Friday, November 15, 2013

The Whirlwind 24-Hour Opera Project®

The 24-Hour Opera Project® (24HOP), held earlier this month as part of National Opera Week, is an opera experience like no other for both participants and audience. Imagine writing, composing, rehearsing and performing a brand new opera in just 24 hours collaborating with people you have probably never met.  You can read what Cory Lippiello, the Opera’s new director of artistic planning and community engagement has to say about the Project here

The latest 24HOP, with the limited hours of creation and rehearsal happening at First Presbyterian Church, had its own drama, as seems appropriate.  A last-minute cancellation left only three lyricists to match with four composers.  So, in a random selection, one lyricist was lucky enough to have her libretto set to music by two different composers.

The work of the composer-librettist teams yielded two versions of an opera called The Lifespan of a Fly, another opera named 3D’s Dance Hall, and one entitled Grace Out of Place.  These operas were composed around the theme of “adopting a new identity,” which was drawn from ideas the artists themselves submitted at the Friday kick-off. As secondary inspiration, the teams blindly selected props ranging from a king’s crown to a feather duster, a giant plastic fly and other seemingly arbitrary stage utensils including a clown’s red nose and a bull whip.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the new operas were turned over to the director-singer teams to bring the works to life on stage. After a grueling, yet energizing day, the new pieces had their world premieres on Saturday evening before an appreciative and engaged audience at the 14th Street Playhouse, a new, larger venue for the Project.

The judges – the Opera’s Cory Lippiello, Jamila Robinson from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Lyndsay Werking from OPERA America – selected The Lifespan of a Fly as their top pick.  The audience found 3D’s Dance Hall to be their choice.

Here’s the evening in pictures and sound.

Bert Huffmann, the Opera's director of development, was emcee for the 24HOP showcase.

(Above and below)  GRACE OUT OF PLACE -- music by Natalie Williams, libretto by Lauren McCall.  Performed by Elizabeth Stuk, Megan Brunning, and Pedro Carreras.  Directed by Kristin Kenning.  Their inspiration props were a clown nose and a feather duster.

(Above and below) Judge's Choice -- THE LIFESPAN OF A FLY #1-- music by Ronnie Reshef, libretto by Vynnie Meli.  Performed by Sondra Collins, William Green, and Ivan Segovia.  Directed by Mira Hirsch.  The inspiration props were a crown, a giant plastic fly, and a book.

(Above and below)  THE LIFESPAN OF A FLY #2 -- music by Gustav Westin, libretto by Vynnie Meli.  Performed by Laurie Tossing, Gus Godbee, and Kristin Moye.  Directed by Rebecca Bowden.  The inspiration props were a crown, a book, and a giant plastic fly.

(Above and below) Audience Favorite -- 3D's DANCE HALL -- music by Marvin Carlton, libretto by Madeleine St. Romain.  Performed by Jayme Alilaw, Abigail Halon, and Jonathan Spuhler.  Directed by Dawn Neely.  The inspiration props were a bull whip and a meerschaum pipe.

The audience's favorite team.

The judge's winning team and their trophies.

Listen here to Georgia Public Broadcasting's coverage of 24HOP

Watch the videos:

Grace Out of Place
The Lifespan of a Fly #1
The Lifespan of a Fly #2
3D's Dance Hall

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Atlanta Opera Partners with The Breman for Music of the Holocaust

“Despite the horrors of the Holocaust, there were islands of humanity in the midst of the greatest atrocities…” 
-Arthur Fagen, Atlanta Opera Music Director and son of Holocaust survivors

November 9th, 1938.  It’s been 75 years since Kristallnacht, a night of terror that heralded the Holocaust and saw the incarceration of over 30,000 Jews in concentration camps. 

A series of coordinated attacks across Germany and Austria, the term Kristallnacht or the “Night of Broken Glass” came about due to the broken glass that littered the streets after over 7,000 Jewish homes and businesses and 1,000 synagogues were destroyed.

