Doris Yarick-Cross and Richard Cross to retire at year’s end

Richard Cross and Doris Yarick-Cross

For decades, the Yale School of Music’s voice and opera programs have developed remarkable artists who have graced the stages of the world’s most prestigious venues and performed with celebrated opera companies and instrumental ensembles. Doris Yarick-Cross and Richard Cross, who have served on the School’s faculty since 1983 and 1995, respectively, have been an important part of those achievements. Today, we offer our gratitude to Doris and Richard, who, together, plan to retire at the end of the current academic year. Doris and Richard will teach currently enrolled students through the completion of their degree programs.

“In her initial contract, Doris was given the responsibility of establishing a professional opera program in the School of Music,” YSM Dean Robert Blocker said. “With her vision and leadership, Yale Opera has become an internationally renowned program where singers come to launch their careers as vocal artists.” Richard’s “inimitable teaching style and gift for languages has given generations of Yale Opera students unparalleled lyrical training,” Blocker said. “In partnership with Doris and our other stellar voice faculty and staff, Richard has played an essential role in shaping the lives of hundreds of ascendant singers.” MORE

Published October 16, 2018
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YSM alumni lead social-justice-focused vocal ensemble

Inspire: A Choir for Unity

In fall 2012, guitarist Mark Barden enjoyed playing a few gigs with his children James, Natalie, and Daniel. Then, on December 14 of that year, Daniel, a 7-year-old drummer, was among the elementary-school students who were murdered in their classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn. “I made my career as a musician up until the day of the tragedy,” Barden said. “A lot of folks would’ve assumed that music was my comfort” in the aftermath of the massacre. It has not been. “I had to get away from it for a while.” While Barden will not ever get away from the loss of his son, the loss drives him to protect others from gun violence. Barden is the founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, whose mission is to “prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.”

On Saturday, September 15, Sandy Hook Promise will partner with the New York City-based choral ensemble Inspire in presenting a vocal program called “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen.” A similar program was presented in November 2017 at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. As that program did, “this concert commemorates all those lost to gun violence and seeks to inspire unity and peace,” the ensemble’s website indicates. Inspire, a “choir for unity” that “seeks to promote unity through the power of song,” per its mission, is led by soprano and YSM alumna Megan Chartrand ’13MM, who serves as the group’s executive director. “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen” is designed, Chartrand said, to take the audience “through a series of emotions that somebody who’s experienced gun violence might go through.” The program will feature members of the Yale Glee Club.

“All people appreciate music,” Barden said. “To use that as a platform to connect people is just so powerful.” Representatives from Sandy Hook Promise will share the organization’s mission and objectives with the audience at the September 15 event.

“I think it really gets to the core of what the value of art is in our society,” said Yale Glee Club Director Jeffrey Douma, who is a member of Inspire’s artistic advisory board. “The arts make connections between people, and I think music does that particularly well. It’s something we all have in common.”

In organizing Inspire, the performances the ensemble presents, and the partnerships it enters into, Chartrand sought to use her artistic skills to make a difference in the world. “I feel on a daily basis overwhelmed by things I would like to help and improve,” she said. “Music is a skill that I possess, that everyone in Inspire possesses, and it’s a very powerful tool. We want to alleviate some of the pain in the world.” Beyond the choir’s performances, she pointed out, “we’re introducing people to organizations that fight this battle on a daily basis.

“We feel sort of powerless,” said Inspire soprano Eleanor Killiam ’15 BS, who sang with the Glee Club as an undergraduate at Yale. “This feels like a really great way to use our talents for good, and that feels really rewarding.”

Knox Sutterfield ’14MM, one of Inspire’s associate artistic directors, studied choral conducting at the School of Music. “This idea of community building,” he said, “is so essential to our mission.”

Inspire: A Choir for Unity will present “Don’t Shoot, Just Listen” on Saturday, September 15, at 7:30 p.m., in Yale University’s Marquand Chapel. Learn more here.

INSPIRE: A CHOIR FOR UNITY

SANDY HOOK PROMISE

Published September 10, 2018
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YSM Alumni News | September 2018

Reena Esmail. Photo by Rachel Garcia

Sandbox Percussion, a group comprised of Jonathan Allen ’13MM ’14AD, Victor Caccese ’13MM, Ian Rosenbaum ’10MM ’11AD, and Terry Sweeney ’15MM, recently signed on with Blu Ocean Arts Music Management company.

Hornist Jocelyn Crawford Carr ’08MM was appointed third horn of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.

Composer Reena Esmail ’11MM ’14MMA ’18DMA has been elected to the executive board of New Music USA.

Pianists Juan Carlos Fernández-Nieto ’09MM ’10AD and Sun-A Park ’16AD ’17MMA participated in the Santander International Piano Competition in Spain. Park advanced to the semifinals, while Fernández-Nieto advanced to the finals and took home the Canon Audience Prize.

