Steve Osgood might not consider himself a master, but he does have something unique to teach young singers.
At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Fletcher Music Hall, Osgood, the Chautauqua Opera Company’s general and artistic director, will hold a master class with a small group of students from the Chautauqua Voice Program. The event is open to the public as Chautauqua Opera continues to show the community the oft-unseen, nitty-gritty work that goes into performing and producing opera.
With a background in theater and a penchant for working with contemporary pieces, Osgood approaches operatic performance in a unique way. He uses different language when he talks about things, which allows him to dig into text and character in specific ways. Osgood approaches opera in much the same way a stage actor might approach a theater production: with emotion and with color.
“I get really bored if somebody sings beautifully but it doesn’t mean anything,” Osgood said.
Instead of spending class time focusing on singing techniques, like mouth and tongue position and pronunciation, Osgood will focus on the emotional drive behind the songs the Voice Program students sing.
“When we speak, we tailor our delivery in a colored way,” Osgood said. “Whether it’s soft and pensive or fiery and dramatic, that same delivery should be used in opera. (The class) will be about emotional content, character, use of text and use of sound color.”
Those who attend the master class will see Osgood work with Voice Program students who are at different levels of their educational and professional development. This stratification gives students the chance to learn not only from Osgood, but from each other.
“We want the rest of the group to be able to watch whoever’s leading the master class work with different kinds of singers,” Osgood said.
As a result, Osgood feels individual students will get closer to their own optimal performance level, a level that a singer can reliably expect from themselves every single day. The path to reach that level is not unlike that traveled by a professional athlete. It requires not only an acute emotional awareness, but also intense focus and physical prowess.
“The first time I sat in row three of an opera house and saw the incredible amount of physical stamina and activity, it clicked,” Osgood said. “ ‘Oh, wow. This is a sport.’ ”
While he is only able to work with each Voice Program student for roughly 30 minutes, Osgood hopes to provide useful additions to each student’s performance arsenal, additions they will use in the future.
“Hopefully when they leave here, they’re more well-rounded artists,” Osgood said.