Friday, August 11, 2006

 

The Young American Artists

Valerie M. Trujillo: Co-Director of the Young American Artists Program

We accept about 500 applications for the Young American Artists Program, which we narrow down to a number of singers we will hear in person. This year we accepted 27 singers and one pianist as an apprentice coach. Once the Young Artists arrive they begin rehearsing for the mainstage productions. Their responsibilities in each production vary between singing chorus, singing a role, or covering one. Every Young Artist is responsible for covering at least one role. They learn the music and also observe the principal artist in rehearsals. The Young Artists get an opportunity to sing the roles with staging in front of their colleagues and friends in a cover run. This allows them to get through the show once and make sure that they are comfortable with the staging in the event that they have to go on. This summer has already been quite eventful for covers. Hannah Sharene Penn went on as Rosina a few weeks ago, and Christian Reinert went on as Števa just the other day. They both did incredible jobs, and we couldn’t be happier. Many of these singers will get work as covers before they have mainstage roles so it is very important that we give them the proper training and experience as they begin their careers as singers.

Once the shows are up and running our attention turns to auditions. We bring in orchestra managers, artistic staff from opera companies, artist managers, and conductors to hear the Young Artists. This year we are bringing in about 45 people. By the end of the summer many of the Young Artists will have management, or have managers that are keeping an eye on them. It is wonderful exposure for them. We also do an opera scenes concert as a thank you to Cherry Valley, which is the town where all of the Young Artists and Coach/Accompanists live. The Assistant Directors stage the scenes and the Young Artists sing all of the roles. Each Young Artist also gives a recital of about forty-five minutes in length, and we encourage them to pick music that relates to the operas on the main stage that season. It also gives the pianists a chance to play something besides orchestral reductions.

The biggest event of this summer has been the world premiere of Stephen Hartke’s The Greater Good. We have six Young Artists in that cast, which is almost half of the roles. It is wonderful for them to get the opportunity to premiere a role in a new work at a company like this one. I think it also speaks to the program’s strength that for a piece of that level of difficulty we can put our Young Artists in those roles. This is certainly one of the few summer programs that offer mainstage roles to young singers. Many programs offer a lot of chorus and covering experience, but not roles. It is a very busy fourteen weeks that these singers have here, but I think my Co-Director Timothy Hoekman and I have done our best to make sure that they are getting the proper training and exposure to become successful singers.

Photo:
1. Elaine Alvarez, member of the Young American Artist Program, premieres the role of La Comtesse de Bréville in The Greater Good.


 

Running in Repertory


Abigail Rodd: Techincal Director

At most opera houses each production runs consecutively, without overlap, so you just deal with one show at a time. At Glimmerglass all of the shows run at the same time, so our biggest challenge is storage space. We have to fill the stage four times and find a place to store everything when it isn’t being used. The storage space that we have is actually smaller than the stage. I’ve worked at theaters that run a more standard season, such as New Hartford. There we wouldn’t start building for a show until the previous one had gone onstage because the shows ran consecutively, not in rotation. Once the show onstage was done it went into the trash. We saved some items that we thought could be reused, but we didn’t have to worry about storage at all. Here, the place we store the sets is also the place that we build them. This means that as the productions are being created we have to leave enough room for construction. It’s like one of those puzzles with a bunch of movable squares and one empty slot. You have to keep juggling things around.

This year there are a lot of set pieces hanging up in the flies, which means that we aren’t quite as cramped for space in the scene shop and storage trailers. However, to get things to fly in and out, without hitting other things that are hanging up there, we have to use breasting lines to tie back set pieces for whichever show is not running that night. All of these flies have to be untied and retied as we transition between shows each day. The snow effect in The Greater Good is a perfect example of this. It is a one foot-square snow roller. The line sets are positioned in a way that prevents things upstage and downstage of it from flying in and out. This doesn’t cause a problem during Greater Good, but it would cause problems if it were left that way when running Pirates of Penzance. When we change the set out from Greater Good we have to take it to the grid and place other things underneath it so they can fly in and out unobstructed.

When you first think about the mechanics of building all of this stuff, finding a place to store it, and changing between the shows quickly it seems completely ludicrous. However, we make it work every year. We even made it work this year, when it was raining every day so we couldn’t work or store things outside. There was also a week when we were losing power at three o’clock every day because of the storms. Now that the carpenters and set painters are gone things become much easier. We don’t have to worry about leaving space for them to work. The tough part is when we’re running two shows and building the other two. Thankfully, we’ve gotten through that part of the season.

Photos (from top to bottom):
1. A view of the set shop, one of the storage locations for the sets and props of the productions.
2. Set pieces from The Barber of Seville, The Greater Good, and The Pirates of Penzance sit side by side.


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