Saturday, April 11, 2009

Letter from YAKIMA

From Guest Blogger Justina Schwartz, Seattle Opera’s Education Events Manager

On Wednesday morning, a handful of the Young Artists and I headed up Snoqualmie Pass and across the state for our week-long residency in Yakima, Washington. For many years, Seattle Opera has partnered with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra to bring the great voices of the Young Artists to this community; this year, our partnership will culminate, next Tuesday evening, in a performance, with full orchestra, of Tatyana’s Letter, our adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin for five opera singers. Last fall, the Young Artists performed Tatyana’s Letter in a variety of theaters around the state, but always with piano accompaniment. For the singers, it’s a treat--and a challenge—-to make the switch from performing with piano to performing with full orchestra.

So Wednesday we enjoyed a beautiful drive over the mountains and then (didn’t necessarily enjoy this part so much!) a staging rehearsal of the opera. It's a pleasure to perform on the stage of Yakima’s beautiful, historic Capitol Theatre; but the singers, who’ve been thinking, breathing, and dreaming A Midsummer Night’s Dream for over a month now, are still trying to get Tatyana’s Letter back into their systems.

After dinner we had our first community event: “Trading Tunes and Tales,” a chance for Seattle Opera’s Young Artists to share music with the Yakima Youth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carol Alexander. We started off the evening with introductions by Brooke Creswell, Music Director of the Yakima Symphony.

Brooke introduced the concept of the evening, which he’s been hosting successfully for many years: our Young Artists sing arias, and young members of Yakima's musical community play orchestral pieces they've been practicing. After each selection, the floor is opened up for questions back and forth. The first tune traded was “Pourquoi me réveiller” from Werther, sung by Bray Wilkins, followed by “La calunnia” from The Barber of Seville, sung by Thomas Forde.

Above, Young Artists (l to r) Bray Wilkins, Thomas Forde, Megan Hart, and Michael Krzankowski participated in this event.

The Yakima Youth Symphony, conducted by Carol Alexander, then played for us the Overture and Prelude to Act 3 from Bizet's Carmen.

After a few questions, we continued trading, with Michael Krzankowski singing “Bella siccome un angelo” from Don Pasquale. The evening concluded with Megan Hart's stunning performance of “Ah, non credea mirarti” and “Ah, non giunge” from La sonnambula; Megan’s voice rang beautifully through the Capitol Theatre and left the audience speechless for a moment before they burst into applause.

We had a lot of great questions this year, both from Yakima’s young musicians and our Young Artists. A few of my favorites:
“How do you make your piece musical?”
“Ummmmmmm….do you ever, like, have to ice your throat?”
“Who is the intended audience of the aria you’re singing, and how does it affect the way you sing it?”
“Regardless of genre, who is your favorite musician?”
“What was the driving force that got you into music?”

Musicians, both vocal and instrumental, hung around for a while after the formal part of the program, continuing to share comments and tips.

Since then, we’ve had more rehearsals of Tatyana’s Letter, including the first read-through with the orchestra (last night); outreach events at West Valley High School and Naches High School, again with our Young Artists meeting and sharing music with music students from the area; and YAP Music Director Brian Garman also taught a master class for voice students at Central Washington University in nearby Ellensburg. At lunchtime on Thursday, Young Artist Michael Krzankowski (who sings the role of Onegin in Tatyana’s Letter), with YAP Manager Aren Der Hacopian, even appeared before the Yakima Rotary Club to talk about the program and invite everyone to the opera next Tuesday night.

All photos by Justina Schwartz

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