[xtypo_dropcap]W[/xtypo_dropcap]ith its theater overlooking the scenic Otsego Lake in Upstate New York, Glimmerglass Opera, located in the small, quiet village of Cooperstown, could not have found a better place to host their well-crafted, high-quality productions. Surrounded by all the wonders of the Cooperstown natural landscape, their annual festival season provides the ultimate summer escape for music lovers.[etssp 90]
But it is also here that young opera singers embark on a valuable apprenticeship experience every year through Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artists Program.
Beginning in 1988, hundreds of applicants vie for the opportunity to perform and "cover" or understudy roles in the opera company’s four mainstage productions of the season. This year, out of around 750 applicants, 250 were selected for live auditions, and 36 singers and two pianists (who also act as the vocalists’ coaches), were chosen to participate in the program.
The Training Process
Auditions begin in the fall, typically around October, in major cities across the country. The finalists then arrive in Cooperstown in late May for 13 weeks of training.
Michael Heaston, program director for the Young American Artists Program, explained how the training begins. “Each young artist comes here and they have assignments. They might be mainstage assignments where they’re singing small roles on the main stage, or they’re covering, or understudying is another term for that … Every role at our opera company is covered by someone at the Young American Artists program.”
Each member receives private coaching for their roles from experienced pianists and coach-accompanists on the Glimmerglass music staff, who are also involved in the productions.
The coaches, many of whom come from New York institutes like the Julliard School and the Metropolitan Opera, provide the members with invaluable resources, from diction and acting lessons, to audition techniques and advice on how to interpret a piece of music. They also receive coaching on the repertoire that they may encounter in auditions or for their future roles.
Members also attend master classes given by renowned artists, like theater and opera director, Sir Jonathan Miller and the late Theodor Uppman. This year, distinguished pianist Steven Blier is one of the guest master class instructors.