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With over 30 years in professional show-business, David Cangelosi is known industry wide as one of its most versatile performers. The internationally acclaimed opera singer is also well versed in the areas of musical-theater, night club/cabaret, voice-overs, and his continuing career in the classical vocal arts as a recitalist, master-class instructor, and symphonic guest artist.
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Twenty years? Really??

September 6th, 2016

September 6, 2016

Many years ago I recall reading an article about the legendary Baritone Sherrill Milnes when he noted that his time with Boris Goldovsky’s Opera Theater was when things really started happening…but he had by then already been thoroughly participating in the operatic art form.  As I think back, I can also pinpoint a time when things “really started to happen”.

Although I had been gainfully employed as a music theater artist, night-club entertainer, and budding operatic artist for at least 15 years already; it was my entrance into the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists (now Ryan Opera Center) at the Lyric Opera of Chicago when things “really started to happen”.  Major domestic bookings were coming my way from Opera companies and Symphony Orchestras, recording projects materialized, television and film opportunities shocked me, and international travel soon followed.

That was 20 years ago when things “really started to happen”…and I am so very grateful for all the organizations who ever took a chance on me…but make no mistake, some of those companies had their doubts!  I have returned to most, while never being rehired by some.  Nonetheless I am grateful to ALL of them…with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in particular having provided me with 20 consecutive seasons.  Over the past 20 years I have seen family members and close friends pass-away, while also rekindling friendships from the past, and even marrying once again–something I was not sure I would ever do. I have seen companies close, others open, while others still have completely changed their inner parts.  One thing has remained somewhat of a constant…I am still singing…still plugging away at it.

As I chart out the next decade (hopefully), I simply shake my head now and say…

“Twenty years? Really??”

djc

 

Countdown Ring

April 1st, 2016

April 1, 2016

With an historic ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen‘ just one month from opening at the prestigious Washington National Opera, I am both tired and excited. Rehearsals have been intense, compressed, and thrilling. Immediately post ‘Ring’ performances here in our nation’s Capital; I will head to Boston with two of my D.C. colleagues to perform Act 1 of Siegfried for the Boston Wagner Society. I was very pleased to provide an in-depth interview for the BWS in anticipation of our May 28, 2016 concert. Below is the interview in its entirety:

Interview with Tenor David Cangelosi

  • We anticipate with great pleasure your upcoming role as Mime at our May 28 concert of Act 1 of Siegfried. You have sung the role of Mime numerous times, at the Metropolitan Opera, in San Francisco, and many other places. And now you are about to sing it again for Washington National Opera in the spring. Is there anything about this role that attracts you both as a singer and an actor?

        The role of Mime (Siegfried) is one of the most towering in all of opera. The answer to your question is actually IN your question! This role allows for the singer to ‘act’, and the actor to ‘sing’. This is an unusual two-way street that is fulfilling in each direction. I have worked for 20 years to knit these two elements into a cohesive whole. I hope it comes through as such!

 

  • You are an excellent comedian and very dynamic on the stage. Do you prefer comic roles? Or are you comfortable with both comedy and tragedy?

I actually prefer the darker, more sinister roles of them all. My mind wanders to a production of Boris Godunov when I sang the role of Shuisky…he is a King-maker to be sure; but he undermines Boris every step of the way. (Delicious stuff!) Comedy is fun, Romance is sweet, but Sinister is eternal. It’s effective theatrically, and leaves a deep (if non-sympathetic) imprint. I love to darken and deaden my eyes…probably because that is the exact opposite of my real-life persona.

 

  • How do you prepare yourself emotionally to convey the comic or tragic elements of a role?

In truth, I sit quietly before any given performance for a few crucial minutes and say to myself: “What is it you want to do tonight? Who is it that you want to be??” Then I just step into the painting/mural that I have created in my own mind, but always with the audience’s fulfillment in mind.

 

  • You have sung a huge number of roles all over the world, which is quite remarkable. As a “character singer,” most of these have been secondary roles, though definitely not less important. Do you feel that, with Wagner especially, your Fach garners less attention than, say, a Heldentenor or a Heldenbariton?

