Much-beloved Sing-Out returns, bidding adieu to summer

Chautauqua Opera Conservatory student Soren Pedersen performs “Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen,” from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt with pianist Joel Harder as Marlena Malas coaches via teleconference Tuesday afternoon in Studio 5 behind McKnight Hall. Brett Phelps/Staff Photographer

Zoe Kolenovsky
Staff writer

To close out the season, Chautauquans are invited to witness all 46 students of the Chautauqua Opera Conservatory come together to showcase their artistic development in the Sing-Out, a longtime community favorite.

The concert begins at 1 p.m. today in Fletcher Music Hall. It is a particularly special day for the program, as the event will mark the Sing-Out’s first recurrence since the 2019 season due to COVID-related restrictions in previous years.

“It’s all for them,” said John Matsumoto Giampietro, associate director of the Conservatory. “It’s a chance for them to unwind and to relax and have fun and enjoy the singing.”

The Sing-Out is designed as a complement to the Sing-In, which takes place at the beginning of the season. There, each of the students performs a piece to showcase their vocal range, introducing themselves to the Chautauqua community and reacquainting faculty members with their voices.

“We would see their auditions in October, and eight months later here we are,” said Matsumoto Giampietro. “It’s for us to get acquainted with them and see where they are and to have that sort of baseline.”

In some cases, the students’ Sing-In performances are used by Opera Conservatory Director Marlena Malas to cast the three major productions of the summer. They also inform faculty members about which skills to work on with each student over the course of the seven-week season.

“I think what makes this program so unique is just the amount of individual attention you get in terms of lessons and coachings,” said tenor Jackson Allen. “You really get the sense that people care about you individually.”

During their time with the program, students have the opportunity to work with resident and guest faculty members in a variety of training styles. A rigorous schedule of individual lessons and coachings, staged production rehearsals and masterclasses with leaders in the field leaves many students able to achieve a massive amount of growth in a relatively short period of time.

“I think everyone, we went through so (many) performances and we … met all kinds of people who came in and out for masterclass(es),” said soprano Irene Shin. “They were all so mind-blowing and -changing.”

This is Allen’s second summer at Chautauqua, and he said faculty feedback had an impact on his artistic development; he remembered displaying noticeable improvement after last year’s season.

“I got comments last year, coming back to school after having gone to Chautauqua, about the improvement,” he said. “I think it’s just because … you can focus so much on the visitor classes … and get to hear people from all over the country or other countries. There’s such great singers here.”

Allen said he has been able to learn as much from his fellow students as the faculty members, since the Conservatory attracts young artists from all over the world to hone their voices.

Soprano Marquita Richardson said she developed particularly strong bonds  this summer as a result of working together on the July 17 production of Suor Angelica.

“It’s been wonderful to work with a cast of young professionals, some of which I knew before coming and many of which are new friends to me,” she said.

In addition to gaining professional and creative insight from each other, Richardson said they provided one another with a level of emotional support that was essential to thriving in such a demanding program. 

“I really enjoy just the little moments where we connect or somebody cracks a joke,” she said. 

This support extended to the more difficult moments where the students would “talk each other through or support each other. It’s been a wonderful experience,” she said.

Some of the students are collaborating with one another in today’s Sing-Out, which features a number of solo, duet and trio pieces all chosen by the students themselves.

Mezzo Hope Nelson is performing in a trio with friends Allen and Maya Goell, a soprano. They attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music together and are excited to bring back an old favorite for today’s performance.

“We would always do these … party pieces that everybody loves, so we’re bringing one of those out to liven up the concert,” she said. “It’s fun for us to reminisce.”

Matsumoto Giampietro said the point of today’s performance is for the students to enjoy themselves doing what they love.

“(It’s) a chance to see how much they’ve grown, but it’s also more for them to have fun,” he said. “This event is mainly for them to just sort of release it all.”

Mezzo Matilda Smolij echoed this sentiment.

“The thing that I’ve learned this summer is that you put in all the work in lessons, coachings, masterclasses, and the practice room, but the thing that will take you farthest is leaning into the joy of performing,” she said.

Matsumoto Giampietro confirmed: “It’s just singing for the pure joy of singing, for the community, and to say thank you and goodbye.”


The author Zoe Kolenovsky