First, welcome to you all! To those of you new to Peabody, we are so happy you are here and look forward to having you be a part of the Voice and Opera Departments. To those of you who have returned, we’re glad you’re back! I hope your summer was exciting and fruitful, or restful and rejuvenating… at best, a combination of both! JAK.
An innovation this year is that all forms which had previously been filled out on paper must now be done on line. Click on the FORMS link above to register and fill out your basic information. The forms outlining your education and experience must be completed before your interview, and the remainder before your diagnostic audition.
The outline of the 2012-13 opera season can be seen in the SEASON CALENDAR (currently in skeletal form). This year brings a smorgasbord of offerings. Our major productions are Don Giovanni in the fall and Lakmé in the Spring. The Theatre Project show, “Love and Let Love,” will feature a work by Canadian composer Ana Sokolovic: Svadva, a musical celebration of a Serbian wedding, commissioned by the Queen of Pudding Theatre Company in Toronto. Written for six women, it is a unique opera in an unusual language—Serbian—and total lack of instrumental accompaniment. This will be its U.S. premiere. The outreach show, Ariel’s Tempest, a work which had its premiere last season, is a new musical treatment of Shakespeare’s The Tempest by Douglas Buchanan and Roger Brunyate. More traditional opera is represented by scenes in the November Opera Potpourri (“An Operatic Lollapalooza”) and “Opera’s Angles and Lines,” another program of scenes in the Spring, directed by students in Roger Brunyate’s Directing Seminar.
MEETINGS FOR NEW STUDENTS
All incoming students who are interested in opera performances or classes should come to a meeting in the Opera Studio, 114 Leakin Hall, on Thursday August 30th, at the following times: 9:45–10:45 for graduates, or 11:00–12:00 for freshmen and undergraduate transfers. If you can’t make one of these times, it is better to come to the meeting for the other group than not go to the appropriate one. People who have already been at Peabody in another program are not required to attend.
All students, whether new or returning, must sign up for an interview with JoAnn Kulesza between Thursday August 30th and Wednesday September 5th. Sign-up sheets for these will be posted on the Opera Board outside the Opera Office (114 Leakin Hall); these will also say where Ms. Kulesza will be on any particular day. The purpose of these interviews is to get to know new students and to touch base with old ones, establishing preferences and priorities for the year ahead. Please schedule your interview before your diagnostic audition (see the following section). You should also have completed the Personal Data and Experience sections of the online forms (see above) before coming to the interview, whether or not you also bring a resume.
DIAGNOSTIC AND CALL-BACK AUDITIONS
Diagnostic auditions are required of everybody except who wishes to participate in any aspect of the Opera program (including classes). These will take place in the afternoons and evenings of Tuesday, September 4th, through Thursday, September 6th. Audition times will be assigned by the department, so that singers from one studio can sing together and be heard by their teacher; times will both be posted on the Opera Board and available to you on line when you fill in your audition form (see above). Unlike in previous years, freshmen and Opera GPD majors will sing diagnostic auditions with their regular studios.
For the diagnostic auditions, singers should be prepared to offer at least two arias. One of these must be in English, unless the singer is a native English speaker who has sung for us before. One or both of the arias should be simply staged, so that we can see how the performer creates a character in a dramatic context; do not use any but the simplest of props. [These requirements will be interpreted liberally for underclassmen, who may audition with one or more songs rather than arias if they wish, and/or perform a musical-theater excerpt, whether staged or not.] New graduate students who wish to be considered for the Dramatic Text class are also asked to prepare and perform a one-minute spoken monologue. Singers may sign up on the opera board to rehearse briefly with the staff accompanist in advance of the auditions; they are also welcome to bring their own accompanist.
Callbacks for major productions will be held in the afternoon and evening of Friday September 7th for all productions except Don Giovanni, which has been pre-cast; those interested in covering a role will be considered from the diagnostic auditions. Given the relatively short rehearsal time for our productions, preference will be given to singers who can show that they have already made substantial progress in learning the role for which they are applying. Specific required excerpts have been selected for each major role; the list will be posted on the Opera board. Roles in the productions of the Opera Workshop and Opera Outreach will be assigned from the diagnostic auditions without further callback. [Click here for more information on these categories.]
