoned in it, she is sure to help open one’s eyes, ears, and musical voice.
Nils Neubert, DMA – Tenor Faculty, The Juilliard School
The beauty and especially the passion of the lyric Russian repertoire cannot be surpassed, especially when one has the opportunity to learn its interpretation with a master such as Vera Danchenko. The course she gave at Western University (Ontario) was excellent in every way. Her ebullient and joyful energy, so full of love for this music, and her knowledge carry everyone who works with her to a new level of understanding and ability as a singer, pianist and performer.
Patricia Green – Mezzo-Soprano Voice Chair, University of Western Ontario
When I was an undergraduate, many years ago, I visited the former Soviet Union with the New England Conservatory Tour Chorus under the auspices of the United States State Department as part of a Cultural Exchange tour. During our five-week tour, we sang in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Lvov, Tblisi, Baku, and Yerevan. In preparation for our tour, we took several weeks of Russian language study, and familiarized ourselves with some of the music of the Russian masters. During the tour, we were privileged to see Dmitri Shostakovich, who stood backstage greeting us individually as we walked past him onto the stage. We heard a performance of the opera Eugene Onegin at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, and heard a performance of Faust sung in Ukrainian in Kiev.
Decades later, as a doctoral student, I met Vera Danchenko-Stern, who was offering a new course at Peabody Conservatory called Singing in Russian. I became very excited to think of singing the beautiful repertoire of Russian composers in the ORIGINAL LANGUAGE, and immediately asked her if I could join her class. Historically, American singers performed only a limited amount of Russian music in German or English translations.
Vera is a dynamic and inspirational teacher. She communicates clearly to her students how to form the authentic sounds of the Russian language. Using excellent organizational tools, Vera teaches how to determine which sound is the appropriate one to use in each syllable of the text, and then teaches how to achieve the desired sound. I observed that her students learned not only how to sing in authentic Russian, but that their vocal technique was enhanced as well. The opportunity to be immersed in the nuances of singing Russian repertoire is part of the learning one derives from her teaching.
Vera’s wealth of knowledge of Russian vocal repertoire, her immense musicality and sensitivity, and her years of experience as a pianist accompanying singers, have given her a rich storehouse of knowledge to impart to her students. She gives this knowledge generously and abundantly. Her patience, sense of humor, her lively energy and her love of the music and of her students, make it a joy to work with her.
Susan Harwood, DMA – Soprano Former Coordinator of Voice, The College of Saint Rose