Of course there is less attention to my Fach…which is all the more reason to redefine my Fach to all of my esteemed singing colleagues, directors, and producers. Every fan wants a piece of a Heldentenor/Heldenbariton. Every performer wants some of the ‘fairy-dust’ that falls from their framework. But if you can garner attention as a character singer/character actor, then you have not only strengthened your own standing, but you have likely strengthened the same for the primary characters with whom you interact. I used to teach very young acting students in college to earn extra money; and I used to tell them that their #1 job was “to make the other ‘guy’ look good”. (I’ve been trying to do the same thing for my colleagues for the last 35 years!)

 

  • Speaking of Wagner, do you find that you have to have a concentration, voice, and tessitura that is different from, say, Italian opera?

Wagner is the most all-encompassing composer in the history of humankind. It takes every fiber of your talent to execute his music and libretti with distinction. I work non-stop to imbue every word, every line, even every REST with deeper intent. When I finish with a performance, or even a rehearsal of Mime (Siegfried) for example; I am usually exhausted both physically and mentally…and I should be! Truly great artists, such as Hildegard Behrens, were able to dispatch both great ‘Wagnerian Opera’, and great–but more general–‘Italian Opera’ with equal prominence. I only wish someone could say that about me someday. That would make me very happy.

 

  • With Mime, do you sing in a more nasal and whiny tone to get into character, as opposed to singing Loge or Zorn, for instance?

Absolutely not! That is one of the ways I have set myself apart from many of my counterparts historically. Some producers actually want a whiny singer in an effort to fulfill their very simplistic conception of a character. The dirty little secret, however, is that they actually want their primary principal artists to sound better by comparison. None of them will admit this, but you asked; and now you’ve gotten more of an answer than you expected. The plain fact of the matter is that I did this once, for something very high profile. I did myself no favors, and have regretted it ever since. I was trying to play “Please the teacher”…and I reversed course immediately and tried to never do it again once I heard it. I sing like myself…and I try to sing beautifully, or I prefer to not sing at all. That does not mean I sing without character…but ‘character’ doesn’t mean constantly whining, barking, or providing nasality. Those sounds have their dramatic place; but in my world, they had better be the exception and not the rule!

 

  • Unlike most singers, you have a wonderful blog on your web site (davidcangelosi.com). I really enjoy reading it. You are funny and informative. Why don’t more singers take the step you have taken, which would be so valuable to opera lovers?

My website represents the organized musings of an opera professional. I write to express myself, or to get things off of my chest. I sometimes write reviews of performances I have seen, I tell an anecdote from my childhood, or follow a particular thought process from a production that I am working on. It’s my hope that someday there will be enough blog-entries for a book. I am only sorry that I started so late in life. I have been given journals to write in over the years, but I hate doing it by hand; that is why I started so late. When my website was upgraded a few years ago, I decided to hop on the ‘blogging-bandwagon’ since it was easy to write via laptop and post to my own site. To be fair, a lot of my colleagues do the same…I just happen to do it better!! (ha ha)

 

  • Can you name five of your all-time favorite roles in opera?

That’s an easy one, but I will not include the aforementioned ‘Mime’; and will in fact open the question to roles—most of which—I don’t even sing, except for one below.

  1. Salome (Salome)
  2. Parsifal (Parsifal)
  3. Ping (Turandot)
  4. Prunier (La Rondine)
  5. Grand Inquisitor (Don Carlos)

 

  • It is great to see you come back to Boston, since this is where you studied music and sung with the Boston Lyric Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Do you have any fondness for the city, and what places will you visit while you are here for the May 28 concert?

