Guest post: baritone Zachary Johnson ’17MM ’18MMA, on performing Opera Scenes

Baritone Zachary Johnson

On a chilly day in February 2015, I walked into Doris Yarick-Cross’ office for my audition interview. Nervous, and very excited, I answered a series of well-thought-out questions about my education, musicianship, and hopes for the future. I remember the interview well, but there will always be one question that sticks out to me: “Can you learn and memorize music quickly?” I answered, sang my audition, and later accepted my position and moved to New Haven the following September. Within the first week of school I was given a large envelope of music for my first production at Yale: Opera Scenes. I was to perform four different roles, in four different opera scenes — two in Italian, one in German, and one in English. I had just over a month to learn the repertoire, work with coaches, and sing the music from memory. I had my work cut out for me, but I thought back to that interview question and knew that this is what is expected from a singer in this program, and I was not going back down.

“Così fan tutte,” 2017

Opera scenes are an incredibly useful venture for singers, especially young singers intending to pursue a career in opera. While teaching us how to learn multiple styles of music in multiple languages at once, they also help us develop the skill of switching gears emotionally, mentally, and physically as we jump from character to character. I can remember transforming from an eccentric, dancing butler to a slow, dim-witted carpenter all in one night. What is unique about the Yale Opera is that the scenes programs are fully costumed and staged, so each snippet of these incredible operas can stand alone and tell their own stories. We get to work with incredibly talented vocal coaches that help us achieve a deeper understanding of the music and text so we are fully prepared to step on stage and bring these stories to life. Strengthening the ability to jump from character to character and language to language is an extremely useful skill for all opera singers, and Opera Scenes is one of the best programs for that. Following our scenes program in the fall, we perform a complete, fully staged production at the Shubert Theatre. The work chosen is usually one we performed a scene from the previous semester, which is an incredibly useful feature of the Yale Opera program. While developing the skill of balancing multiple roles is important, diving into an entire role and being able to understand the growth and trajectory of a single character is equally as vital for a young singer. the Yale Opera provides its singers with opportunities for both, and you will finish this program with a quicker mind, a thicker resume, and the skills you will absolutely need to balance the multifaceted workload of a professional opera singer.

“Don Quichotte,” 2016

In my third year here at the Yale School of Music, I still think back to that interview. I think back to that question. I will admit, in February 2015, that my answer lacked confidence. I was unsure if I possessed what it takes to be an opera singer. If you were to ask me the same question today, another chilly day, in November 2017, I would smile, think back on the incredible amount of opportunities I have been given in this program to develop as a singer, a musician, and a human being, and give you the most confident “Yes.”


Published November 2, 2017
Share This Comments

[ announcements ]

Pamela Frank, Jonathan Mills, and Charles Neidich visit YSM

Jonathan Mills | Photo by Seamus McGarvey

Jonathan Mills | Photo by Seamus McGarvey

The Yale School of Music’s revised Artist Diploma program is designed for a highly select number of young instrumentalists and singers who have demonstrable potential for a major concert career. No more than three students will be admitted to the AD each year. Admission to this program requires two campus auditions. The first round of auditions is heard by YSM artist faculty; the final round will be adjudicated by an external committee.

The final round of auditions will take place on Saturday, February 27, 2016 in Morse Recital Hall. This year, the three guest judges are Pamela Frank, Jonathan Mills, and Charles Neidich. MORE

Published February 24, 2016
Share This Comments

[ alumni ]

Alison King ’14 MM takes first place in Met Opera Auditions, Upper Midwest Region

Alison King

Alison King

Soprano Alison King ’14 MM is a first place winner in the Upper Midwest Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She will advance to the national semi-final auditions, which take place on the Metropolitan Opera stage on March 6, 2016.

The Upper Midwest regional auditions took place January 24 in Minneapolis, Minn. MORE

Published January 27, 2016
Share This Comments

Yale Opera Chorus Auditions Oct. 20

Yale Opera will be holding chorus auditions for its February 2014 opera production on Sunday, October 20, 2–5 pm. Auditions take place in Hendrie Hall at 165 Elm Street, New Haven.

All interested singers should contact Erika Niemi to schedule an audition. Singers are asked to prepare one solo classical selection (in any language) for the audition. An accompanist will be provided; please bring a copy of your music.

La boheme, February 2007, Yale Opera, Yale School of Music

The opera will be performed Feb. 14–16, 2014 in the beautiful Shubert Theater with stage direction by Michael Gieleta and music direction by Giuseppe Grazioli. Rehearsals will begin January 12.

Choristers will receive compensation for the production. This is a great opportunity to be part of full opera production with sets, costumes and an orchestra! MORE

Published October 3, 2013
Share This Comments

Announcing a new ensemble, Yale Choral Artists

Jeffrey Douma, director

The Yale School of Music and the Yale Glee Club are pleased to announce the organization of a new professional choral ensemble, the Yale Choral Artists. The Yale Choral Artists will be a project-based ensemble comprised of leading professional singers from around the country and will be directed by School of Music faculty member Jeffrey Douma.

Robert Blocker, Dean of the School of Music, said that “the Yale Choral Artists will enhance and enrich the School’s commitment to the choral arts. Gifted singers from throughout the nation will not only bring a new artistic voice to our concert programs but also mentor Yale undergraduate and graduate students.”

Since 2003, Jeffrey Douma has directed the undergraduate Yale Glee Club, which last season received rave reviews in the national press. The New York Times called it “One of the best collegiate singing ensembles, and one of the most adventurous,” and the Washington Post praised, “Under the direction of Jeffrey Douma, the sopranos – indeed, all the voices – sang as one voice, with flawless intonation.” Douma, who is also the musical director of the Yale Alumni Chorus and the choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, has previously served on the conducting faculties of Carroll College, Smith College, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Blocker commented, “I am delighted that Jeffrey Douma, Yale’s distinguished young choral conductor, will conduct and give artistic direction to the Yale Choral Artists. Jeff’s artistic presence is receiving international acclaim, and the professional activities of the Yale Choral Artists will further the international partnerships of both the School and the University.”

The ensemble’s first two projects, both in 2012, include a February program with guest conductor and renowned early music specialist William Christie in New York (Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall), and a June program of contemporary American music at the Yale International Choral Festival. MORE

Published August 26, 2011
Share This Comments