Hot off the press. Video Clips from 2013 production of Puccini’s La Rondine.
CURRENT SUMMER PLANS
As of today we have great news. Baritone Ted Federle, will be an apprentice artist at Chautauqua this summer singing the role of Ned Keene in Peter Grimes and cover the role of Ford in Falstaff. He will be joined by studio artists Jesse Darden, tenor and Kate Farrar, mezzo-soprano. Jesse will cover Bob Boles in Peter Grimes and Fenton in Falstaff and Kate will sing in the ensemble. Ted and Jesse are students of Marilyn Taylor, Kate is a student of Marion Pratnicki.
Tenor Jonathan Johnson will be attending Aspen Music Fesitval this summer. He will sing the title role in Candide and sing in the ensemble of Peter Grimes with Anthony Dean Griffey. Jonathan and Mr. Griffey are students of Marilyn Taylor.
RECENT ALUMNI NEWS
René Barbera made his Michigan Opera Theatre debut as Almaviva in Il barbieri di Siviglia and his Lyric Opera Of Chicago debut as Ernesto in Don Pasquale. He was recently featured in Opera News. To view this article, click here. He will make his Sante Fe opera debut this summer. He continues to study with Marilyn Taylor.
Bass-Baritone Richard Ollarsaba, currently a young artist at Minnesota Opera won the District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and will sing in the regional competition in Feburary. Richard is a student of Marilyn Taylor
Baritone Johsua Conyers, currently completing his masters degree at Indiana University recieved an enouragement award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Bloomington and was first place winner at the S. Livingston Mather Vocal Competition in Cleaveland. He will be a young artist this summer at Sante Fe Opera. Joshua was a student of Marilyn Taylor.
Soprano Jodi Burns was the soprano soloist with the North Carolina Symphony for Handel’s Messiah. Jodi continues to study with Marilyn Taylor.
Are you interested in learning more and catching up with our alumni? Check out this newsletter for the latest info on some of our successful alums. Follow this link http://www.fletcheropera.com/people/vocal-fold-sings/
WASHINGTON, September 18, 2012 – The Washington Concert Opera got its short season off to a smashing start this past Sunday afternoon at GWU’s Lisner Auditorium with an absolutely dazzling performance of Bellini’s bel canto opera, La Sonnambula (“The Sleepwalker”). Not heard in DC, we are told, since the mid-1980s, WCO’s kick-off performance brought this feisty little company back into the bel canto repertoire for which they’re most cherished in this city.
Actually, WCO had a little inadvertent competition from WNO (Washington National Opera) this weekend as the latter company opened its own season with a fully staged and entirely different production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena at the Kennedy Center. WNO’s performances are fully staged, of course, while WCO presents the music and singing with little in the way of props, focusing purely on the score. This approach makes WCO’s tickets more affordable. But it also enables this company to highlight phenomenal singers that, for various reasons, you might never get a chance to see in a full production.
Possessing a flimsier, less dramatic plot than Bolena and set in the placid Swiss countryside, Sonnambula is a more delicate, nuanced score that highlights Bellini’s greatest compositional strengths—beautiful, long-lasting melodic excursions along with stratospheric vocal leaps. These latter bits of showmanship, however, are in themselves rather tasteful as they occur only at infrequent intervals, saving the singer from wearing out, and the listener from being too agitated as he or she awaits these short but important moments of vocal truth.
Sonnambula’s tissue-thin plot involves a pair of dueling young women—well, one of them, the innkeeper Lisa (soprano Maureen McKay), is doing the dueling—who both have fallen in love with the same guy, Elvino (tenor René Barbera), who’s described as a “wealthy young landowner.”
The winner in the Elvino sweepstakes is the demure, self-effacing Amina (soprano Eglise Guttiérez). Much beloved by the townspeople, she’s a onetime orphan who was adopted by the mill owner Teresa (mezzo-soprano Madeline Gray).
In disguise, Count Rodolfo (baritone Ben Wager) drops into town after many years’ absence in order to move back into the ancestral castle he’s inherited. But Lisa sees through his disguise in a millisecond—as do the villagers—and offers to put him up at her inn for the night since it’s already too late to get to the distant castle that evening.