Since the once legendary Locke-Ober restaurant at Winter Place closed a few years ago, I guess I will have to find a new place for lunch! I used to love its elder-world, historic, old-school feel. After being around for some 130 + years, I never really envisioned that it would somehow disappear. I thought that there would always exist a clientele that wanted to step back in time, eat classic French cuisine, take a peek at John F. Kennedy’s private booth, marvel at their reflection in polished silver, and have gracious waiters tend to their dining experience. So, if you have any suggestions… I am all ears!!

djc

 

 

From Vann to Wagner

February 19th, 2016

February 19, 2016

With the 9th anniversary of the Vann Vocal Institute in Montgomery AL now storied history; I look ahead to the stunning Washington National Opera production of Francesca Zambello’s ‘American’ Ring Cycle.  To move from “Vann to Wagner” in one fell-swoop may be a bit jarring but, with any luck at all, we will triumph in this endeavor as we did in San Francisco in 2011.  I have outstanding cast-mates, a first rate production team, and there is LOTS of anticipation.  So on this Friday February 19, I will look ahead to my departure to Washington D.C. in a few days!

djc

P.s. Happy Birthday Dino

 

 

H.G.O.

October 12th, 2015

October 12, 2015

Many years ago when I made a dedicated decision to leave the ‘night-club/showroom/supper-club’ industry, and embark upon a career in opera, I had a goal in mind:
Make a debut at the ‘Big Four’ by the age of 35 (I was 28/29 years old at the time).  The so-called ‘Big Four’ consisted of (in alphabetical order) Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera.

I have learned many things since arbitrarily setting that goal, such as:
1.) Age related goals are basically unrealistic, and a poor benchmark upon which to peg an accomplishment (due to a variety of variables).
2.) A vibrant industry usually undergoes “Expanding Pie Syndrome”.
3.) Professional objectives unfold along their own time frame.

A brief explanation of points 1 and 3:
*Age is a poor arbiter and should really be discarded from our thinking for this reason…”Man plans, and God laughs.”

*Because “Man plans, and God laughs”; I would fully suggest that one allow for ‘time‘ to take care of certain aspects of your development.  This is not to say that one shouldn’t be proactive with regard to their professional trajectory, but often the ‘timing‘ is just not right…(which also is inclusive of ‘luck’, ‘scheduling’, etc etc).

To address point 2. above, I will just say that while the ‘Big Four’ are still out there to be sure, there are many additions to that original list that now include Washington National Opera, Dallas Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Seattle Opera…and others.  Not to even mention all of the international A-level houses outside the domestic North American sphere.

Still, I had always wanted to be contracted with all of the original ‘Big Four’…so just call me an old-school romantic.

My previous post entitled ‘So What Happens Now?, Where Am I Going To?’ addressed the fact that I had completed a bucket-list of singing roles; but looming just ahead of me this summer was the fact that after 25 years in the real world of professional opera, I was going to make my debut with Houston Grand Opera (H.G.O.)

I have had many other unexpected delights in my career…Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, both Paris Opera houses (Garnier/Bastille), high-end recordings in London and Hong Kong, a feature film that premiered at the Venice Film Festival; and having worked with the world’s finest directors (Opera, Film, and Broadway), the absolute greatest conductors on the planet, and I have sung side-by-side with the most supreme array of classical vocal artists I could have ever conceived.

So you can only but imagine how thrilled I will be next week to debut with the wonderful Houston Grand Opera.  I am well past the age of 35, but ‘time‘ took care of this particular (and very naïve) goal of yesteryear.  So when I hit the stage for not one, but two different productions (Tosca and Eugene Onegin ) in the coming weeks for H.G.O., I will be thinking:

H. (honored)
G. (grateful)
O. (optimistic)

With a large thank you to my agent/manager, and the artistic administration/artistic directors of H.G.O. (Houston Grand Opera) for helping me reach another storied benchmark in my professional life!

I am H.G.O. thanks to H.G.O.

djc

“So what happens now?” “Where am I going to?”

July 9th, 2015

I spoke to a colleague the other night about my first Equity job… the one that got me that ever prized ‘union card’ when so many of us were looking for a break in show-business. It was 1985, and I didn’t attend my college graduation in order to be in Brunswick, Maine to start rehearsals at ‘Brunswick Music Theatre’ (later rebranded as the ‘Maine State Theater’). That was 30 years ago this very summer… and has the time ever flown.