Atlanta Opera Music Director Arthur Fagen, the son of Holocaust survivors Lewis and Rena Fagen (who were Schindlerjuden - Jews rescued from concentration camps by working in the factories of German industrialist Oskar Schindler), has spearheaded a partnership with the William Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum this season for the inaugural Molly Blank Jewish Concert Series, which begins this Saturday, November 9th with a performance commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Kristallnacht.
The concert includes Gideon Klein’s String Trio (1944) and Hans Krása’s Passacaglia and Fugue for String Trio (1944), performed by musicians from The Atlanta Opera Orchestra.  The program also includes songs written in Jewish ghettos and concentration camps by composers Isle Weber, Adolf Strauss and Martin Roman and performed by Helene Schneiderman, a well-known mezzo-soprano who is also the daughter of Holocaust survivors. 

As the son of Holocaust survivors, I find it my duty to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive in order to prevent future tragedies of such magnitude,” says Fagen.  “The String Trio by Gideon Klein and the Passacaglia of Hans Krása were written in Thereseienstadt before the composers were deported to Auschwitz. In all probability, they were the last works written by these composers.  It’s important to remember that, despite the horrors of the Holocaust, there were islands of humanity in the midst of the greatest atrocities.”

Atlanta Opera Music Director Arthur Fagen

Join us November 9, 8 p.m. at the Breman for this enriching and meaningful evening.  A reception with the performers follows the concert. Tickets are $50 for Breman museum members and Atlanta Opera subscribers, $65 for non-members and are available here or at 678-222-3700.

Read more about the experience of Arthur Fagen’s parents, Lewis and Rena, with the Holocaust, Oskar Schindler, and their involvement in the making of the Steven Spielberg film Schindler’s List here.


Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404-881.8801.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Atlanta Opera’s Fourth Annual 24-Hour Opera Project®

Let the madness begin!  We’re calling it a creative science project where Verdi meets reality TV.  In just a few hours, composers, lyricists, singers and stage directors will gather for the kick-off of the Atlanta Opera’s fourth annual 24-Hour Opera Project® (24HOP).

The participating composers and lyricists will be given a theme and props they must use in their composition, and then they’ll be randomly paired and corralled together overnight to write an opera scene.  The next morning, bright and early, the new pieces will be assigned to stage directors, who will in turn draft singers and accompanists.  Together those groups will have just eight hours to stage, rehearse and bring the new operas to life before presenting them in a public showcase on Saturday evening at the 14th Street Playhouse.

Cory Lippiello, the Atlanta Opera’s new director of artistic planning and community engagement, is producing this year’s 24HOP, which is one of the many activities across the country associated with National Opera Week.

Cory Lippiello, Director of Artistic Planning & Community Engagement, The Atlanta Opera
Just a couple months into her tenure at The Atlanta Opera, this will be Cory’s first experience with 24HOP. Here’s her take:

“This project is not for the faint of heart. And it isn't for people who have issues with editing. Or for people who need time to savor their words or let a new song marinate in the subconscious. It is, however, a project for people who love great music and great storytelling. It's for artists who enjoy the kind of creativity that comes from having restrictions instead of boundless possibilities. It's for performers who like to think on their feet. And it's for audiences that thrill to see something new, fresh and alive. This project is for people who are adventurous, curious, intelligent, emotional creatures, intrigued by life and looking for ways to understand our experience on this planet.  Opera represents vast possibilities for seeing our own experiences and emotions represented on stage in an incredibly visceral way. Even when a character or situation seems wholly removed from our time, opera is a living, breathing art form with something to say about the way we live right now. What could be more immediate, more of-the-moment, than a story created a mere 12 hours earlier?”

