For opera singers, reaching down into the depths of their voices is key to performing a piece of operatic repertoire.
Chautauqua Opera Company Young Artist Natalie Trumm, soprano, said opera singing is as athletic as marathon running — it’s some of the most demanding singing that musicians undertake.
“Something I admire about opera is the technique behind using your voice,” Trumm said. “It was interesting for me to see how far I could take my voice; so in opera you’re given a form to explore your abilities.”
Opera singers are motivated by each piece they sing, whether it is in an opera portraying a character or in the intimate setting of a recital, just like runners want to complete a marathon.
At 3:15 p.m. today, August 1, in the Athenaeum Hotel Parlor, Trumm will be joined by three other Chautauqua Opera Young Artists — mezzo-soprano Timothi Williams, baritone Scott Purcell and tenor James Stevens — to showcase their “athletic” voices in the last Afternoon of Song recital of the season. Emily Urbanek will play piano alongside the four Young Artists.
In recitals, opera requires the singer to test their limits. Stevens said he gets more creative control when it comes to art song pieces.
“Opera is like a bigger team sport,” Stevens said. “But in a recital, it’s just you and the pianist, so you can really work together and explore (the song).”
For Purcell, opera is a profound experience. He started playing the trumpet in fourth grade and continued through high school, performing in theater productions. Purcell dove into opera in college.
“The more I got into it, the more I found that opera is the pinnacle of human expression and creativity,” Purcell said.
Purcell said even though opera takes work, it’s worth it. Recital work is an intimate experience — just the pianist and the singer. Williams said it’s a change of pace from constantly performing opera productions.
“In a recital, you have more artistic license to create your own characters,” Williams said. “You get to create who that person is, and it’s not defined for you, in a way.”
In this recital, Williams will perform the world premiere of a piece by Chautauqua Opera Composer-in-residence Gilda Lyons called “End of Summer Haibun” (a Haibun is a type of poem). Williams said working with the composer is a rare experience in opera.
“It has been such a unique experience to be able to work with a living composer,” Williams said. “Obviously, many times, we don’t have that luxury, so to be able to work with Gilda, who is the most bright and radiant person, is so great.”
Williams said one of the most invigorating aspects of the song was diving into the text. Interpretation is up to the singer, and she related its meaning of cherishing moments to her future experiences with her child.
“It’s about embracing a particular moment and (freezing) yourself in it,” Williams said, “and cherishing it for all the beautiful things that it is at that time, because you will never have that moment again.”
The recital will begin with a set of songs by German composer Robert Schumann, followed by a set from German composer Franz Liszt, pieces from English composer Benjamin Britten, and many others. Urbanek said putting together a balanced program was essential to this recital.
“I wanted to get a couple pieces that showed different sides of each singer,” Urbanek said.
She said to create the best program possible in both art song recitals and opera productions, everyone must respect each other as they work together.
“Opera means teamwork, and I love the combination of everyone’s efforts,” Urbanek said. “Opera involves so many different art forms and areas of expertise — from people who design the set to the musicians.”