We presented many musicals that summer, the most memorable being a production of Evita, which was still white-hot in theatrical circles. In it, was a song that has stuck in my mind for three decades. “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”. With the following lyrics (and melody) burned into my brain: “So what happens now? Where am I going to?”

Never have those words meant so very much, and never did I expect them to have such an impact on me.

As I sit today in Fairbanks, Alaska I reflect on the fact that with tonight’s premiere performance of Hansel & Gretel, I will have now effectively closed the circle of desire on all the roles that I have ever wished to sing since focusing on a career on the opera stage in 1990. The role of the ‘Witch’ being the only one that has eluded me for decades… until now.

I am extremely grateful that the company with whom I have performed a number of times (Opera Fairbanks) has tapped me to make this role debut. This company means a lot to this community, and the finest singers in the business have come here to perform for just that reason. It also gives us singers an opportunity to try out new material- or recreate comfortable favorites- while having a meaningful seat at the artistic table.

That being said, and with hopes high for a very successful run for all of my wonderful colleagues and myself; I have begun to wonder:

“So what happens now? Where am I going to?”

How lucky am I to actually be able to say that I have now sung all the roles I have ever wished to sing? And make no mistake; I will relish every opportunity to repeat any one of the many roles I have sung–and I have several new roles upcoming that I look forward to premiering as well. But at the same time I can’t help but feel somewhat sad and bittersweet about attaining that which I have always desired: A wish-list now complete.

Perhaps the answer lies in some of the other lyrics in the same song from Evita:

“Call in three months time, and I’ll be fine.”

Looking forward to this, and many more wonderful nights on the opera stage!

A very thankful,
David Cangelosi

7/9/2015

And then…Spring

April 11th, 2015

And finally I awoke this morning to the glories of Spring:

The sun broke over the East Side of New York, and bathed my Upper West Side 35th floor New York residence with a golden glaze.  An hour-long exercise walk in Central Park after morning coffee, found me in the company of many other New Yorkers…some walking, some running, some jogging, while others strolled with their dogs.  A rite of passage in the form of Little League baseball teams take over certain sections of the Park.  I note that some baseball mitts were actually bigger than the boys who donned them–don’t worry, they will grow into them!  I pass the same iconic tree that is still barren of leaves, but so glorious when eventually filled out.

I missed the company of my wife, worried about the well-being of my father (although I had just spoken to him), and thought fondly of my mother who has been working so very hard to see to my father’s transition home after his terrible accident in this city almost 4 months ago.  I then went to rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera, chatted with our Director about an upcoming project that we will do together, headed home when the artistic team was finished with me, and made a healthy lunch.  After several iterations of FaceTime with my wife,  I sit in the sun on this wonderful balcony that overlooks the entirety of New York as the city hums below.  I pen a short note of condolence to my brother’s companion who just lost her mother, and I listen to the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast as I write this entry.  So much to worry about, so much to think about, so much music to prepare, so much skyline to try to take in.

Somehow today it doesn’t really matter, because Spring has finally arrived to New York City; and the troubles of the world somehow seem manageable…at least for today.

Thank God for Spring; for what would Summer, Fall, and Winter do without it!!

