Opera Studio Artists Take International Approach in Effort to Expand Borders

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At 3:15 p.m. Thursday in the Athenaeum Hotel Parlor, the Chautauqua Opera Company Studio Artists will cross the borders of language and nationality in Musiciens sans Frontières (Musicians Without Borders), a remix recital of French, Spanish, German and Filipino art songs.

“Our world is in such dire straights in these days and things just seem to be disintegrating on a daily basis,” said Dorothy Randall, an accompanist and vocal co-coach for the singers along with Carol Rausch, music administrator and chorus master. “Through the understanding of someone else’s music, someone else’s poetry, and of sharing that with our audience, maybe in some small way we can affect our audience and our hearers and ourselves.”

Mezzo-soprano Megan Grey will sing a pairing of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini’s settings of the Spanish folk text Canzonetta spagnuola and the French text Chanson de Zora (“La Petite Bohémienne”) by Émile Deschamps.

“There are some sweeping melodies but it’s not so much of an intertwinement throughout as you would think with [French composers Claude] Debussy and [Gabriel] Fauré,” said Grey, speaking about the Deschamps. “[Rossini] does a good job with the text, but it definitely has more Italian influence.”

In last week’s recital, baritone Heath Martin sang Don Quichotte à Dulcinée by Maurice Ravel. The work is a setting of the story of Don Quixote, conceived of by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. Today, Frank Rosamond will sing Jacques Ibert’s setting of Cervantes’ same hero. Both composers intended their music to be included the 1933 G. W. Pabst film adaptation, but only Ibert’s was featured.

The Ibert cycle is a setting of four French texts, the first being “Chanson du départ” by 16th-century poet Pierre de Ronsard. The text is an ode to a knight’s chivalry and honor, symbolized by a castle. Rosamond said those themes are present in the mythic character of the Man of La Mancha.

“The castle’s built in such a way that none may approach it, save that sort of valorous knight,” Rosamond said. “[The knight] has to save his people and also be valorous, he has to be virtuous, he has to be brave, he has to be courageous, all these things. He can’t just be a great warrior.”

The subsequent three texts by Alexandre Arnoux — “Chanson à Dulcinée,” “Chanson du duc,” and “Chanson de la mort” — tell of Don Quixote’s beloved Dulcinee, his vow to defend her honor and, finally, his noble death.

Rosamond will also sing Gerald Finzi’s “Let Us Garlands Bring” Op. 18, a setting of four texts by William Shakespeare. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death.

Tenor Lorenzo Miguel Garcia will perform a cycle of Filipino love songs by Nicanor Abelardo, in a style referred to as Kundiman. Garcia, who is also Filipino, will sing in his native language of Tagalog.

“The minor [key] foreshadows the somber mood of pleading of the wooer, and then the major [key] is the hopeful yearning for the beloved’s response,” Garcia said. “They’re very heart-wrenching, and sound almost like Spanish tunes.”

In the wake of the recent tragedies in the United States and abroad, Randall said the program reminds her of Leonard Bernstein’s words when he said, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

“By expanding our musical borders,” Randall said, “perhaps we can, each one of us, expand our own borders and become more understanding of the globe.”

Lindsey O'Laughlin

The author Lindsey O'Laughlin

Lindsey O’Laughlin writes about the arts and politics. Read more of her work at