With the final Chautauqua Opera Company event of the season upon him, Young Artist John David Nevergall took some time to reflect on his experiences in the last three months.
“I am so appreciative of the staff and the whole company,” he said. “Not only Chautauqua Opera, but the whole Institution; (and) the way they so nimbly switched gears to create so many positives out of something that, three months ago, looked like there would be nothing. It really wasn’t even making lemons out of lemonade — they figured out how to make lemonade out of nothing.”
Nevergall, fellow Young Artist Jake Skipworth and visiting Guest Artist Todd Thomas will join General and Artistic Director Steven Osgood this week for the last Cocktails, Concerts and Conversations with Chautauqua Opera. The event will air at 5 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 24, on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch.
Nevergall and Skipworth, Week Nine’s featured Young Artists, will discuss their time with the company, answer audience questions and screen highlights from their master class last week with Thomas, a long-time Chautauqua Opera performer.
Thomas first sang at the Institution in 1986 as a Young Artist himself, and in the time since has become a highly acclaimed baritone. In the last 20 years, he has returned to Chautauqua Opera to perform as a featured Guest Artist for more than five seasons.
“(Thomas) is a Verdi baritone, and I’m a young Verdi baritone, so I’m going into, hopefully, singing the same (repertoire) that he’s been singing his whole life,” Skipworth said. “Everything he sings, basically those are my dream roles. He has so much to give, so much knowledge. It was really great to work with (him).”
Nevergall has known Thomas since 2010, when the Guest Artist taught a master class at Ohio State University, where Nevergall was earning his master’s in vocal performance.
“It was … like seeing an old friend I haven’t seen for a long time, getting to work with (Thomas), which was wonderful,” he said. “The virtual master class experience is certainly new and has its challenges, but it was wonderful to work with someone who I have a rapport with.”
Nevergall and Skipworth will end the evening by premiering their a cappella pieces from Composer-In-Residence Frances Pollock and librettist Jerre Dye’s Chautauqua song cycle. With their pieces, the 20-piece cycle, with one song written specifically for and about each Young Artist, will be complete.
Skipworth’s piece, titled “Lily,” is named after his fiancée.
“Every single thing, every single word (except for one) in the piece was something that I said during my phone call (with Pollock and Dye), and it was just glittering,” he said. “I see it as the ultimate love song to the ultimate woman.”
Skipworth is not a stranger to the Institution; in 2015 he came to Chautauqua as part of the Voice Program and in 2016 as a Young Artist. This year he was looking forward to visiting the Southern Tier Brewing Company, taking a boat out on the lake, and, having just moved to Texas, experiencing a blessedly mild summer.
“Everyone that talks about Chautauqua talks about how, when you step inside of those gates, it’s like stepping back in time,” he said. “And it couldn’t be more true.”
Although he’s had to ride out a southwestern summer this year, Skipworth was grateful to have a piece of Chautauqua with him.
“This (pandemic) has been unlike anything that anyone has ever (been) through or experienced,” he said, “We, as artists, are so lucky that Chautauqua Opera created this opportunity for us this summer, given the circumstances we were presented.”