Opera in the Undergraduate Program
|Undergraduates Laura Virella and Richard Mosson in Candide|
Although our major productions are cast by auditions open to all, it is not usual for undergraduates to come to Peabody and be given roles in full productions during their first year or so. This is not simply a matter of seniority. Opera places demands on the singer which cannot be met unless he or she has a secure technique; the first priority, therefore, is for the student to work with the teacher to build firm vocal foundations. On the other hand, there are several opera classes which can teach necessary stage techniques without making great vocal demands. The normal course is for students to take Movement for the Stage in their first year and Acting for Opera in their second; the latter class also includes performance segments which gradually increase in scale. Underclassmen may volunteer to sing chorus in the major productions; they quite frequently get cast in one of the smaller productions described below; and of course it is always possible that they might happen to fill a particular need in a major production of the Opera Theatre.
The Opera Department mounts about 8 productions each year, for a combined total of around 40 performances. The various names — Opera Workshop, Opera Outreach, Chamber Opera, and Opera Theatre — may sound confusing; they differ mainly in the size of the accompanying forces (from piano solo to full orchestra) and in the proportion of the budget that is spent upon costumes and decor:
- Opera Workshop
Potpourri scenes, and occasionally complete one-act operas, when
presented with piano accompaniment in a simple staging without decor. All
in the original language, and single-cast. Generally two programs per
year, with one performance of each. The Opera Workshop also produces the
Opera Études, which
are described more fully elsewhere.
- Opera Outreach
- Although theoretically a part of Opera Workshop, in that these
productions are also given with piano, they differ by being performed
off-campus in multiple performances to a variety of audiences. We always
have one production of a standard opera in condensed form — either
Hansel and Gretel or The Magic Flute
— which we take around grade schools. This has two casts, and
sometimes even three, who give 8–10 performances each, spread out
over the whole year. Some years, we also offer a musical theater cabaret for
older audiences. Internally, the outreach program provides one of the best
ways for intermediate students to build up performance experience in front
of eager and responsive audiences.
- Peabody Chamber Opera
- The Chamber Opera presents complete productions of operas calling for
smaller stage and instrumental forces than our mainstage productions.
These productions are given with simple scenery and full costumes; they
are sung in the original languages and accompanied by a small orchestra.
They tend to fall into two categories: baroque and modern. The baroque programs have
included double- or triple-bills of shorter pieces by composers such as
Charpentier, Purcell, and Rameau, and occasionally full-evening works such
as Monteverdi’s Orfeo,
(in our own scholarly edition), or —
from a much earlier period — Hildegarde von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum. More
modern works have included Conrad Susa’s Transformations,
Daniel Crozier’s With Blood, With Ink (a work originally
developed at Peabody and now slated for performance by the New York City
Opera), the Peter Brook adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen, and Udo
Zimmermann’s Die Weisse
Rose. These productions are often given in off-campus locations.
All have multiple performances, and many roles are double-cast.
- Peabody Opera Theatre
- The Opera Theatre is the banner under which we present our largest
productions, with full orchestra, scenery, costumes, and lighting, in our
own hall. There is one production each semester. Inevitably, they take the
largest share of the production budget. In order to provide as many roles
as possible, we tend to select ensemble works rather than those which
depend on one or two star roles. Accordingly, we have done a lot of Mozart
and Britten, together with such landmark operas as
Ariadne auf Naxos, The Cunning Little Vixen, and
The Rake’s Progress.
Most productions are sung in the original language. All are double-cast,
with each cast giving two performances.
In all productions, preference in casting is given to full-time students in good academic standing.
|Shannon Angelakis and Nimrod Weisbrod in Così fan tutte|
Undergraduates may expect to have at least three performance assignments, and very often more, during the course of their time in the program. Most of these are performances with piano, but we always try to cast everybody in at least one production with orchestra (Opera Theatre or Chamber Opera) before they graduate, if possible. Admittedly, these may not be major roles, but there will always be exceptions: the two people passionately embracing in the photograph from Così fan tutte (Dorabella and Guglielmo) in the photograph above were a junior and freshman respectively at the time of the performance. Furthermore, all interested students get the possibility of taking part in at least one opera class each year. Assignments to most classes and all roles are made by means of Diagnostic Auditions held at the start of each year.
|All pictures by JESSE HELLMAN|
|An impromptu photo opportunity backstage during Falstaff|
Undergraduates who develop an unusual aptitude for opera may apply to be accepted into the Opera Performance Certificate track in their junior year; check the link for further information.Return to top Previous page Opera at Peabody home