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With CSO, Stuart Chafetz, Young Artists to bid adieu with annual Pops concert

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Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and Chautauqua Opera Company are teaming up for the company’s final performance of the summer with “Opera & Pops” at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6 in the Amphitheater under the baton of Principal Pops Conductor Stuart Chafetz. 

Inspired by Week Six’s theme “After Dark: The World of Nighttime,” the collaboration presents a range of music from well-known showtunes, a world premiere by 2022 composer-in-residence Mary Prescott and, of course, arias — all with themes of night.

“It’s kind of like ‘Greatest Hits of Theater and Opera,’ and we have an opportunity to show ourselves both soloistically and in ensembles,” said mezzo-soprano Hilary Grace Taylor.

In choosing the programming, Music Administrator and Chorus Master Carol Rausch made a point to select Broadway music with which the audience would be familiar, such as fan favorites from Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Kismet, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

While it will be a joy for audience members, Rausch thinks it is a fantastic opportunity for the 2022 Young Artists, as well.

“I think this is one of the nicest opportunities we offer, because in some cases, there are tunes that people have sung before, and they maybe even audition with them all the time, but they’ve never gotten to do them with orchestra,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic put live orchestra performances on pause, so the musicians welcome the return to more normal performances..

“Any opportunity to sing with orchestra is a great blessing, especially after not being able to do that at all,” Taylor said. “I’m just like, ‘Yippee!’ for everything. ‘Yay, we’re singing!’ ”

Both of Taylor’s parents came to the Institution as Young Artists, so Taylor grew up hearing about Chautauqua. She was originally scheduled to join Chautauqua Opera on the grounds for the 2020 season, but she instead had to participate virtually.

When she finally got here this summer, and saw the view of Chautauqua Lake coming down the road from Mayville, it made her tear up.

“We were not able to collaborate. And that is invaluable,” she said. “I think that’s also why we have no favorites pieces, because there’s no way to describe collaborating with each other, and singing in a room with people, or singing with an orchestra.”

Soprano Emily Michiko Jensen said that the pandemic turned opera singers into sound engineers because they had to figure out how to record themselves singing — and make sure it sounded good.

“It is very lonely because, even if you can get a track done by a pianist you trust, that person’s still not in the room with you,” she said.

The camaraderie between the Young Artists feels even more surreal after the time spent apart from other musicians. 

“The group — not only onstage, but back home — is really, really supportive in a really lovely way,” Jensen said. “Because you have 17 singers living together, plus some other people in Connolly as well, it could really (Residence Hall) be hit or miss with that many people, that many personalities. But there’s just such gratitude for being able to do a season.”

Chautauqua Opera just finished its Opera Festival Weekend last week, where the singers performed a different opera every night for three nights. On top of that, the Young Artists still had coachings and other rehearsals.

“It’s a whirlwind, and we love the work that we do because, when you think about it, it is kind of crazy what we’re doing,” said bass-baritone Phillip Lopez.

Jensen shared that when the Young Artists receive their schedule for the next day the night before, they can get a bit overwhelmed at how busy their schedule looks.

“But it was nice to be like, ‘I missed this,’ ” Jensen said.

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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.

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