At the concluding showcase, the final compositions and performances will be judged by Cory and a panel of judges, including Lyndsay Werking, producer of OPERA America’s New Works Forum, and Jamila Robinson, digital entertainment editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The audience, a key element to what Cory calls “the unique alchemy that is the 24-Hour Opera Project®,” also will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite.
2012 24-Hour Opera Project Winner -- Krispy Kremes & Butter Queens
Why does The Atlanta Opera and the participating composers, lyricists, stage directors, singers and accompanists subject themselves to the madness of creating and performing a new opera in a mere 24 hours?  Because opera can be just as crazy and cool as anything we’d see on reality TV!

Don’t miss the showcase -- Saturday, November 2 at 8 p.m. at the 14th Street Playhouse.  Admission is free and general admission.  Check for more information and reservations.

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact the Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404-881-8801.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Opera... It's Complicated.

By Alison Moritz

Opera is complicated - that's why we love it. But it takes a lot of effort, expertise, and patience to coordinate all the elements of a given production. In the end, everything comes together in the crucial week before opening night. Here's a behind-the-scenes breakdown of Tech Week for the Atlanta Opera's current production of Tosca (running through October 13):

Thursday, September 26: Final Room Run

After weeks of finessing musical and staging choices in the rehearsal room, the entire cast (including chorus, supernumeraries, and children) comes together to rehearse the opera in its entirety for the first time. Members from the design and production teams use this as an opportunity to troubleshoot certain moments - how fast will that quick change really have to be? Is this the final version of a certain prop for Act II? For the singers, this is their first chance to test the stamina and concentration necessary to perform the show from beginning to end. The goal of the Final Room Run is to get everyone in the whole company on the same page before we start adding the technical elements of set, costumes, and lights.

Friday, September 27: Artists Day Off and Load-In to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center

While the singers enjoy a day of rest, the crew loads into the theatre. The set for Tosca is particularly large, so the first day is focused on getting the structure of Act I built - the interior of the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle.

Saturday through Monday, September 28 - 30 : Technical Rehearsals and Sitzprobe

During the day, teams build the set, work on props, focus the lights, put the finishing details on costumes, and style the wigs. In the evening, the cast arrives and we rehearse each act in sequence. As we go, many small adjustments get made - transforming the intimate staging of Tosca that we perfected in the rehearsal room into an experience that will translate into the 2,750 seat theatre.

Our Sitzprobe is actually a Wandelprobe - which means that the singers walk their positions on the stage while they rehearse with conductor Arthur Fagen and the orchestra. The music staff takes notes, listening for balance between the instruments and the singers.

©Jeff Roffman

Tuesday, October 1: Piano Dress

The crew works during the day to finish construction of sets and props. The lighting design team refocuses lights and works on building cues for the show and making sure that the Stage Manager Erin Janzen Thomson is ready to call the show. Tonight is the first time everything is coming together - including costumes, wigs, and make-up. Afterwards, the production team meets to discuss any adjustments needed before our first Orchestra Dress tomorrow night. Many of the changes are relatively small - Tosca should wear a lighter tiara; Scarpia is going to eat real chicken every night; we are cutting the small table and chair in Act II and going back to the larger votive candles in Act I - the shape of everything is already in place, but there are details left to fix.

Wednesday, October 2: First Orchestra Dress

The morning and afternoon are spent finishing tasks outlined in the production meeting last night. When the singers arrive, they receive a few notes to think about during that night's rehearsal. The orchestra sounds great and everyone is excited to have an audience for the Final Dress Rehearsal tomorrow.

Thursday, October 3: Final Dress Rehearsal

In the afternoon, lighting designer Robert Wierzel, director Tomer Zvulun, and Calling Stage Manager Erin Thompson-Janszen work together to perfect the timing and look of the iris effect that begins each act. The iris we’ve created is a great example of relatively simple stagecraft (curtains and lighting) used to produce a cinematic effect. It's an ingenious idea - one that I will definitely steal in a production of my own someday.

The Final Dress Rehearsal has an audience of invited guests of the cast and orchestra. The singers really come alive, responding to the energy in the house, and it feels more like a first performance than a rehearsal. Having been with this production from the beginning, I was surprised to find myself beginning to cry during Act III. For a few moments, I stopped taking notes in my head and became a member of the audience.

