Young Artists take center stage with CSO in Opera & Pops program dedicated to theme ‘We Believe in Opera’

Arden Ryan
contributing  writer

Belief is a powerful concept. It can inspire hope from disillusionment, maintain faith when doubters abound and fill the dispirited with courage and confidence. 

With Chautauqua’s annual Opera & Pops concert, this feeling will permeate the arias and Broadway standards set to be performed at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater, as Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Chautauqua Opera Company Young Artists, and Principal Pops Conductor Stuart Chafetz take the audience on a journey through all kinds of belief — in love, in art, in religion and in oneself.

Through an iconic aria from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Young Artist Marquita Richardson, soprano, will sing of a strong belief in a love she has despite being surrounded by naysayers, persevering and believing that her love will come back for her.

In the “Composer’s Aria” from Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, mezzo-soprano Monique Galvão will sing of her firm belief that music is the holiest of the arts.

Bock and Harnick’s “Miracle of Miracles” from Fiddler on the Roof — to be performed by tenor Felix Aguilar Tomlinson, is grounded in Jewish tradition and makes numerous Biblical references, conveying belief with religious conviction.

A duet from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore — portrayed by Tomlinson and soprano Angela Yam — tells the story of a man whose belief in the magical power of a bottle of wine, sold to him as a love potion, helps him realize the courage to chase the girl of his desires.

Along with others on Saturday’s program, these selections reflect the upcoming Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “The State of Believing.” 

Carol Rausch, music administrator and choral director for Chautauqua Opera, programs the event every year with the week’s discussion in mind, chiming in with pieces from classic operas and popular Broadway numbers.

Rausch kept the nature of belief in mind while assembling tonight’s concert, a joint effort between the Opera Company and Conservatory. 

Opera Young Artists are given the rare and “fantastic opportunity” to perform onstage with a full orchestra, Rausch said.

In previous years, two separate concerts showcased opera highlights and orchestral pops. With the two now combined, Rausch still ensured each of the eight featured apprentices will sing a solo. 

This gives them the opportunity to perform in both opera and pops, while showcasing their individual strengths and talents.

Versatility is highly prized at the company, as is the professionalism and preparation needed to work in the wider opera world, Rausch said. 

Artists, she added, should be “ready and able to go back and forth between the different art forms,” opera and Broadway, and “be good at both.”

Rausch said she believes the audience will enjoy the juxtaposition and entertaining back-and-forth.

Some of the performers have experience with the pieces they’ll be performing, but many of them may be performing in front of a full orchestra for the first time, Rausch said — a completely different experience from singing with a recital piano or pit orchestra.

“It’s an essential part of the development of promising opera students or opera artists,” Chafetz said. “To have a full symphony orchestra playing this glorious music, there’s nothing like it.”

For Rausch, the new opportunities for the students makes tonight a marked occasion, as does the energy of the venue itself.

“Singing in the Amp is so special,” she said. “There’s an atmosphere and a vibe about it that is pretty hard to duplicate elsewhere.”

Vahn Armstrong, CSO violinist and concertmaster, called this concert a “great opportunity” for these young performers.

For some of the Young Artists, this performance may present “the best orchestra and professional situation they’ve ever had a chance to be in,” Armstrong said. “It’s a big night for them. They get a chance to step out and shine.”

Armstrong recalls having a similar moment as a emerging musician himself, and is excited to witness more young artists share the experience of performing with a full-scale orchestra.

“It’s all first-class,” Chafetz said. “They always have amazing singers during this concert, and it’s always one of my favorite shows.”

Steven Osgood, general and artistic director of Chautauqua Opera Company and Conservatory, will serve as master of ceremonies for this collaborative concert.

“Everybody had a hand in making this a success,” Rausch said.


The author Arden Ryan

Summer 2022 marks Arden’s sixth season working for the Daily. A longtime Chautauquan, he is excited to continue supervising the Daily’s newsies. Following his editorial debut last season, Arden plans to write more articles this summer. He is an incoming freshman at Carnegie Mellon University, and he is interested in studying English and international relations. If he’s not around the Daily office, Arden can be found reading, swimming or sailing.