Chautauqua Opera & CSO to Perform Numbers from Great American Songbook in Opera Pops Concert

Chautauqua Opera Company Young Artists close their season with a pops concert Saturday, August 4, 2018 in the Amphitheater. RILEY ROBINSON/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

In the final Chautauqua Opera Company performance of the season, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and the Chautauqua Opera Young Artists will join forces to perform beloved musical numbers — and a world premiere.

At 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater, the Young Artists will be joined by the CSO, led by guest conductor Stuart Chafetz, in the annual Opera Pops concert.

The concert will feature songs from well-known musicals like Man of La Mancha’s “The Impossible Dream” and Rent’s “Seasons of Love.” Also included are some less familiar musical numbers like “What more do I need?” from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Saturday Night and “Being alive” from another Sondheim musical, Company. The concert will begin with a medley of songs from French musical composer Michel Legrand.

Finally, the singers and musicians will give the world premiere of “When I’m away from you” by Gilda Lyons, Chautauqua Opera’s composer-in-residence, which will be performed by Young Artist Lauren Yokabaskas, soprano.

This eclectic blend of popular music, Chafetz said, will come to life on the shared stage.

“When the orchestra is involved, it adds a whole new dimension,” Chafetz said. “It becomes that much more intense for everybody — when you have the whole Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra behind you while singing these pops Broadway standards, it just adds so much more beautiful collaboration.”

Chafetz, known for his dynamic performances at the conductor’s podium, is the principal pops conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. As a CSO timpanist and frequent guest conductor for pops concerts, he said he has a passion for popular music.

“When you hear music that you know and love, it adds that much more,” he said. “It puts smiles on people’s faces and brings back memories.”

For Chafetz, popular music brings more than smiles — he said it makes classical forms like opera and symphony accessible to a broad audience.

“To me, it’s so much fun and so relatable to the audience,” Chafetz said. “I just feel so much commitment to popular music and getting people excited about coming to the symphony orchestra who normally wouldn’t come. That has been a real passion of mine, to engage people that wouldn’t ordinarily come.”

Chafetz, the CSO and the Opera Young Artists have each been rehearsing for the collaborative concert this past week. Even in rehearsals, Chafetz said, the performances are powerful.

“When the entire opera department is singing, there’s nothing like it,” Chafetz said. “We had rehearsal … and I was amazed at the sheer volume and classical training. It’s just that much more in-tune, that much more projection. It just sounds so good.”

The Young Artists began rehearsing the music this week with stage director Andy Gale and choreographer Teddy Kern. Gale said the Young Artists worked diligently to prepare the music throughout the season, prior to working with himself and Kern.

“The singers have been coached in the repertoire while they are doing hundreds of other things, like art song recitals and three operas,” Gale said. “And then we come in and get to know them and put it on its feet.”

While the Young Artists are not in full costumes and makeup, they work on staging and movements. Kern said for some songs, the story requires dance and specific movements.

“Andy and I collaborate to prepare where the dancing movement will go,” Kern said.

This concert is in conjunction with Week Seven’s theme — “Grace: A Celebration of Extraordinary Gifts.” Gale said the concert program would be an excellent way to transition from Week Six to Week Seven.   

“We looked at that, and we liked thinking about grace,” Gale said. “We thought that was an interesting title that would allow us some flexibility with the song choices.”

He said the event involves teamwork from both Chautauqua Opera and the CSO.

“It is, by very definition, a collaborative event,” Gale said. “And we are a good team.”


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.