                                                                                                      ©Ken Howard

I've always thought that the best moments in opera are like looking through a kaleidoscope. When your way of looking at something shifts just enough, everything suddenly merges, creating a little bit of magic that only you can see. For a brief moment, I experienced this on Opening Night. Come to the opera, you might find it, too. I hope to see you there.

Alison Moritz is the Resident Assistant Director for the Atlanta Opera’s 2013-2014 season. She’ll be sharing her behind-the-scenes stories and opinions in a series of upcoming blog posts.

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Finding the Truth in TOSCA's 'Te Deum'

By Alison Moritz

At its core, Tosca is an opera about truth and lies. Most of us know the double-crossing and misdirection involved in the plot, but the theme of truth in Tosca goes much deeper than just the story. First of all, Tosca is what musicologists call a verismo opera. The word itself is derived from the Italian word “vero” (meaning truth), which stems from the same Latin root as words like verisimilitude and veracity.

Truth in opera? What does that even mean? Historically, verismo opera was associated with a trend towards naturalism in the theatre and literature of writers like Emile Zola and Henrik Ibsen at the end of the 19th century. In studying Tosca before I arrived in Atlanta, I became very interested in Puccini’s desire to create moments of musical and theatrical realism in his opera.

Let’s take the famous Te Deum that ends Act I as a case study: Numerous sources (including Puccini’s own letters) detail the scrupulous attention the composer paid to researching the musical landscape of Rome in the year 1800. He wrote letters to friends who were officials in the Catholic Church, asking them for details of religious ritual. Below is an excerpt from my favorite letter, taken from the memoirs of Puccini’s friend Dante del Fiorentino, a Monsignor who was friends with the composer:

“Go to San Martino. Go to the Bishop, if necessary, and ask him what would be appropriate for the priests as they proceed toward the altar for the celebration of the Te Deum... Find some verses for me, or at least one which will suggest the victory in a prelude before the great Te Deum. Tell the Bishop to invent something for me. If he doesn't, I'll write to the Pope and have him thrown out of his job on the grounds of imbecility.”

To drive the point home, Puccini added a postscript: "Get the words for me, or I'll become a Protestant."

In the end, Puccini received the information he needed (including the exact version of the plainsong used in Rome and the correct order for a procession to the altar). He absorbed all this detail and transformed it into a rite of his own making - something that evoked the grandeur, tradition, and sanctity of a religious procession, without becoming a literal reenactment.

Our production team in Atlanta went through a similar process to create the staging of the Act I Te Deum. Our goal was to do the necessary research to present a respectful interpretation with dramatic impact. I spent a few days calling Catholic organizations in the Atlanta area and checking over the details with the Catholic members of the production team. So far, we think these efforts have paid off. There’s a supernumerary in our procession who has been in three separate productions of Tosca. A few days ago he told me that our version of the procession is the most accurate he’s seen. Another supernumerary, who is an active Catholic, coached me on a few details we could add and remarked on how respectful our interpretation is.

© English National Opera

Why is it so important to us to get this right? On the first day of rehearsal, director Tomer Zvulun spoke to the principals in the cast and reminded them that Tosca is based on the true story of a shepherdess who became a diva after she was discovered by the composer Domenico Cimarosa. He used this anecdote to drive the point home that, even though Tosca is an opera, all the characters are real. They have flaws and are driven by fundamental desires for love and power. When all the characters seem really, truly alive onstage - down to the last chorister and supernumerary - those are the palpable moments in opera that make us all feel more alive in the audience.

Alison Moritz is the Resident Assistant Director for the Atlanta Opera’s 2013-2014 season. She’ll be sharing her behind-the-scenes stories and opinions in a series of upcoming blog posts.

(Special thanks go to Patricia Dejarnett of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.)

Photo one ©Tim Wilkerson.

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.

Friday, September 27, 2013

WE WANT YOU... to participate in the 24-Hour Opera Project!