While ensconced in his room, he’s visited by a “ghost” that’s been frightening villagers, who actually turns out to be the hapless Amina. For it is she who is this opera’s eponymous sleepwalker. Compounding this strange situation in the Count’s room, she unluckily falls back to sleep. Which allows Lisa to discover her rival’s “compromising” situation and torpedo her impending marriage to Elvino by broadcasting Amina’s alleged transgression throughout the town. Not to worry, though. Things all get sorted out in the end, and the “nice” girl gets to live happily ever after.
What we ourselves end up with is a nice little domestic comedy-farce. Its amusing plot offered the composer ample opportunity to set down charming, romantic solos, duets, and ensembles. These are punctuated by a few pages here and there of exciting martial music as the story’s various dramatic plot turns come to the fore. The entire work is an easy to listen to delight. Sunday’s audience simply loved it to death for all the right reasons: they heard gorgeous music graciously performed by singers unafraid to mine each exquisite line’s emotional core.
Key soloists in this work were our heroine, Amina, her suitor Elvino, her rival Lisa, and finally, the befuddled but good-natured Count. The singers performed each part with lightness and grace, and the WCO orchestra under the baton of Maestro Antony Walker—who serves as the company’s artistic director—accompanied them with their accustomed sensitivity. But they also let things rip during moments when they themselves were center stage.
As Elvino, Mr. Barbera was most impressive, boasting a clarion tenor whose authority was unmistakable at every entrance. Clean and unencumbered by any affectation, his instrument always rang true and his vocal lines were remarkable for their precise and gracious phrasing.
As Amina, Ms. Gutiérrez, whom we had not heard prior to this performance, proved to be a treasure as well. Given the most taxing music in the score, she generally navigated both simple and wickedly complex passages with the greatest of ease, providing many of the most thrilling moments for an enthusiastic WCO audience. Her voice did desert her for two or three brief moments during her frequent excursions to the top, and her face betrayed a bit of self-irritation at this during the curtain call.
But she needn’t have worried. The audience easily forgave those ephemeral millisecond lapses, focusing instead on the extraordinary, intense artistry she radiated throughout her performance. And this is live music, after all, with no second takes to hide behind as in a recording studio.
As Lisa, Ms. McKay proved more delightful than malevolent as Bellini’s designated villain. She really has nothing against Amina other than the fact that she herself wanted to marry Elvino. Ms. McKay vocally alternates an almost syrupy charm when she’s pleased with herself, and an almost adolescent petulance when things go the other way. We recall her fine performance as Johanna in Wolf Trap Opera’s Sweeney Todd some time back, and it’s clear that she has continued to grow as a fine young artist whose career is now well on its way.
Ben Wager clearly had fun Sunday in his role as Count Rodolfo. Rodolfo, as the town’s returning ruler, is clearly in a position of authority, but seems to gently bungle it at every turn as he’s ensnared into the town’s real and imagined ghost story which complicates the upcoming nuptials of Amina and Elvino. Mr. Wager’s acting skills—even in concert opera—combined with excellent phrasing and diction and a steady vocal attack, lent to his character a nearly perfect balance graciousness, forthrightness, and frustration, burnishing the light, comic moments of this opera.
While the role of Teresa is a small one, Madeleine Gray brought to it a fine dignity that allowed her character to believably take some difficult situations in hand and bring her confused daughter, fiancé, and others to a satisfying denouement.
The worst thing about Sunday’s performance is that it’s over, which forces us to wait until next April 7, when WCO will perform Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda in its second and final performance of this season. We’ll be there. But in the meantime we’ll continue to bask in the sheer, remembered joy of this company’s wonderfully realized La Sonnambula.
Richard Ollarsaba has just been accepted into the Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago. He graduated in May 2012 and since then has been a fellow at the Tanglewood Institute where he was chosen as a soloist for the 75th Anniversary Celebration of Tanglewood that was broadcast on PBS. He is currently a young artist with Minnesota Opera. He will begin his work in Chicago in April 2013. Richard is a student of Dr. Marilyn Taylor.