djc

April 11, 2015

Tears, Jeers, and Cheers

January 27th, 2015

January 21, 2015

The close of 2014 and start of 2015 found myself and my family in a state of panic as my father suffered a devastating head injury while visiting me in New York City. What was to be a fun visit for my parents to see me perform at the Metropolitan Opera, and then stay through Christmas, turned to absolute tragedy when my father misjudged a curb and sustained a traumatic brain injury–courtesy of the pavement–on Christmas Eve. While other injuries were also present, it was the brain-bleed that worried the Neuroscientists the most. An associated seizure 7 days later on New Year’s Eve did not help our spirits, as I felt certain that my father would die on New Year’s Day after seeing him laying almost lifeless, and certainly helpless, in the ICU. Unable to hold back the TEARS, my wife, my mother, and certainly I were as crestfallen as imaginable. We sent my mother home to Cleveland the next day, clearly sensing her exhaustion from a week-long vigil in and out of Mount Sinai Hospital. More tears from us both as we said goodbye at the airport. My wife and I stayed behind to monitor events for the next week, but my mother was uncertain that she would ever see my father alive again. As if by a miracle from an avalanche of prayer, my father awoke that January 2nd, 2015; his left side paralysis had abated, and he even began talking again. He was weak to be sure, had a touch of pneumonia (likely from aspirating some food a few days before), but he was still with us… with no recollection of the seizure. He was eventually transported back to Cleveland where he is now in a struggle to heal on all fronts, and regain some mobility and independence. Time will only tell.

With a turnaround time of only three days, I rushed from New York to Cleveland via medical ambulance, and from Cleveland to Chicago by air, just in time to regroup and head to Hong Kong for a much anticipated debut with the Hong Kong Philharmonic. (More on that below.) Just before boarding was to begin on our 777-200 aircraft at O’Hare International Airport, an announcement was made that a maintenance ladder had punctured an exit door on the very aircraft we were about to fly. Needless to say, the aircraft was taken ‘out of service’. Audible JEERS were levied and lobbed at gate agents…but really at United Airlines in particular… and more likely the maintenance team that punctured the aircraft door. Not knowing what was going to happen next, I headed back to the International First Class Lounge, but received no immediate answers. ‘Lo and Behold’, another 777-200 was located (Chicago being a UAL hub), bags were transferred, and we were on our way about 1 hour and 45 minutes late. All in all, not too bad given the circumstances.

Sixteen hours later, a safe landing in Hong Kong, followed by being whisked away via private car to my hotel, represented the beginning of my next adventure–not just the end of a long plane ride. After a day of rest, my colleagues and I embarked on history as the HK PHIL became the first Asian-based symphony to tackle the presentation of Richard Wagner’s fabled ‘Ring’ cycle. With one opera per year being presented, this represents a four-year total project, which is inclusive of recordings as well as performances. The very intense and brilliant Jaap van Zweden leads the forces, and conducts with complete authority. At the time of this writing, I am preparing to sing tonight’s final general/complete run-thru of Das Rheingold, which clocks in at 2 hours and 45 minutes and has no stopping point. There is much anticipation ahead of these series of performances, and I can only hope that at the end of this odyssey I will be able to report that CHEERS capped off the TEARS and JEERS that preceded.

One thing is for certain:

As much as we wish to control our lives and our destinies, some circumstances defy our usually reasonable attempts and expectations. I have an idea of what tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year will bring. I know this because I have a ‘schedule’ that tells me so. However, we will never be able to know what is really going to happen until it has actually passed and become part of our life’s history. It is my hope that a kinder, gentler immediate future in is the offing… because I am really exhausted right now!!

**UPDATE:  Indeed, cheers prevailed in Hong Kong! CASCADES of them…!!

 

djc

From Gamble Auditorium to List Hall

November 10th, 2014

November 10 (my birthday), 2014

After graduating from Baldwin-Wallace College (now Baldwin-Wallace University) 30 years ago, I had never stepped foot back onto campus to speak to students, present a masterclass, or even sing an alumni recital.  This all changed recently thanks to an invitation from an old classmate (Nanette Canfield) who has run the School of Music/Conservatory as its Assistant Director for quite a few years now, as well as the intercession of a few faculty members and friends in the Cleveland area.

I spent two days on campus and was escorted through new buildings and newly renovated elder facilities.  I could hardly believe my eyes, but would surely have expected some changes after three decades.  I was thrilled beyond measure at the turn of every hallway corner, as well as experienced a few flashbacks regarding my struggles there as a student.