Calling all composers, lyricists, stage directors and opera singers!

The Atlanta Opera is now accepting applications for the fourth annual 24-Hour Opera Project®, November 1 & 2, 2013. Think of it as a creative science project where Verdi meets reality TV!

Applications are due September 30!

Who can participate?
Composers, lyricists, stage directors and singers may apply (experience required, must be at least 18 years of age). Download the appropriate application below:

What are we talking about?
Composers and lyricists selected to participate will be randomly paired together, and will have 12 hours to write an opera scene. At the end of 12 hours, the pieces will be assigned to participating stage directors, who will draft singers from a pool of applicants, and have 8 hours to rehearse before presenting the pieces in a showcase-concert 24 hours after the project begins. Compositions and performances will be judged by a panel of judges, as well as the audience. Prizes will be awarded to the judge’s choice and audience favorite. No travel, housing, or per diem provided. No cash prizes awarded.

Where will the event take place?
The 24-Hour Opera Project® kick-off event, composing, and rehearsing will take place at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. The showcase performance will take place at the Woodruff Arts Center’s 14th Street Playhouse.

When will this happen?
Friday, November 1
First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta
Kick-off event @ 5PM

Saturday, November 2
14th Street Playhouse
Showcase performance @ 8PM

Admission to the performance is FREE and is open to the public, but registration is required. Info at

Why are we subjecting ourselves to such madness?
Because we’re crazy! (And we want everyone to see how cool opera is!) We are also joining other opera companies around the country to celebrate National Opera Week.

Still have questions? Please visit

See the craziness for yourself! Check out news coverage, photos, and videos from last year’s 24-Hour Opera Project®!
Watch the Webcast >>
See Photos >>
Watch Confession Cam Footage >>

Photos Courtesy of Jeff Roffman (1) and Tim Wilkerson (2 & 3).

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dining with the Devil: A Foodie's Guide to Tosca...

The setting of Tosca in Rome opens up so many gastronomic possibilities! In the case of Tosca, it's fun to speculate about what the characters were actually eating, and in the case of a fantastic evening with friends, we would like to propose a few recipes to get you in the mood before you come see it at the Cobb Energy Centre, October 5 to 13.

Cavaradossi’s Lunch Basket

Tosca's lover, Cavaradossi, had a basket lunch brought to him by the church sacristan. According to master-chef, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, this lunch was probably not very different from what is eaten in Rome today. It would have had a loaf of white bread because Cavaradossi was a nobleman (peasants ate dark bread), and a local sheep cheese. There would have been a farm-cured salami and a jug of white wine from Orvieto.**

Farm-cured salami, local sheep cheese, and good bread would also serve as a lovely appetizer, along with some celebratory white wine pairings…

Scarpia's Dinner

At the beginning of Act IV of Tosca, the evil Baron Scarpia is eating supper in a room lit only by two candles and a candelabra on his table. But what could Scarpia have been eating on that fateful night?

As the police chief of Rome, he would have eaten in the style of Roman nobility. Since it was evening, his dinner was a lighter version of the main meal of the day, eaten at mid-afternoon.

 Food was status for people like Scarpia. His dinner earlier in the day would probably have begun with a tray of artfully arranged small appetizers like prosciutto wrapped in colorful marzipan, savory tartlets of nuts and greens, and small fritters of sweetbreads or, perhaps, oysters.**

A soup would follow this course - possibly a capon broth with tiny ravioli floating in it, with the filling consisting of breast of capon, cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg, marrow, and herbs. Then there would be either a roasted whole fish stuffed with truffles, or hare cooked in a pungent sweet/sour sauce of black pepper, sugar, vinegar, nuts, fruits, and red wine.**

Once this dish was removed, the servants would present a large silver platter with a whole baby lamb roasted and turned on a spit over an open fire until glazed to a mahogany brown. The tender meat would have been laced with strips of prosciutto and basted with wine and herbs.**

For a yummy, Tosca-themed main course, we would suggest a Saltimbocca Barone Scarpia with a classic Roman Salad Puntare.