HIGH POINT — Students at Johnson Street Global Studies in High Point got a special lesson Tuesday as they learned an anti-bullying message through opera. It is a theme organizers plan to take to 30 elementary schools across the Triad.
For many of the students, it’s their first time being exposed to opera. “What they do is take childhood stories, in this case it’s the Billy Goats Gruff, last year it was 3 little Pigs and the recreate the story with a message,” said UNC School of the Arts graduate student Jennifer Lazarz.
The message is an important one: what to do when being bullied.
“It goes about it in many different ways. The kids try to figure out should we cross it on our own? Should we go get our parents? Should I stand up to the bully and so it’s a good way for discussion when its over to say which goat handled it the best and how did it work out?,” said Fletcher Opera Institute Managing Director Steven LaCosse.
Anyone who may think elementary students would not find opera interesting, has missed the mark.
“What amazes me each time is how glued the kids are to that live performance. They really sit and they’re like in the story, they believe it. We have very little scenery, very little real props, they just come out and tell the story. And the kids just, their imaginations are quite active,” LaCosse said.
Organizers hope through the program, students get some valuable information but also grow an interest in opera. The performers are graduate level students at UNC School of the Arts. The group will travel to other schools through out the Triad in the coming months to continue spreading their message to students.
The loss to illness of the scheduled Tamino, Charles Castronovo, little more than a week before the opening could have spelled disaster. Fortunately, tenor Rene Barbera, one of the star alums of Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center, was available and saved the day splendidly. Barbera, who had portrayed the fearless hero in Lyric’s student performances last season, flung robust, clarion tones to the farthest reaches of the theater, always singing with lyrical refinement.
–Chicago Tribune, August 2012
Barbera was a first-class replacement for American tenor Charles Castronovo, who canceled due to illness. A star member of Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center training program, Barbera has a muscular tenor, with open top notes and a dusky undercurrent. Even without the benefit of sets and costumes, his Tamino was a convincingly courageous prince.
–Chicago Sun Times, August 2012
Before bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba enrolled as a student this summer at the Tanglewood Music Center, he was told he’d be a featured singer in Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” as part of his studies there. But that’s all he knew before arriving at the center, which is the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s famed summer academy in western Massachusetts.
“They designate these projects for us before we even get there,” he said. “I didn’t even realize it was going to be … with all these people who are world-renowned performers and conductors and with a world-class orchestra.”
He does now — as will millions more — when they tune into the taped broadcast of PBS’ “Great Performances,” which will air tonight on UNC-TV.
Ollarsaba, 25, received a professional-artist certificate and a master’s degree from the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at UNC School of the Arts in 2012 and 2011, respectively.
On July 14, just weeks after leaving UNCSA, he was the bass soloist in “Choral Fantasy,” which the Boston Symphony Orchestra presented as part of the “Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Celebration” gala concert. The Boston Symphony, one of the world’s leading orchestras, also performs many times each summer at Tanglewood, which is revered as a kind of mecca by players and fans of classical music.
The gala concert featured appearances by several virtuosos, including pianist Emanuel Ax, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. In the performance of the fantasy — a work for solo piano, chorus and orchestra (1808) — star pianist Peter Serkin teamed up with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Ollarsaba and five other solo singers. David Zinman conducted.
“It was incredible to be asked to take part in this milestone celebration,” Ollarsaba said. “I found it to be a very happy, great undertaking.”
Marilyn Taylor was Ollarsaba’s instructor at UNCSA. She said she was very proud of him and other students she has taught. Several have either won important competitions or secured engagements that can move a fledgling career along.
“We can do all the instructing that we want,” she said. “When you’re up there, you’re on your own.”
Ollarsaba called the fantasy a “Reader’s Digest version” of the composer’s monumental Ninth Symphony.
“It has all the great (instrumental) music in the beginning,” he said. “But he saves all the voices, and especially the chorus, until the very end. What’s going through your head when you’re under that kind of pressure? You just hope you get your words right, really, because you know that everyone’s watching you.”
