Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The HGO Studio / Wolf Trap connection

On reading Kim Wittman’s blog posting here a couple of weeks ago, I have to admit that my first reaction was one of envious amazement that she has time to write posts for OTHER PEOPLE! It’s impressive enough that she’s such a religious poster on her own blog, considering the many varied demands on her time, surely she can leave my blog alone and stop making me look bad…

Once I got over myself, I got to thinking about the similarities between Wolf Trap and HGO Studio. I’ve often been asked whether there’s an official link between the two programs – the answer is a clear no, but the question raises some interesting issues.

HGO Studio only operates September-May – and therefore HGO Studio Artists are only paid for that nine-month period, even when they’re returning for the next season. It’s a definite part of our philosophy that performance experience is a valuable training opportunity – so while HGO is not performing over the summer months, we encourage our Studio Artists to go out to the places which are. They need to ply their trade in other places, learn other systems, make other contacts, and experience different worlds.

There are many summer jobs out there for young opera singers – Aspen, Chautauqua, Glimmerglass, Merola, Ravinia, Santa Fe, St Louis, Tanglewood – and those are just the first ones to spring to mind. Each is very different – some places are geared more to training than performance; at others, there’s very little formal training but you’re on stage every night for months singing in the chorus. Some give recital opportunities; some concentrate on opera. Each has huge strength. So, when there are so many choices out there, why is it that there’s a perceived connection between us and Wolf Trap? Why is it that four of this year’s 11 Studio Artists have chosen to head there this coming summer?

In short, I think the answer is one of ethos. HGO Studio’s stated aim for its Artists is to help them develop their individuality as performers – to become inspired and inspirational artists as well as highly-trained musicians. Wolf Trap responds to the fact the HGO Artists have something to say – remember the WT panel has to be inspired enough in an audition to want to program an opera for the person in front of them! You’ve got to make a unique impression for that to happen – it’s a rather different audition mindset than “we need ten tenors for the chorus of Tosca”.

So I am excitedly making my travel plans for the Summer, to try to take in all three Wolf Trap productions – Zaide, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Il turco in Italia – to watch Catherine Martin, Nathaniel Peake and Michael Sumuel take center stage and tackle the sort of roles which are still a few years off on the HGO stage (and to catch up with Stephanie Rhodes who will be working on music staff there). I know they will each return to HGO in September different, and better, because of those months working away. For those of you who are interested in opera as theater, music as communication, and Studio Artists as the stars of the future, I encourage you to join me.