Il Postre…

For dessert, Scarpia probably had trays of tiny cookies and fanciful marzipan and, perhaps, an elaborate molded frozen dessert layering cake and iced cream. When Tosca enters, we always imagine that Scarpia was just finishing the dessert.

In honor of our tragic heroine, Floria Tosca, ending the evening on a sweet note with an Almond Tosca Cake should be just the ticket….

That Spanish wine referred to in Tosca might have been a sweet one - possibly a dark golden and rich Oloroso Sherry, which would be a lovely aperitif….

You can continue to celebrate at intermission with Tosca-themed cocktails available at Cobb Energy Centre concessions made with the appropriately named Double Cross Vodka

Tosca Truffle Martini

Double Cross Vodka, Vermouth, Blue Cheese Truffle, and Olives.

Puccini Limonata Rosa

Double Cross Vodka, Fresh Lemon Juice, Cranberry Juice, and an Orange Twist.

See you at the Opera! For tickets and info, please visit

** Content quoted and paraphrased from "Food to Accompany the Opera: 
Bring Tosca Home for Dinner" 
By Lynne Rossetto Kasper, 
September 27, 1998.

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Get to Know Boyce and Shepard Ansley, the Honorees of The 2013 Atlanta Opera Ball: Puccini’s Palazzo

Shepard and Boyce Ansley

The Honorary Chairs of The 2013 Atlanta Opera Ball: Puccini’s Palazzo are Boyce and Shepard Ansley, long-time supporters of The Atlanta Opera. Through their time, generous gifts and fundraising efforts, they have taken an active role in ensuring the success of the Opera throughout its 34-year history.
The Atlanta Civic Opera, later renamed The Atlanta Opera, was created when two local opera companies merged in 1979.  Financially struggling from the on-set, a planned season was cancelled in 1982.  Boyce Ansley along with friends Nancy Green, Sally McDaniel, and Victoria Mooney, launched a fundraising effort for the troubled company in 1983. In subsequent years, when the company was seeking a new executive director, Boyce and fellow board member Hazel Sanger asked Alfred Kennedy to take the position of General Manager on a temporary basis. (Little did Kennedy know then that he would hold the post until 2004!)  Boyce continued to raise money for the fledging opera company and has been an active member participant behind-the-scenes of The Atlanta Opera since the beginning.

Alfred Kennedy (second from left), Boyce and Shepard Ansley (right) and others entering the Fantasies of the Opera Ball at The Fox Theatre in 1996.

Boyce has served on The Atlanta Opera Board of Directors since 1982, as President from 1987 to 1990, as Chair from 1990 to 2006, and as Chair Emeritus since 2006. She helped lead the Board and the Opera in achieving a national reputation for artistic excellence and in its audience growth, from 3,000 to 5,000 in the early 1980s to 48,000 in 1998. In addition to serving as a board officer at various times, Boyce has headed up the nominating committee and has been an active fundraiser and contributor while serving on the executive committee. She has chaired The Atlanta Opera Ball, which is the single largest fundraising event for the Opera, and is very proud to serve, alongside her husband, as Honorary Chair this year.

In 1997, Boyce was awarded the Volunteer Fund Raiser of the Year Award by the Georgia Chapter of the National Society of Fundraising Executives. She was nominated for her work with the Opera, Atlanta Botanical Garden, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Atlanta Preservation Center, REACH, the Cator Woolford Gardens, and the Davison School in Georgia. Currently, Boyce serves on the boards of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta Preservation Society, The Trust for Public Land, and several other organizations. She is a member of the Junior League of Atlanta and was Senior Warden of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Boyce also has been active on out-of-state boards, including Chatham Hall and Hollins University. In recent years, she was asked to join the Board of Regents of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, an extremely prestigious group of women responsible for the financial well-being of the home of George Washington outside of Washington, D.C.

