Abby Kreh Gibson, Guild Education Committee Chair, introduces the evening's program.
Abby Kreh Gibson, Guild Education Committee Chair, introduces the evening's program.

On Monday, the Guild continued its “Talking Opera” series with a round table discussion with members of our 2010 Young American Artists Program. Michael Heaston, the program’s director, also joined the group, and the discussion was moderated by Guild Vice President Tom Simpson.

Many have heard that Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artists Program has a stellar reputation in the opera industry, but on Monday, we had the opportunity to learn more about why the program has such a great reputation.

Heaston explained that the program’s mission involves education through performance. Members of the program receive coachings and attend master classes in between rehearsals. Each member likely covers, or understudies, a major role and sings a minor role in one of the Festival productions. Members also sing in the chorus and present solo recitals in Cooperstown and Cherry Valley.  

“We work to give artists a comfortable surrounding in which to experiment and develop their own artistry,” Heaston said of the program.  

Each year between 700 and 800 people apply for the summer program. They submit a resume, headshot and audio recording. About 250 people are selected to be heard in the live auditions, which take place in New York City, Cincinnati, Miami and other major cities. Between 30 and 40 singers are chosen to join the program, depending on the needs of the current season.

“This year, due to the fact that we are doing The Tender Land with an all young artist cast, we actually have the largest program we’ve ever had,” Heaston said.

The 2010 Young American Artists Program has 36 singers and two coach/accompanists. You can meet them here.

Simpson and the panel of Young American Artists
Simpson and the panel of Young American Artists

Simpson asked the three Young American Artists on the panel, Jessica Cates, Michael Krzankowski and Annie Rosen, how they found the audition process. Krzankowski was a member of the 2009 program and sang the role of Barone Douphol in La Traviata. Alumni have to re-audition to enter the program again.  

 “It certainly wasn’t easier the second time around,” he said. Krzankowski, who this summer covers the Count in The Marriage of Figaro, said he learned a great deal during his time in the 2009 program. “I wanted to come back for a second year because the coaches are fantastic,” he said.

The panel discussed the unique aspects of the program, one of which is the opportunity for young artists to be seen and heard on the main stage, but also in audition for agents, impresarios from other opera houses, symphony conductors, etc. The Young American Artists will sing for anywhere from 40 to 60 people over the course of four to five weekends in the summer.  

Every year artists leave with contracts to sing or cover roles, or they secure management, Heaston said. Krzankowski was able to secure management after his last summer with Glimmerglass Opera.  

Simpson asked the young artists if they listen to established singers to learn or to prepare for a role.  

“I just wrote a 20-page paper on this, actually,” Cates said, referencing her recent master’s from the University of Tennessee.  “There is so much to be learned. I love to listen, and to watch – with YouTube we can watch singers and how they perform.”

Audience members heard about the singers’ experiences and expectations, how a family’s support can make all the difference, and how it’s important to take one day at a time. Audience members had the opportunity to mingle with the young artists after the presentation.

The “Talking Opera” series continues Monday, June 14, with a season preview from Music Director David Angus. Angus will speak at Christ Church in Cooperstown at 7 p.m.

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