There’s no turning back now.
“I think that’s where we all are,” said soprano Alaysha Fox, one of the 24 Young Artists studying and performing with the Chautauqua Opera Company this summer. “We’re at that place where it’s part of who we are.”
Fox will join mezzo-soprano Emily Howes and tenor Kameron Lopreore at 3:15 p.m. Thursday in the Athenaeum Hotel Parlor for the fourth installment of Chautauqua Opera’s Afternoon of Song Recital. The three singers will present art songs from their personal repertoire that, according to vocal coach and accompanying pianist Allison Voth, they all deeply love.
And it’s a good thing that love is there. Without it, the lives that Fox, Howes and Lopreore lead as opera singers might suddenly seem a lot harder.
To be clear, the life of a professional opera singer is much different than it might appear at first blush.
Opera singers commonly move from one city to the next with regular frequency, signing contracts with opera companies that last for a specified period of time (sometimes no more than a few months) before moving on to another city and another contract. With each new contract, singers are expected to learn new music and new texts. Each company means new directors and conductors. Each city means establishing new relationships with new castmates that fade into the distance once a production ends and everyone moves on to a new role.
All of these factors make it challenging to settle down and start a life, and it would be silly to assume these challenges are overlooked or ignored.
“It’s something we all consider, but we are all so passionate about (opera) that it spills over into the people around us,” Howes said. “If someone knows us well enough and cares about us, they understand why we’re passionate about it and why we’ve made this decision.”
This doesn’t mean it’s easy.
But Chautauqua Opera Young Artists have had the opportunity this summer to supplement their opera training and education with some life lessons as well.
“We’ve had some really good examples here with Danny and David and Heather, as a mother, seeing how they make it work,” said Fox, speaking of L’Orfeo guest artists Daniel Belcher and Heather Johnson, and David Schweizer, stage director of the upcoming Don Pasquale.
However, the genesis of that “life-training” can be found a bit closer to home in the persons of Chautauqua Opera’s General and Artistic Director Steve Osgood and Music Administrator/Chorus Master Carol Rausch.
“It’s a trickle-down effect from Carol and Steve,” Voth said. “They set fantastic examples of how to be a very fine human being and a great artist at the same time.”
This influence, and being immersed for the summer with professionals who have found success despite the challenges, goes a long way. But it does not eliminate the challenges altogether.
For Lopreore, that makes no difference.
“At the end of the day, it’s totally worth it to follow our dreams and do what we’re passionate about,” he said. “The fact that we have the opportunity to do that is a blessing.”
It takes them to some amazing places, too. In fact, all three agree that they have found themselves in one such place this summer.
“I was sitting on the dock, looking out over the lake on the Fourth of July with a campfire behind me and fireworks going off over three different parts of the lake,” Fox said. “There’s no way I would have even known this existed without opera.”
Forget turning back. With the love they have, Howes, Fox and Lopreore are charging full steam ahead.