Boyce and Shepard Ansley are generous lifetime donors to The Atlanta Opera and have designated The Atlanta Opera as a beneficiary in their estate plan.  The Atlanta Opera thanks Boyce and Shepard Ansley for their continued service, support, and dedication to advancing opera in Atlanta.
Boyce and Shepard Ansley dancing at the Fantasies of the Opera Ball at The Fox Theatre in 1996.
The Ansleys will be honored at The 2013 Atlanta Opera Ball: Puccini’s Palazzo on Saturday, October 26, at the St. Regis Atlanta in Buckhead.

Details about The 2013 Atlanta Opera Ball: Puccini’s Palazzo are listed below and at Tickets can be purchased online here.

* * *

The 2013 Atlanta Opera Ball: Puccini’s Palazzo will be held on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at the St. Regis Atlanta in Buckhead. The evening will be themed after the season’s opening production, Tosca, and will feature a gourmet dinner, dancing, and luxury items in the silent and live auctions.

This year’s ball chairs are Chris Casey and Doug Weiss, and the emcee for the evening will be WSB-TV's Jovita Moore. Tickets are currently available for purchase. Sponsorships may be purchased for $3,500 (includes 10 tickets to the event) or $1,500 (includes 2 tickets). Individual event tickets are available for $350 each. 

To learn more about The Atlanta Opera Ball, 
sponsorship opportunities, or to purchase tickets, please contact Allison Deniro at 404-591-2928.

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact the Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404-881-8801.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Atlanta Opera High School Opera Institute: Planting the Seeds for an Opera Career

Guest Blogger: Kaitlyn Johnson

I am a rising junior vocal performance major at Rice University, and very proud alumna of the 2011 High School Opera Institute (HSOI).  Our end-of-year performance remains one of my all-time favorite moments in my vocal career, and I’m extremely excited to perform in the program again as an alumna this Sunday, June 9th. While the performance represents an exciting and entertaining culmination to the program, the High School Opera Institute offers so much to aspiring young singers throughout the year.   I want to share my fabulous experience with the program, and how it has proven to be an invaluable resource in preparing me for collegiate opera studies.  The HSOI provides a rare opportunity for young vocal students—an inside look into what working for a professional opera company is like, helping to determine if they want to pursue singing as a career.

For students like me who found a love and passion for classical singing in opera while in high school, there aren’t many places to explore our talent and determine if opera could be a true career possibility.  Fortunately for metro Atlanta students, The Atlanta Opera offers the High School Opera Institute, organized by director of community engagement Emmalee Iden Hackshaw and led by opera chorus master and vocal coach extraordinaire Walter Huff.  While weekly voice lessons with private teachers help singers acquire and solidify the technique needed to sing demanding repertoire and roles, the HSOI fills a performance void that is missing for high school students interested in opera.  School and community theatre productions offer some performance opportunities, but the directors seldom have an ear for opera and underappreciate the talents of many young singers.  Walter Huff is extremely knowledgeable and highly revered in vocal programs and opera companies throughout the world, so we know his advice and comments will help to hone our craft. Through the HSOI, high school students have the rare opportunity to rehearse all the components of opera—technique, diction, and emotion all combined into one art.   Fellow alumna Anne Stillwagon, currently a vocal performance major at Oberlin Conservatory says, “There are no other programs in Atlanta that give any comparable training,” and adds that the program is especially valuable because it lasts a full school year, rather than the majority of summer programs that are offered to high school students for only four to six weeks.  Current participant Mary Katherine Henry agrees, “I studied at Brevard for three weeks last summer, and the High School Opera Institute is great because it offers continued training throughout the year.”

The audition process for admittance into the HSOI is very similar to auditions for vocal programs at universities and conservatories around the country.  The formal audition is especially worthwhile for seniors, who get a glimpse into the auditions that will fill their winter.  I offered the same repertoire for my HSOI audition as I did when auditioning for college programs and having that prior experience definitely boosted my confidence.  One of the first HSOI classes is an audition workshop complete with advice about wardrobe, appropriate repertoire choices, and a crash course on the merits of college vs. conservatory.  The real-world application of the HSOI prepares you to pursue opera at the next stage, and instills the level of preparation that collegiate vocal programs and professional companies expect of singers.

