Monday, August 13, 2012

A Young Artist Program in the Hinterlands

On two recent weekends I ventured to Wichita Falls, Texas, to meet the founders and some of the faculty and participants of Opera Breve Vocal Institute, a summer young artist program that takes place on the campus of Midwestern State University. (I won't tell them Texas isn't part of the Midwest if you don't.) This was the second season of Opera Breve's program in Wichita Falls, although the group has been around since 2008 in New York, providing young singers with experience and providing audiences with accessible and entertaining adaptations of operas.  The program's mission statement includes the following bold statement:
This opera company is not intended to be conventional, but rather, transformative; to present bold and brave interpretations of the standard and modern operatic repertoire and provide young, emerging artists the opportunity to perform roles that may not be available to them elsewhere. Opera for all.

On August 11 I saw a performance of an abbreviated version of Così fan Tutte.  It was a clever adaptation, treating the story as if it was part of a "reality" TV show, with the two officers disguising themselves as rich Abilene oilmen, and "OMG" and "LOL" used frequently in the titles.  It sounded hokey to me, but it really worked.  Director Eva Lenora was very successful with these young singers, for each appeared to have a very clear concept of his character, and to know what the character was thinking and feeling and when those feelings changed. (More than can be said with the Così I sang in grad school as Ferrando.)  This is a program for younger singers, earlier in their careers than many other young artist programs.  While the level of experience and vocal accomplishment varied, the level of talent and energy didn't.

There are only six characters, so to mention any without mentioning all would be pretty bad form.  This is unlike me, but I have to say the low voices in Saturday's cast were my favorites.  Bass Jonathan Moots is more experienced than many of the singers in the program, and gave a confident and convincing performance of the scheming Don Alfonso, while also singing beautifully.  Mezzo Anna Petrie is known and loved by audiences at Opera Manhattan and other New York opera companies. Dorabella is a perfect fit vocally, and she acted Dorabella's impetuous character with comedic charm and grace.  Andrew Jamison as Guglielmo played the wronged lover well, a talent that will serve him as he graduates to Verdi baritone roles.  Very young tenor Chris Mosz shows great promise, and I see him moving into much bigger tenor repertoire.  Sopranos Nicole McQuade and Page Madison as Fiordiligi and Despina also showed great promise, and I hope I hear them again as they grow vocally and gain experience.

On August 4 I attended mock audition open to the public.  There was so much valuable information from that day, I will make it a separate post.  I will also post when I have had a chance to learn more from Opera Breve Executive Directors Eva Lenora and Darla Diltz about growing a small opera company from the ground up.

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