Chautauqua Opera Studio Artists take over Norton Hall with Scenes Program

The room is theirs.

After a summer of guest instructors and ensemble choruses, lessons and coaching sessions, community events and recitals, the Chautauqua Opera Company’s Studio Artists take center stage.

“Everything they’ve worked toward in terms of their voices and dramatic skills, they get to put into this,” said stage director Cara Consilvio. “It’s a place to see a lot of breakthroughs.”

For the 16 Studio Artists, a season of hard work and dedication culminates at 4 p.m. Friday in Norton Hall when they present the Chautauqua Opera Studio Artists Opera Scenes Program. The event comprises six individual scenes from six different operas, ranging from duets (“Venti scudi” from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore) to all-inclusive ensembles (“A Weekend in the Country” from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music).

Each scene will receive the full treatment. From costumes, to makeup, to staging, each piece is its own mini production, directed by either Consilvio or Jason Goldberg, a member of Chautauqua Opera’s production team.

This format is one that tenor Kameron Lopreore thinks is great not only for the Studio Artists, but for the audience as well.

“They’re getting a taste of many different shows instead of something with a long through line,” he said. “It’s not as demanding for them to take part in and they’re getting a little taste of everything.”

Ultimately though, the event is about the Studio Artists.

From its genesis, Consilvio said the music staff tasked with developing the repertoire for the program asked themselves two questions.

The first was about the present: Is this the best scene for them right now?

The second, about the future: What will help them get to a new place and really push them in their development?

“There’s never a concern when you see that list because people are listening to you,” soprano Emily Michiko Jensen said of the scene assignments for the program. “You have your assignments when you get here and you’re growing while you’re here. This is just another way to continue to grow, which is fantastic.”

That growth is about more than presenting a nice event to conclude the season. For the Studio Artists, Lopreore said, it also directly impacts their future as singers and performers.

“You’re getting confirmation from people you can trust and respect,” he said. “If they’re assigning you something, you can take that as a clue like ‘OK, perhaps this is the type of (repertoire) I belong in.’ ”

At times, those lessons can be somewhat surprising.

Tenor Omar Najmi came into the season with an idea of some things he expected to work on, some things he knew he could benefit from during his time at Chautauqua. But it was the things he didn’t expect that had the biggest impact.

Most notable, he said, was his chance to work with guest instructor Gary Thor Wedow, a Baroque specialist.

“I’ve never sung any Baroque opera,” Najmi said. “Now I’m walking out of here with not only a new understanding of that, but a new relationship.”

Relationships with instructors and coaches aren’t the only ones that have been built. Across the board, the Studio Artists have grown close.

Lopreore said the season started for him with a lot of looking around at the other singers and wondering who they were and what they sounded like.

“And now, we’re looking at each other with this feeling of admiration and friendship,” he said, “this new sort of lens that we’re seeing all our colleagues in.”

Those bonds that have been forged extend well beyond the programs and events held on the Institution grounds.

“I see my colleagues singing all these roles that match them right now,” Jensen said, “and they can only continue to build and grow into those roles further.”

If those breakthroughs Consilvio spoke of come to bear, that growth continues tonight.

Tags : Chautauqua Opera Companynorton hallstudio artistsWeek six

The author Nathan Healy

Nathan Healy is a second-year graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He is pursuing his M.A. in professional writing. Following his undergraduate studies, he spent eight-plus years teaching at an all-boys private school for court-adjudicated youth. In addition to writing and reading, Nathan enjoys traveling, eating at new restaurants, spending time with his niece and nephews, and being physically active.