HSOI singers are assigned their repertoires for the final program around October, and expected to learn their music in a few weeks, be memorized shortly thereafter, and ready to stage.  Likewise at Rice, I am preparing to sing in an opera workshop performance next semester, and we are to know and memorize all of our music before school begins in August.  In a few weeks, I will attend the Aspen Music Festival with all pieces prepared and ready to coach and/or perform.  The HSOI instilled the expected standards of learning music and preparedness that is present throughout the opera world.  The program is also very beneficial because of the major incorporation of ensemble pieces. In scenes with multiple singers everyone depends on each other to know their part, or the process is extremely slowed down.  You never want to be the singer who is unsure of their note, word, or rhythm, and my HSOI scenes helped me realize that each singer must put in intense individual work before an ensemble can truly come together.  In addition, HSOI students are invited to the final dress rehearsals of each of the season’s operas. The opportunity to hear and see professional productions can be as important to young singers’ growth as voice lessons and coachings.  Rice voice majors also attend the final dress rehearsals of all shows at Houston Grand Opera, so it was beneficial to be exposed to these productions before starting a vocal performance degree.    

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being an HSOI student is meeting the other talented students from the Atlanta area.  A common talent and love for classical singing tie you together, and I always look forward to an event where I will see other alumni.  The singing world is extremely small, so it’s always fun to say I know HSOI singers at schools such as Manhattan School of Music, Oberlin, and Boston University.  I’m sure I will eventually run into them at summer programs and graduate school auditions, and it’s great to make peer connections while still in high school, when aspiring opera singers can be a rarity.  While the students are great, the amazing faculty is the cornerstone of the program that accounts for the success of so many students.  “Working with Walter Huff and Beverly Blouin is an incredible experience,” remarks Mary Katherine Henry.   Personally, Beverly Blouin really helped me to focus on dramatic intention and deliver a great performance.  She is truly a phenomenal dramatic coach.  I showed marked acting improvement and confidence by the final performance, and I am very grateful to Mrs. Blouin for her help.  Walter Huff is reason enough to apply to the program.  His repertoire choices and unparalleled musical knowledge guide singers to the next level, and he is a great resource from everything to opinions about particular college programs and voice teachers to questions about pronunciation.  He is an exceptionally kind man and a fabulous connection for any singer. Anne is especially appreciative of Walter’s guidance and connections as she attends Oberlin, his alma mater.  She says that every professor or musician she meets there seems to know his name, and knowing him has helped to open doors at school.

The High School Opera Institute definitely enhanced my passion for singing and confirmed I wanted to pursue an operatic career.  I am eternally grateful for the training I received from amazing faculty, and the experience to see what working for an opera company is really like, while still in high school.  I grew so much both musically and dramatically, learned proper audition and rehearsal protocol, and was introduced to the best young singers that Atlanta has to offer.  Most of the former HSOI students have become voice majors, and I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that the training, resources, and faculty of the High School Opera Institute have greatly contributed to our successes.

Whether you are a die-hard opera fan or unfamiliar with the differences between Mozart and Menotti, I urge you to come to the final performance at Morningside Presbyterian this Sunday, June 9 at 4:00 p.m. to see the exciting and entertaining culmination of a year’s work.  There’s a great chance that you will be hearing stars of the next generation of opera—and certainly one of the last opportunities you will have to see them perform for free! 

To learn more about the Atlanta Opera's High School Opera Institute, please click HERE.  Be sure to Tweet with us during the performance on Sunday, June 9 at 4:00 p.m. using #HSOI.

Kaitlyn and Walter Huff working together during the final dress rehearsal of the Atlanta Opera's 2011 High School Opera Institute.

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