Catching Up

Hear ye! Hear ye! The long-awaited end of my blogging hiatus has come! I’m sure all of you were despondent and inconsolable over the past few months…

…but fear not! I return to the blogosphere bearing good news. Over the past few months, I’ve been busy—as have many of my peers—with not only the daily duties of degree work, but also with a sometimes seemingly interminable series of auditions. From as early as August through to March (and even later in some instances), young operatic hopefuls trek collectively to New York City (or another major metropolis) to sing their arias for the “powers that be”—a 5-to-10-minute sales pitch that nearly every singer must make as he or she begins professional development and career building. Now that the dust (or most of it) has cleared, I can happily report that this audition season was an extremely rewarding one for me.

Through all the stress and the worry, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Glimmerglass Festival this summer, a young artist training program where I will have the opportunity to work with some of the profession’s best and brightest and get invaluable advice and guidance as I leave the “ivory tower” and enter the “real world.” Speaking of real world, I was also lucky enough to be accepted into Minnesota Opera’s resident artist program; I will join the company for their 2014-15 season, singing small roles and covering some of opera’s finest professional singers. I managed to win a little money along the way, too (never hurts), receiving encouragement awards and financial prizes from both the George London Foundation and the Mid-Atlantic region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions.

And my last few months have not just been filled with auditions and acceptance letters—I also had some extremely valuable performance experiences, both at WCC and with professional companies. Two, in particular, stand out. First, I had the immense honor of singing in Gotham Chamber Opera’s January production of Charpentier’s rarely heard Baroque gem, La descente d’Orphée aux enfers, performed at St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City; conducted by the company’s artistic director, Neal Goren; and featuring the very fine harpsichord chops of one William Hobbs, director of the WCC opera theater department! A beautiful, intimate piece built with a cornucopia of colors and textures, this opera was an eye-opener for me musically and professionally, giving me the opportunity to see what it’s like to actually work in the industry. I had some truly exceptional colleagues in the production, and I have not stopped thinking about this experience since we closed the show.

The other performance experience I had—also in January—was a production of Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, performed here at WCC under the auspices of the CoOPERAtive Program, one of WCC’s summer programs co-directed by voice professors Laura Brooks Rice and Christopher Arneson. Conducted by Anthony Manoli, a tremendous vocal coach, and directed by David Paul, who is directing our spring opera production currently (more on that later), the production featured WCC and CoOPERAtive students—past and present—in a variety of roles. It was wonderful to put together a show with some of my closest friends and peers, and the work we did in just a week (!) makes me extremely proud and honored to have been a part of that venture.

All of this—my auditions, my shows, my opportunities on the horizon—would never have been possible without the support I have received from countless faculty, staff, and students here at WCC. I never stopped noticing how comfortable I was—how focused, how prepared—when I stepped onto a stage or into an audition room. The skills and lessons I have learned and received at WCC have made me a better singer, a better artist and musician, and a better person. I look ahead, past my impending graduation date, not with trepidation, but with exhilaration—because I know I will (fingers crossed!) receive my graduate degree from a truly exceptional educational institution. And this is just MY story! So many of my peers have experienced similarly rewarding successes and accomplishments in just the past few months alone. WCC boasts a truly impressive roster of smart, hardworking, talented students and teachers—and I am humbled every day to be a part of such a vibrant, caring community.

So…there’s my shameless plug, for myself and for the school. And NOW…here’s my shameless plug for the opera theater department at WCC—small, but mighty!

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Britten’s operatic masterpiece, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with one of the school’s finest vocal coaches (and a dear friend), Susan Ashbaker. As some of you may remember, this opera was the school’s fall production last year. Ms. Ashbaker knew quite a few members of the cast, having coached them when they were in school, and because of this, I had the opportunity to go backstage and meet several of them (including the man who sang Bottom, English bass Matthew Rose). All were exceptional, and it is one of the best shows I’ve seen, in all aspects of the production.

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Here I am as Bottom in last year’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

 

But I couldn’t help thinking for much of the night…they’ve got NOTHING on us! Seriously, I was reminded how entertaining and magical WCC’s production of this piece was—and this speaks, more than anything, to the outstanding caliber of work done by our opera theater department. Run almost single-handedly by William Hobbs—professor, conductor, coach, and all-around marvelous musician—the opera theater department has presented a varied slate of shows during Professor Hobbs’ tenure, ranging from Handel’s Alcina to Mozart’s Così fan tutte to Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann to the Britten mentioned above. Providing students with invaluable stage experience and camaraderie in music making, the opera theater department is a jewel in the WCC crown, continually growing and mounting ever-more-daring productions.

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I played the villains in last season’s production of The Tales of Hoffmann.

This semester—in just over a week!—WCC will be presenting Tchaikovsky’s one-act masterpiece, Iolanta. Featuring an orchestration by Prof. Hobbs himself, the show is led by David Paul—a favorite guest director of the school—who boasts an impressive résumé of professional accomplishments and an insightful, captivating artistic vision. To work under the guidance of these two gentlemen (in case you haven’t guessed, I’m in the show) is a privilege, a never-ending learning experience that is simply staggering. The cast of the show highlights the depth of talent we have at this school, and I can say enthusiastically that this has been a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

So: if you are in Princeton on the evenings of April 3, 4, or 5 and are looking for some fine music—the good ol’ Westminster Playhouse is where you want to be! More information on our production of Iolanta can be found on the WCC website here: http://www.rider.edu/wcc/events/westminster-opera-theatre-iolanta.

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LAST, but by no means least, I must extend a very heartfelt and excited congratulations to one of my closest friends and colleagues, Rexford Tester, a tenor and fellow second-year graduate student here at WCC. On Sunday afternoon, “RJ” (as he’s known to all here at school) advanced to the Finals round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, one of the most prestigious vocal competitions in the world. RJ will be competing in the finals this Sunday, March 30, at 3 pm, singing on the Met stage with orchestra! RJ is one of WCC’s finest ambassadors, and I could not be happier for him—it is well-deserved recognition! Good luck in the finals, buddy!

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Until next time, friends…come and see one of the many performances going on at WCC all the time. You will not be disappointed!

 

 

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