Young Artists to Tell Stories Through Opera Selections


For mezzo-soprano Quinn Middleman, there’s something captivating about the vulnerability that opera singers experience in recitals.

“I think that’s what people are looking for in music, especially vocal music, is that vulnerability,” Middleman said. “That’s what’s interesting to people, is seeing another person’s soul and yourself reflected in (the music selection).”

At 4:15 p.m. today, July 11, in the Athenaeum Hotel Parlor, Middleman, bass-baritone Michael Colman and tenor Jordan Loyd will sing the opera selections that help them express their skills as musicians. The recitals are a way for the Young Artists to perform music in an intimate setting without the glamour and stress of a big stage.

The Young Artists want to show the audience new music that is not often performed. Piano accompanist Rick Hoffenberg said he worked with the Young Artists to select songs they were most passionate about.

“I want the audience to really get a vision of each of the three singers as musicians, thinking about what music speaks to them and what allows them to express their musicianship most clearly,” Hoffenberg said.

From there, the program evolved into an event of musical passion, learning and enjoyment for both the audience members and the musicians.

Middleman said lately she is most passionate about songs that are not performed enough, in her opinion, due to circumstances surrounding the composer.

“All three of my sets are by female composers,” she said. “I really think that all three of them are fantastic; the songs are well done and composed well but because of their gender identity, they were ignored throughout history.”

Middleman will perform pieces composed by Alma Mahler, who didn’t get as much recognition as her husband and other male counterparts until later in life. Middleman said she chose pieces composed by Mahler and others, like Liza Lehmann, hoping the audience will be inspired.

“I want them to hear something they’ve never heard before and be intrigued by it,” Middleman said. “I hope they learn something new and gain respect for these people that they might not have heard before.”

Colman’s set contains songs from the composers Felix Mendelssohn and Paul Bowles. Each song tells a story and creates a scene for audience members. He said since many of the songs performed throughout the recital are not as well known, this is a learning experience for listeners.

“It would be a similar situation to the audience going to a museum of art to see art that they haven’t seen, by artists that they haven’t seen before,” Colman said.

Every composer has their own individual voice, so the learning experience is in discovering how the composer set a certain story to music.

Loyd chose pieces by German composer Robert Schumann and French composer Henri Duparc. He said these songs create a whole new world, allowing audiences to be consumed by the music, much like visitors to art museums can be consumed by an art exhibit.

“I am really obsessed with music that is transcendent and just takes you out of the, ‘I am a singer and this is a pianist, and we are performing for you,’ ” he said. “Instead, we are encouraging your imagination.”

After rehearsing and working with Hoffenberg, Loyd found that not only do the songs tell a story for the audience but they show a battle between light and dark. The music at times changes from panicked to hopeful. Coupled with the text, the songs in the program connect through a common theme of light and dark characters.

“So, there is some darkness, but within some of our pieces there’s a lot of wonder and beauty of the world,” Loyd said.

The Young Artists are looking forward to bringing audience members together through the songs’ stories in the intimate setting of recitals. Colman said recitals are like a pocket watch, and operas are like Big Ben — both are keepers of time but on different scales.

“I think that the intimacy (in recitals) is that you just have the pianist and singer creating this little moment in time,” Colman said.

Tags : opera

The author Tina Giuliano

Tina Giuliano is a rising junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix, where she studies broadcast journalism and Spanish. She serves as the multimedia managing editor at her school’s paper, The State Press. She is excited to begin covering opera for the Daily. When she’s not diving into her journalism career, she’s probably rewatching “The Office,” at a soccer game or figuring out which flavor of ice cream to eat.