Opera preps for first Invasion, inviting audience to be guide


For an audition, an opera singer enters the room knowing the first aria they will sing.

After they finish the first piece, however, the person directing the audition chooses an aria from the singer’s audition book, forcing the singer to perform any of the arias at a moment’s notice. This means much thought and care must go into the creation of an audition book.

At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25, in Odland Plaza, the Chautauqua Opera Company & Conservatory’s first Opera Invasion of the season will play on the idea of the audition book with the title “Opera Open Book.”

At the event, instead of a director picking the next aria, the audience members have the chance to choose.

In preparation, three of the 2022 Young Artists — tenor Eric Botto, soprano Megan Fleischmann and bass-baritone Luke Harnish — have already chosen the first aria they will sing.

Botto chose “Che gelida manina” from La Bohème, which he described as relatable and one people will recognize “even if they don’t know opera.” He sees his audition book as a reflection of himself, calling it “personal and intimate.” When he selects arias, he wants to draw in the listener.

“It’s this weird dichotomy of, ‘I’m coming to you with my craft, but also I’m bringing you into my world,’ ” he said. Botto’s audition book displays his range, but it’s also a piece of himself.

Fleischmann selected “Obéissons quand leur voix appelle” (Gavotte) from Manon because she loves to sing it.

“Why not?” she said. Her philosophy behind picking the pieces in her audition books is to choose ones that bring her joy.

“A lot of the time when you’re in an audition, it’s a stressful situation,” she said.

To combat that, she selects arias from her dream roles or ones that she simply loves.

Harnish took a practical approach, deciding he would sing “Riez, allez!” from Don Quichotte, which he sung to help open the Chautauqua Opera’s season at their annual Sing-In event last Monday, in Norton Hall.

Overall, when it comes to his audition book, Harnish includes a variety of songs. 

“It is nice to have a little bit of diversity,” Harnish said, “to show different sides of your character.” 

He said Steven Osgood, general and artistic director of the Chautauqua Opera, let Harnish include a musical theater piece as part of his repertoire for the Saturday night Opera Invasion.

“For (Chautauquans) to have a say in what’s being programmed, I think makes it a little bit more exciting for the audience, and in some ways even more accessible,” Harnish said. 


The author Megan Brown

Megan Brown previously managed the business office of The Chautauquan Daily, but she returns as a reporter for the 2022 season. This fall she will graduate from Houghton College with degrees in writing and communication. Outside of class, she works as the co-editor-in-chief of her college’s newspaper The Houghton STAR and consults in the writing center. Megan loves any storytelling medium, traveling and learning new crochet patterns from YouTube.