Chautauqua Opera Company Young Artists began their season on the Norton Hall stage, and that is where the 16 Studio Artists will be highlighted one last time.
The season began with the annual Sing-In, where the Young Artists stood under a single light. This time, they will don costumes and wigs to portray characters in scenes from different operas at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, in Norton Hall.
Carol Rausch, music administrator and chorus master for Chautauqua Opera, loves seeing the Young Artists grow from the annual Sing-In to this season-ending show.
“That’s so rewarding for us,” Rausch said.
The 90-minute show consists of excerpts from different operas, including some pieces that have never been part of the scenes program for as long as Rausch, who has been a part of Chautauqua Opera since 1995, can remember.
One of those scenes is from Cendrillon, a French opera by Jules Massenet. The opera is a take on the fairytale Cinderella, and the scene features a duet between Cendrillon and her father Pandolfe, portrayed by soprano Kathryn Domyan and bass-baritone Brandon Bell, respectively.
Soprano Kayla White and mezzo-soprano Quinn Middleman will perform in a scene from Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka. The passage is sung in Czech, a language Rausch said is being performed more in operas throughout the world.
“We often try to feature a real gamut of foreign languages, but also some scenes in English,” Rausch said.
Kaley Karis Smith will direct the Rusalka scene, which is a fantastical scene that is not rooted in reality. All of the scenes are different, and there is a balance of selections that are from fantasy and fairytale and others that are more realistic, Smith said.
Chautauqua Opera goes into great detail to produce the scenes program, Rausch said. The production team consists of mostly assistants who get the opportunity to produce entire scenes.
“Because they’re on the Norton stage, which is still our home despite doing stuff in a lot of other venues, we want to give it as much production value as possible,” Rausch said. “So it has costumes, lighting, in some cases props and a bench or a table or whatever is needed. It’s meant to be as fully produced as we can.”
Because the scenes are removed from their source material, stage director Alexandra Fees and Smith get the opportunity to explore them out of context in the larger work.
Fees directed a version of “Shop! Hi! Albert!” from Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring. She often hears that people listen to the opera in full context, but she is presenting an ending to the scene that is different from the opera’s version. That allows Fees to tailor the scene to the actors she’s working with and make it a collaborative process.
“What I find really riveting about directing is that I can bring out what I hear in a scene,” Fees said.
Many of the excerpts Fees will direct are scenes with intimate embraces, but because the Young Artists have spent the summer together, they’re not afraid to show vulnerability.
“They’ve been working together so much for so many weeks now that they all have really good chemistry,” Fees said.
That chemistry will be shown in the final piece, the full-company Act One finale from Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land, titled “The Promise of Living.”
Fees and Smith acted as assistant directors on Chautauqua Opera’s mainstage productions, which meant they often interacted with the chorus that comprises the 16 Studio Artists. Getting to work with them a final time is a fitting way to end the season, Smith said.
“They’re our chorus, and a lot of times as assistant director, that’s who you’re communicating with a lot,” Smith said. “It’s nice to work with them because we’ve been with them all summer.”