Young singers in Santa Fe: Stephen MartinInterview
Tenor Stephen Martin is a returning member of the Apprentice Singer program at Santa Fe Opera, after spending the 2016 season as an understudy in Roméo et Juliette and Capriccio. This summer, he sings Normanno in SFO’s Lucia di Lammermoor, sharing the stage with Brenda Rae in the title role, Mario Chang as Edgardo, and Zachary Nelson as Enrico.
Martin chats about the high expectations of the Apprentice Singer program and its participants, and the valuable opportunities for professional exposure at SFO.
Can you describe a day in the life of an apprentice singer at Santa Fe Opera?
Apprentice singers do all kinds of things at Santa Fe Opera. Much of our time at the beginning of the season is devoted to staging and music rehearsals for the various opera choruses that we are in, as well as rehearsals for the operas in which we have a role. Throughout the summer apprentices are also given the opportunity to have lessons and coachings with some of the best guest faculty in the country. As the season progresses, we have rehearsals for the scenes program, coachings in preparation for the house audition, fully staged cover runs for those who are covering roles, and opera performances at night. We are also offered additional gigs such as concerts in the area and singing for church services.
What appealed to you about the apprentice program?
A number of things: the quality of training and level of exposure given to the apprentices is remarkable. We receive a substantial amount of coaching and private lessons with guest artists and music staff, and most of us are singing roles on the main stage or covering roles. I also knew coming in that the apprentices are very well taken care of. We work very hard, but the staff has an acute sense of our needs and is very sensitive to putting us in a position where we can be most successful. The scenes program is a fully costumed and directed production where the apprentices are given the opportunity to be leads on the main stage.
Of course there is also the house audition, where directors, agents, and other music staff from opera houses from the United States and around the world attend to hear each apprentice sing an aria. It’s huge exposure for us.
What do you think is an important part of being a good understudy?
Showing up 100% prepared and ready to perform is something that is noticed and not forgotten by music staff. At Santa Fe every opera has a fully staged cover run that is attended by a majority of the higher-ups at the opera. Being an understudy gives you a fantastic opportunity show not only that you can sing, but that you also have the ability to learn music well and be a good and professional colleague. Being a good understudy can get you future jobs!
How have you been spending your free time outside of rehearsals?
We very often go on hikes through the mountains, explore downtown, and try all of the New Mexican cuisine. Though there are over 40 of us, the apprentices are very close, and we very often spend a lot of our down time together.
Are there any highlights of the summer you’re particularly looking forward to?
There are a few that I’m especially excited about: This year I’m singing the role of Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor, and performing a role on the Santa Fe Opera stage is especially exhilarating. I’m also very much looking forward to singing a scene from Wagner’s Rienzi in the scenes program, performing in the house audition, and I am very excited to see the world premiere of The ®evolution of Steve Jobs by Mason Bates.