As I explained to the aspiring students in a Friday lecture, I was actually glad to have never been back until now. I felt that I hadn’t anything to say before this point, and also felt I had nothing to ‘give’ by way of offering advice–professionally, personally, or musically.  I did, however, feel that I had something to say and give NOW in the academic year 2014/2015.  After providing a full lecture on Friday, which included several probing questions from students; I tendered a Saturday masterclass in Gamble Auditorium featuring 8 of the finest young singers I could have ever hoped to hear at this august undergraduate institution.  The class attracted the entire teaching team from the vocal wing of the university (which included some current working colleagues from my performance career), members of the community, plus early musical influences of mine from over 37 years ago in the Cleveland area.  Needless to say, I was moved in large degree.  I departed, being told that I was an ‘inspiration’ to these wonderful young students; and received similar follow-up responses once I got back to New York for rehearsals at the Metropolitan Opera.  The aspect of being a so-called inspiration is important because of what will now follow… so please read on.

I left Cleveland, Ohio and immediately came to my lovely apartment in New York City that I have had at Lincoln Center for well over a decade.  We began rehearsing the next day for Die Meistersinger, which is one of the largest single-opera undertakings in the entire canon.  I quickly moved from one end of the spectrum as the person who was DOING the inspiring–to becoming the one was now BEING inspired–by the entrance of the legendary James Levine into List Hall for music rehearsal.  He is, and remains, the most celebrated Artistic Director, Music Director, Conductor, and all around Musician of our age.

The delight and absolute satisfaction with which he dispatches a musical rehearsal is beyond anything I have ever witnessed.  I recognized this when I first began rehearsing for my debut in Das Rheingold with Maestro Levine at the Met quite some years ago; but in reality this love-fest began decades earlier when I first became aware of him as he conducted Met broadcasts that I viewed on PBS as a very young and dreamy-eyed voice student in high-school.

The ease with which he conducts, the language he uses when providing advice/instruction to the singers, the complete satisfaction that he exhibits while conducting, and his absolute respect for the musical score which he seems so privileged to conduct, makes one feel as if he is actually inside the score himself.  It is hard to explain in words, but those of us who have been so honored to work with him know what I am trying to feebly express via the written word.

All I can really say, is that during the 6 hours of music rehearsal that we have had (2 separate 3 hour sessions), I forgot all of my problems, worries, and concerns both big and small.  I simply wallowed in the greatness of the miraculous score of Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, in which Maestro Levine seemed as a humble vessel who was–in the most simple (but clearly very complex) way–bringing it to life.

Being one who inspired at my Alma-Mater a week or so ago(???)… maybe.

Feeling exhilarated and inspired still, after well over 37 years in professional show-business…DEFINITELY!!!!

djc

 

 

All Hands On Deck at ‘Vann Vocal Institute’

September 30th, 2014

September 30, 2014

When your body (and your wife) finally tell you to throttle back, you had better listen.  Therefore I write this entry from my bed, bored to tears, but still panicked over what must be done in the next few weeks.  The Vann Vocal Institute in Montgomery, Alabama is an intense week for me to be sure; but the planning begins months and months in advance with the final 4-6 weeks posing a particular drain on me.  Coordinating this event–beginning for ME on Saturday October 11 (with others soon to follow)–which features a ‘Celebrity Recital’ by our faculty/artists, and LOTS of teaching, lecturing, and masterclasses to our students, as well as social obligations as the Program Director can be tricky indeed while navigating a full performance calendar.

Fortunately, the ‘human capital’ (aka: the Montgomery Symphony administrative ground team) in Montgomery is first rate!  It would be impossible to do all of this without them.  The success of this program ultimately rests with this program’s backbone…one Kimberly Wolfe, the new Executive Director of the Montgomery Symphony organization, and her team.  She is busy organizing radio, television, and print media spots for me, plus a few early outreach events.  President Cameron West of Huntingdon College, our host for the week, is also checking-in regularly to make sure that we have everything we need.  Generous local donors (Jim Wilson & Associates) step in to provide first rate, private jet transportation and housing for all of us, while I am busy playing travel agent and party planner to everyone.

