Oleg Lapa




Oleg Lapa began his vocal apprenticeship as a boy in the choirs of Orthodox Churches in refugee communities in Australia. Later, in Brisbane, Queensland, he undertook serious vocal studies with Joseph Halmos, a former pupil of Riccardo Stracciari, and a personal friend of Giacomo Lauri-Volpi.


During the period of these studies, he took over the musical directorship of a long established Italian male choir, the Corale Giuseppe Verdi. Although composed of amateurs, the choir had acquired great popularity thanks to the excellence of its vocalism. It also counted amongst its members a number of ‘natural’ voices, that would have been an asset to any opera house.


It was precisely the effect of these voices, that cast the first doubts in his mind about the veracity of his own studies, which, despite their pedigree and the very best intentions of its maestro, seemed to be taking him away from what was natural in his own voice. What once came naturally in his singing, now began to pose problems.


He left Australia to develop his singing career in Europe, and to undertake further study. Subsequently, in London he met Julian Miller, a retired singer, whose own studies in Milan in the 1930’s had brought him in contact with the pedagogical principles of Francesco Lamperti, preserved as they were, by the remaining representatives of the tradition during those inter-war years. Lamperti’s influence was strongest in this part of Italy, thanks to his post as Professor of singing at the Milan Conservatory between 1850 and 1875.


His tuition under Julian Miller involved a period of re-study, with great emphasis on the naturalness and spontaneity of utterance ie., pronunciation; and with it the progressive return of much of his natural voice. However, he did observe even then, that there was insufficient emphasis on the breath process itself, which left a number of the other students, not possessed of the correct breath intake by nature, with significant problems. He also wondered whether he would have been afflicted by the same problems, were it not for his own fairly ‘natural’ breath intake. He resolved that at some future date, after the cessation of his own career, to return to the primary sources, and to discover first hand, what Francesco Lamperti had to say on the subject. His subsequent research revealed the extent to which the Lamperti derivative methodology in 1930’s Italy, had been watered down.


In establishing the School of ‘Old’ Bel Canto, he took the first steps towards arresting this ‘watered down’ tide, by restoring the original precepts and principles of the tradition, and by employing Francesco Lamperti’s own scales as the sole tools for instruction. As practice was to show, these scales though small in number, proved to be essential to the understanding of ‘natural’ vocal emission.


In his teaching, he has always subscribed to the hands on approach. The master must be capable of imparting his knowledge not only through theoretical explanation, but also by example. Namely, the ability to demonstrate, and thereby to highlight the all important principle of cause and effect. A quality which he feels is sadly lacking in the present pedagogical profession.


It is his fervent hope that on the basis of the thorough grounding that students receive at the School, and their ultimate mastery of the craft, that nature will be restored, and that the musical world will, yet again, revel in the tonal beauty, verbal clarity, and emotional expressiveness of what is ‘true’ bel canto.