Budding and immensely-gifted opera singers from Washington National Opera's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program will perform a concert giftwrapped in holiday cheer, along with other musical styles, at Delaware Technical Community College's Owens Campus on Friday.
The concert is presented by the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation and The Freeman Stage at Bayside, located in Selbyville.
The Young Artist Program, based in Washington, D.C., is one of the most prestigious in the country, and is led by newly-appointed director Michael Heaston. The program offers intensive study with renowned vocal and drama coaches, and provides voice lessons, language classes, career guidance and master classes from staff and guest artists to the nation's most talented opera singers.
Heaston spoke with the Sussex Countian about the repertoire the Young Artist will perform in Georgetown, his thoughts on making his Delaware debut with the performance, and more.
Q What's it like whenever you direct or perform in a new state?
A It's always exciting to go out to a new place. Since I'm directing Young Artist, it's a pleasure for me to share them with as many as audiences as possible. With this being my first experience in Delaware, I'm looking forward to getting to know more people around the region near D.C., to get a sense of how far we can expand our reach of what these talented young artists are doing in the program.
Q What will the audience hear during your performance?
A You'll get a mix of repertoire from us. It's a mix of some standard operatic hits. There'll be a couple numbers that are previews from upcoming productions we're doing this season, as well as a couple holiday favorites. It's a program that should appeal to a wide audience.
Q Is there a particular theme for this concert?
A There's not a theme that necessarily holds it together. The first half of the program is kind of our operatic hits' section. Then we'll do an intermission, and we'll come back and do a couple more hits. But then it really quickly moves into lighter fare with a lot more pieces in English. We'll close with some holiday favorites.
Q What's your favorite holiday tune in this show?
A I'm always a fan of "O Holy Night," and we currently have three tenors in our program; and not to steal from The Three Tenors' concerts, but we do a version of "O Holy Night" that features three of our tenors. We arrange it so that we can feature our artists in a special way. It's not something completely reimagined, but we do an arrangement that suits us.
Page 2 of 3 - Q What's the age range of the performers in the Young Artist program?
A With an opera singer, and the idea of forming an operatic voice, it takes time to mature. You aren't just going to have, for the most part, fully formed opera singers at 18 or 20 years old like you're going to see when you have a lot of pop singers, for instance. Keep in mind, opera singers perform without amplification; it's just the power of the human voice. You go to Broadway now and everything is mic'd to an incredible degree. These are just people using the power of their voice to cut over an 80-piece orchestra in a gigantic opera house with no help. Most of our artists tend to be in their mid-to-late 20s, even some in their early 30s, because they go through extensive training. They go to undergraduate programs. Most of them go to major conservatories or programs for their master's degrees. Then they begin their period of apprenticeship. The opera business is still very-much rooted in an older way of doing things, which is through the apprenticeship process where you're mentored by people.
Q As the director, what are some ways you help performers in the Young Artist Program develop their skills?
A It's my job to kick them out of the nest as quickly as possible. The day that they arrive, I'm trying to make them the best artists that they can be, and that includes being an artist who can stand on their own two feet and go off and have a major career. So I need to zero in on the strengths of each artist. But even more so, [I need to learn] what are the unique issues with the artists that need to be remediated.
Q What's it mean to you to work with these talented singers?
A It's all at the same time rewarding, daunting and very humbling. It's all three. I feel like I have the best job in the world. These artists are very carefully chosen from a series of national auditions that hundreds of people apply for just to get an audition with us. Then we only bring in a few artists each year to be with us. But to be able to identify people who are uniquely gifted, and then bring them under your wing for a period of generally two years, is a really special sort of position to be in. I feel very blessed.
IF YOU GO
WHAT Washington National Opera's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program
WHEN 7 p.m., Friday
WHERE Delaware Technical Community College Owens Campus, 21179 College Drive, Georgetown
Page 3 of 3 - COST $11 adults; Free for ages 18 or younger
INFO Freemanstage.org or call 436-3015