Please note, however, that since most roles for the year will be cast in early September, singers who do not make themselves available for the diagnostic auditions and callbacks may not get cast unless they have obtained a special dispensation in advance. Also note: Singers may not sign a binding contract with a professional chorus affecting their second-semester availability until the casting has been completed.
During the week after auditions, the faculty of the department will hold feedback sessions, in which students may ask for more information about how they came across in their auditions. These are entirely voluntary, and will be held on a sign-up basis. You should know that while the faculty always aim to be objective in support of the singer’s longer-term development, we would not be any use to you if we were not honest, and some students in the past have found our comments uncomfortable to hear. If you are new to us, of course, we say what we do on the basis of having heard you once or possibly twice, and there is certainly much more to you than we could ever know. Nevertheless, most of the jobs that singers get are secured on precisely this basis—as the result of singing for somebody who hears them only that one time—so it is important to know how you actually come over in such circumstances, as opposed to how you think you do.
We work carefully to distribute performance opportunities among the students in the department, with an ear for potential as much as for talent. So far as possible, we try to give a varied diet over a student’s career, in terms of scale, genre, and period. Inevitably, more opportunities tend to go to the more advanced performers, although we try to program works suitable for younger singers also. Where several singers are suitable for a role, preference is given to full-time students in good academic standing. We have always tried to give every singer a role in an Opera Theatre or Chamber Opera production before they graduate, but must emphasize that this depends on numbers and the balance of voice-types and so cannot be guaranteed. Furthermore we generally do not give singers more than one sizeable role per year, except where this is unavoidable due to numbers; the main exceptions are Opera GPD majors, who are required to perform each semester.
All roles in the present season are open to audition, except for Don Giovanni, though the role of the Commendatore has still to be cast. While schedule limitations precluded double-casting this show, we intend to prepare a full cast of covers, any of whom would be capable of taking over in performance. The cover cast will get a full run-through of the opera in the Lyric Opera House, with piano accompaniment. All roles in Ariel’s Tempest and major roles in Lakmé will be double-cast if possible.
While casting decisions are made by the faculty of the department, all performance assignments are checked with the student’s voice teacher before being posted, and the teachers have the final say. Teachers do not nominate their students for roles, however, and casting is made without regard to studio. We also discuss our choice of repertoire with the Voice faculty each year before it is announced. Very occasionally, we may have to withdraw a singer from a role during rehearsal if the teacher feels it is becoming harmful. Students may also be withdrawn if, in the judgment of the Opera Faculty, they cannot or do not meet our standards of role preparation, or who are hindering the progress of their colleagues.
Participation as a chorus member in a stage production is a valuable experience for a young singer. Both of our main stage productions this year have choruses, though that for the Mozart opera will be substantially smaller. The chorus plays a very important part in most productions, often rendering some of the most beautiful music and rounding out the atmosphere and character of a show. We normally choose the singers to comprise the choruses based on your expressed desire to be a member of them. In the event there are too few of any voice type who volunteer, you may be asked to partipate “for the good of the team.” We try to minimize the amount of musical and staging rehearsal time for the chorus members whenever possible. The most intense period of commitment is in the ten days prior to performance.
FACULTY AND ARTISTIC STAFF
The following people will be working with the department during the course of the year:
Our accompanying assistants for the year will be YunKyung Choo, John Wilson, and Celeste Marie Johnson. Other pianists will also take on specific classes and projects during the course of the year.
Click here for a list of the Opera Department’s regular classes. The following additional points should be noted:
The Fall Opera Styles and Traditions class entitled Bel Canto in Performance, is being taught by James Harp.
The Winter/Spring Opera Styles and Traditions class will be overseen and taught by JoAnn Kulesza. It will be devoted to various practical aspects of Opera Performance and Career, such as preparing for auditions, creating performance opportunities, etc. Occasional guests may make additional contributions.
As early as possible in the first semester, the department faculty will host a workshop discussion on young artist programs and other summer opportunities for singers.
At certain times in the year, Garnett Bruce will offer non-credit coaching for singers preparing arias for professional audition.
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