Opera in Summer

Opera in Summer

Jenna Simeonov

We’re nearing the end of Summer Program Season, people. As a veteran of SPs myself, I always wonder about the young folks that went to OperaNUOVA or COSI or COAA/AEDO or the Halifax Summer Opera Festival or St. Andrews-by-the-Sea or any of those Canadian summer staples. I wonder which of the singers had one of those “aha!” lessons with a new teacher, or performed their first major role in an opera, or found out they were really into Alexander Technique. I wonder about the pianists who might have worked on their very first opera, and if they got along with their conductor and learned the art of turning ten fingers into an orchestra. I wonder if they realized that not all singers are stupid, that some of them are downright awesome.

I remember spending the summer of 2007 high on music. I went to OperaNUOVA, and then to the Banff Centre’s Opera as Theatre Program, and I just couldn’t get enough. I sat in plenty of voice lessons that eventually gave me the building blocks to becoming a vocal coach. I failed miserably at following a conductor’s artful rubato, and mentally flogged myself for not being able to read maestro’s mind. I played in acting coachings and learned what happens to a singer’s voice when they finally figure out their dramatic intent. I watched endless masterclasses, noting how Michael McMahon or Martin Katz or Martin Isepp were able to hone in on a singer’s technical issue and work with them to produce marked results within their 20-30min time slot.

I wonder if the opera newbies have gotten a taste of the difficult, beautiful phenomenon of meeting friends and colleauges in this industry. They’ve realized that this huge love of opera and music is shared by the people around them, and that it brings people together like glue. The days and nights in rehearsal, perhaps living communally, sharing meals and drinks in the same few spots again and again, all result in inside jokes that would make an outsider’s eyes roll, and bonds that really do last forever. Their colleagues have probably become their great friends, and they’ll continue to miss each other and catch right back up the next time their opera paths cross. The missing of friends and the fast collecting of new ones will be a constant if these SP-goers decide to continue their life in opera, and it’s simply one more thing to learn, and learn to love.

Summer programs are concentrated chunks of time where everything is sped up. The meeting of new people is almost forced, and there’s nothing better at breaking down walls than those terrifying acting classes, early morning yoga sessions or spending weeks together in a show. Also, group excursions to the water park in West Ed Mall will do the trick. Lessons with new teachers and coaches come with much anticipation, and when both student and teacher exist in a new, neutral environment (one that is simply “away”), the work tends to get beautifully distilled into moments of lightbulbs and high fives.

So, I wonder who has recently gotten high on opera this summer. I wonder if someone’s first trip to Italy has changed them, or if they’ve sat in their very first, honest-to-goodness sitzprobe with an honest-to-goodness orchestra. I wonder if they’ve been inspired by their newfound colleagues, or learned a new warm-up, or managed to sit in lotus position. I wonder if they discovered La Rotonda, or the Sugar Bowl, or lobster, or the ocean. My memories from those first few exhaustingly inspiring years are littered with Hudson’s, magpies, mosquitoes, Tender Times, Seattle’s Best, mountains, green figs, grappa, and of course endless sheets of music. I know I’m not old enough for this all to have changed too much, and it thrills me to think of how many full hearts have traveled home with a new love for this business.

If you’re one of these cheesy folks I’m talking about, tell me all about it in the comments below.

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