Monday, May 9, 2016

Profile: Keith Chambers and New Amsterdam Opera

Keith Chambers
Founder and Artistic Director
New Amsterdam Opera
What goes into creating a new opera company? There's no single answer to that question--each company has its own story, its own goals, its own people driving it. I had the opportunity to discuss this at length with Keith Chambers, Founder and Artistic Director of New Amsterdam Opera, recently. The group will present its first performance, a concert production of Fidelio with orchestra, on June 9. In Keith's case, there were several driving factors--having his own ideas about forming a group, having some great ideas for potential performance projects, having the right people suggest and/or encourage the idea at the right time, and seeing a need in both the singing and opera-going communities for what he can offer. While the group is still young and some strategies and specific plans are still in the formative stages, the bottom line is that New Amsterdam Opera plans to offer a high-quality role preparation and performance experience to singers and a satisfying audience experience to opera goers.

Kirsten Chambers
sings Leonore
Keith already has an active conducting and coaching career. He has conducted for The Dallas Opera, Amarillo Opera, Asheville Lyric Opera, American Lyric Theater, and American Opera Projects. He has also been assistant conductor under noted conductors Emmanuel Villaume, Patrick Summers, and Riccardo Frizza, among others. With credits like these, it's no wonder he has already assembled an Artistic Advisory Board with names like Frederica von Stade, Richard Cross, Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Willie Anthony Waters. It's also no wonder he has been able to attract a promising cast of young professionals and veterans for Fidelio. The cast includes Kirsten Chambers as Leonore, Brent Reilly Turner as Florestan, Kevin Langan as Rocco, and Richard Cross, narrator. The narration is intended to substitute for dialogue usually used in staged performances. The Fidelio concert takes place on June 9 at WestPark Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Click here for ticket information. (Please note the venue change.)

Brent Reilly Turner
sings Florestan
And what of the future? What does life after Fidelio hold? Although many of these details are in the formative stages, Keith's eyes lit up when I asked whether he envisioned performing other operas for singers with large, dramatic voices. He agrees there are not enough opportunities for young singers with large voices and works like Fidelio are not performed often enough. Although he wouldn't make specific statements about such plans, on some points he was very firm and determined:
  • Singers would gain valuable, valid experience from New Amsterdam Opera productions. 
  • A New Amsterdam Opera credit on a singer's resume would be respected.
  • Audience members would enjoy high-level performances of great operatic repertoire. 
  • Each production, whether concert or fully staged, would have orchestra.
  • Every singer, every production or technical worker, every orchestra member would be paid for their work.

For now, I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing Fidelio on June 9, and on reporting any other news I learn about plans for New Amsterdam Opera.

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