For Chautauqua School of Music voice student Julia O’Sullivan, performing a song doesn’t just take skill — it takes heart.
“It takes a lot of emotion to get these right,” O’Sullivan said.
O’Sullivan, a student at Purchase College, will be singing Mozart’s “Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte,” which translates to “As Luise was burning the letters of her unfaithful lover.”
“It is a very fiery piece about a woman explaining how her husband betrayed her,” O’Sullivan said. “There is so much anger in her words, but there’s also a lot of despair.”
O’Sullivan, along with four other students from the Chautauqua School of Music Voice Program, will perform in their first recital of the season at 7 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 15, on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch.
O’Sullivan will also perform Franz Liszt’s “Oh! Quand je dors!,” a French piece she has been practicing for two years. “Oh! Quand je dors!” is based on a poem by Victor Hugo, which she said encompasses many “God-like references about being in love.”
“It’s all about passion and the true love you can feel for someone that is unlike anything else in this world,” she said. “It’s like comparing the woman you love to an angel. A lot of Mozart’s pieces are very square, but this one has a lot more freedom in its vibrato and rhythm. It’s much more involved musically.”
Since the School of Music only has four weeks of programming this season, faculty gave students the guidelines for upcoming recitals in early June. While there is no theme to this first recital, each student was given two song suggestions to provide roughly 7 minutes of music each. Students were given the option to switch a song out if they wanted to.
Each piece will have pre-recorded musical accompaniment on the piano, which was provided by one of three members of the School of Music’s faculty: Martin Dubé, Kanae Matsumoto or Donna Gill. After students recorded their selections, they sent them to faculty members who then edited them all together. In total, the five voice students will perform 10 songs at the recital.
Nathaniel Wilkens, a student from Miami University, will sing Charles Gounod’s “Avant de quitter ces lieux” which translates to “Before leaving this place.” It is an aria for baritone from the French opera Faust, one Wilkens described as an emotional farewell from a soldier.
“The story is that he is going off to war and he is asking God to protect his sister while he is away,” Wilkens said. “I have had this one in my pocket for awhile, but I wanted to perform it because the story it tells is so beautiful and heartfelt.”
Adam Catangui, a student from the Eastman School of Music, will sing “A Simple Song” by Leonard Bernstein. “A Simple Song” is the second movement in Bernstein’s Mass, a musical theater composition he created to communicate the “crisis of faith” present in the 1970s.
“I think those words really spoke to me in this time because there is so much for us to overthink and a lot on our minds, and I think taking the time to sing about how simple music and our love for music is, is comforting,” he said.
Catangui will also perform Frank Bridge’s “Love Went A‑Riding Over the Earth,” which he called “memorably colorful.”
“It has a fan-farish sound that is huge and bold,” he said. “You need a certain emphasis because you are ultimately singing about the power of love.”
Love is the unofficial recurring theme in each of the students’ recital selections. For Catangui, it’s also what drove him to return to the School of Music for the second season in a row. Although he misses the nights spent in Bellinger Hall with his friends and ice cream runs to the Brick Walk Cafe, the personal connections with faculty have remained on the virtual platform. Those, he said, are worth “holding onto.”
“No one there has ever made me feel like I am just some young kid trying to make it in music,” Catangui said. “I feel like I belong when I study at Chautauqua. A screen hasn’t gotten in the way of that feeling.”