In the end, this is all in service to our students from five states and the local community.  We raise private funds in order to bring all programs to the students and community free of charge…so the fundraising also never ends.  I pause to give thanks to two major Chicago Arts Foundations for their continuing support to an area of the country that is not part of their direct purview; they do so because of my association with them…and this is the most humbling aspect of all. I can only hope to do justice to their funding, and remain inexplicably grateful to them.

Calling: “All Hands On Deck”!

My wonderful faculty and I are about to invade the friendliest city in America.  Historic Montgomery, Alabama!

djc

Faculty:
David Cangelosi, Program Director
Lori Phillips, Soprano
Elizabeth Bishop, Mezzo-Soprano
Richard Troxell, Tenor
Raymond Aceto, Bass
Dr. Elizabeth Buccheri, Senior Vocal Coach
Kelly Kuo, Vocal Coach
Dale Williams, Masterclass Pianist

 

 

 

 

Build It, and They Will Sing!

July 26th, 2014

July 26, 2014

As I sit in Denver International Airport awaiting my flight to Tokyo and my next work assignment; I am reflecting upon the past four weeks of intense work at Land of Enchantment Opera Institute (LOEOI).

There are more summer vocal study programs out there than you can shake a stick at these days…with everyone, in any exotic locale, trying to get in on the act. It is a full-court press of sharp marketing and big names, all in an attempt to lure young singers to their special program… always for a fee.

Italy, Germany, Sicily, France, Prague, Austria…the list goes on and on. Not to mention the plethora of such programs to be found in the sexiest of American cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Gallup… WAIT A MINUTE… WHERE??… GALLUP? (As in, New Mexico?)

Please allow me to continue.

These programs usually proclaim “intensive” language study, voice lessons, and vocal coaching with some of the world’s finest practitioners. They produce concerts and operas; often at little or no cost to the public (but often at a large cost as well). Several of them deliver the goods as advertised, while others leave participants disappointed… and broke!!

Gallup, New Mexico may seem an odd location to house a summer opera institute, and I would agree. Nestled amongst the Navajo Nation, with glorious mesas on one side, Indian casinos on the other side, and Historic Route 66 slicing it all in half; it would hardly seem to be the place where artists of renown would gather to teach the classical vocal arts. I would have agreed whole-heartedly, until I accepted an invitation to teach for four of its five weeks at the behest of my friend and colleague Peter Strummer, basso par excellence.

His mission: Teach the next generation the rudiments of true classical opera and voice.

His vessels: Active, world-class colleagues.

The results: Amazing.

The grounds aren’t fancy, the accommodations are only basic, the main building creaks (but not from old age), and there is no air conditioning. But the students who come are some of the finest and most talented I have ever had the pleasure (and challenge) to instruct. Jaw-dropping young talent that made me wonder what irradiated agriculture field their vegetables came from in their youth. But there they were, in Gallup, NM singing and studying their heart’s out.

Were there frustrations? You bet!

Were there tears? Guaranteed!

Were there defaults? Absolutely!

Were their breakthroughs?? You better believe it!!

Will more come next year? You can bet the farm on it!

Overall, this is a low-cost program when you add it all up. But no matter what these students have paid; they got their money’s worth and a whole lot more! I know this because I was one of their instructors and Master-class teachers; and I don’t allow much sway. Neither did the other outstanding instructors/mentors that were brought in to pass their knowledge along. There is a lot of great young talent out there, and many of them found their way to Gallup, NM this summer. I eagerly promoted this program, because I knew I was going to be there. But more importantly, I knew every OTHER faculty member that was going to be there as well.

I was challenged, and I was fulfilled. But most of all I was impressed with the level of dedication and drive that thankfully still exists out there for the classical vocal arts.

I run my own small vocal institute in Montgomery, Alabama (The Vann Vocal Institute) whose faculty has boasted some of the world’s finest; therefore, I know the challenges that my colleague Peter faces with his extended program of five full weeks that is packed with concerts, recitals, fully staged operas, and lots and lots of instruction.

But in the end it’s fairly simple:

Build it, and they will sing!!

 

djc