Ollarsaba sang his parts in harmony with two other male singers.
“As long as the three of us are singing the same words at the same time, I will be good,” Ollarsaba said.
Ollarsaba, a native of Tempe, Ariz., was busy while he was in Winston-Salem. He performed several roles at Fletcher and for Piedmont Opera, which enjoys close ties with the school.
The last opera role he sang here was Reverend Hale in Piedmont Opera’s acclaimed March production of “The Crucible,” Robert Ward’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera from 1962. And this past May, Ollarsaba sang three bass arias with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra.
Ollarsaba is to perform several more times this summer at Tanglewood, following in the footsteps of such other Tanglewood students as the late Leonard Bernstein and Wade Weast, a trumpeter and the music dean at UNCSA. Ollarsaba is immersing himself in music that is more contemporary than the fantasy. He is singing much of it in Swedish or Russian — two languages that student singers encounter less than French, Italian and German (the language of the fantasy text).
After leaving Tanglewood, Ollarsaba will join the resident-artist program for emerging singers at Minnesota Opera. Though he’s clearly on opera’s fast track, he also would like to maintain a foothold in the world of vocal music accompanied by orchestra.
“Hopefully, with this performance that will be broadcast (tonight), more opportunities will open up both ways,” he said.
Taylor seemed optimistic about Ollarsaba’s prospects.
“When I first heard him, I said, ‘He’s going to do this. Lots of people will be interested in him.’ That’s proven to be true.”
See article at journalnow.com
Kristin Schwecke, Jonathan Johnson and David Weigel will perform Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue with the UNCSA Orchestra on September 29, 2012 at the Stevens Center of the UNC School of the Arts. Artistic Director James Allbritten will conduct.
Debussy’s piece tells the story of the prodigal son, Azael (Jonathan Johnson), who becomes an outcast after leaving his home to pursue the world’s extravagant and excessive pleasures. He eventually returns home to his parents, Lia (Kristin Schwecke) and Simeon (David Weigel), who lovingly welcome him home with forgiving hearts. All three fellows study with Dr. Marilyn Taylor.
An Evening at the Opera
featuring memebers of the A. J. Fletcher Opera Institute
James Allbritten, musical director
Angela Vanstory Ward, musical preparation/pianist
Steven LaCosse, stage director
Friday, September 28, 2012
7:30 PM — Admission Free
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)
Libretto by Emanuell Schikaneder
Die Zauberflöte premiered at the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna on September 30, 1791
Act I, Scene I
Erste Dame Kristin Schwecke
Zweite Dame Kate Farrar
Dritte Dame Jennifer Lazarz
Tamino Jonathan Johnson
Papageno Steven Slupe
Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L’inutile precauzione
Music by Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868)
Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
based on Pierre Beaumarchais’s comedy Le Barbier de Séville
Il barbiere di Siviglia premiered at the Teatro Argentina, Rome on February 20, 1816
Act III Trio
Rosina Jennifer Lazarz
Count Almaviva Jesse Darden
Figaro Steven Slupe
Music by Gaetano Donizetti (1797 – 1848)
Libretto by Felice Romani
based on Enrcio VIII ossia Anna Bolena by Ippolito Pindemonte and Anna Bolenaby Alessdandro Peopli
Anna Bolena premiered at the Teatro Carcano in Milna on December 26, 1830
Act II, Scene I Duet
Giovanna Seymour Kate Farrar
Enrico David Weigel
Music by Jules Massenet
libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille
based on the novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost
Manon premiered t the Opéra-Comique in Paris on January 19, 1884
Act II Complete
Manon Catherine Park
Des Grieux Jesse Darden
De Brétigny Steven Slupe
Lescaut David Weigel
Maid Kate Farrar
Music by Jules Massenet (1842 – 1912)
Libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann
based on Johann Wolfgana von Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers
Werther premiered at the Hofoper in Vienna on February 16, 1892
Act III Scene and Aria
Sophie Catherine Park
Charlotte Jennifer Lazarz