Guitarists Thomas Flippin ’07MM ’08AD and Christopher Mallett ’09MM, performing as Duo Noire, released an album called Night Triptych on New Focus Recordings. The album features several world-premiere recordings of newly commissioned works by women composers.

Keyboardist Stephen Gamboa ’16AD was named Music Director at Bethesda Lutheran Church in New Haven.

David Gier

David Gier ’85MM ’86MMA ’92DMA has been appointed Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater & Dance. He was also named the Paul Boylan Collegiate Professor of Music.

Composers Trevor Gureckis ’07MM and Jay Wadley ’07MM ’08AD, founders of the artist collective Found Object Music Productions, have been nominated for an Emmy Award for their work on the sixth season of HBO’s VICE.

Conductor Ng Tian Hui ’10MM was named the conductor of the Pioneer Valley Symphony in Greenfield, Mass.

Pianist Wenbin Jin ’13MM ’15AD was awarded the Liszt Ferenc Society’s International Grand Prix du Disque for his Naxos recording of Liszt’s Grandes études, S. 137. An award ceremony will take place on Liszt’s birthday, October 24, in Budapest.

Pianist Fantee Jones ’18MMA, violinist Sissi Yuqing Zhang MMA, and violinist Kyung Min Lee ’17MM toured Asia this past summer as Ensemble Trois.

Clarinetist Emil Khudyev ’11MM received tenure at the Seattle Symphony & Opera Players’ Organization in June.

Soprano Jihee Kim ’11AD received third prize at the Riccardo Zandonai Competition this summer at the Musica Riva Festival in Italy.

Conductor Jahja Ling ’80MMA ’85DMA is the subject of an exhibition at the Bonita Museum and Cultural Center in California. Running through the end of September, the exhibition charts the highlights of Maestro Ling’s career and includes interactive elements to introduce visitors to the world of orchestral conducting.

Alasdair Neale. Photo by Lucy Gellman

Conductor Alasdair Neale ’85MM ’86MMA has been named Music Director of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, beginning in the 2019-2020 season.

Composer Tawnie Olson ’99MM ’00AD was awarded the 2018 Barlow Prize from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition and will compose a new major work for SATB choir. The Barlow Endowment, based at Brigham Young University, also awarded composer Andy Akiho ’11MM a grant to compose a work for Sandbox Percussion.

Hilary Purrington ’17MMA is one of six composers whose work was played, workshopped, and recorded by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Assistant Conductor Kensho Watanabe ’09BS ’10MM.

Pianists Gabriele Strata ’19MM, Wenting Shi ’19MMA, and Yannick van de Velde ’20MMA took home awards from the Virtuoso & Belcanto Festival in Lucca, Italy. In the piano competition, Strata won first prize and Shi won third prize. Shi and van de Velde won first prize in the chamber music competition for their piano four-hands performance of The Rite of Spring.

 

Published September 7, 2018
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YSM Alumni News | May 2018

Pianist Tanya Bannister CERT was named president of the Concert Artists Guild. She succeeds Richard S. Weinert, who plans to retire in June after 18 years at the organization.

Violinist Qi Cao ’10MM won a position with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and will join the ensemble in September 2018. Cao has been a member of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra for five years.

The Jasper String Quartet. Photo by Dario Acosta

The Jasper String Quartet, which includes violinists John Freivogel ’10AD and Sae Chonabayashi, violist Sam Quintal ’10AD, and cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel ’10AD, had their album Unbound named one of The New York Times’ “Top 25 Classical Albums of 2017.” The recording includes works by YSM alumni Judd Greenstein ’04MM, Caroline Shaw ’07MM, Missy Mazzoli ’06MM, Ted Hearne ’08MM ’09MMA ’14DMA, and David Lang ’83MMA ’89DMA and was released on the Sono Luminus and New Amsterdam labels.

Composers Michael Gilbertson ’13MM ’21DMA and Ted Hearne ’08MM ’09MMA ’14DMA were named co-finalists for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Gilbertson was nominated for his work Quartet, which was commissioned by the Verona Quartet, Concert Artists Guild, and BMI Foundation, and Hearne was nominated for his work Sound from the Bench, which was commissioned by Volti and The Crossing.

Darren Hicks

Darren Hicks ’14MM was appointed associate principal bassoonist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Hicks has been a fellow at the New World Symphony, in Miami Beach, Fla., for the past three years.

Alumna Molly Joyce ’17MM and incoming students Alexis C. Lamb ’20MM and Peter Shin ’20MMA received ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

Violinist Dennis Kim ’98MM was named concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony in Orange County, Calif. Kim has served as concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra since 2015.

Composers Yoshiaki Onishi ’07MM ’08AD and Carl Schimmel ’99MM were awarded Guggenheim Fellowships for music composition.

Two alumni received awards from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation. Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn ’02MM ’03AD received the Richard Tucker Award, and bass David Leigh ’14MM received a Sara Tucker Study Grant.

Published May 9, 2018
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Prizes awarded at annual Honors Banquet

Dean Robert Blocker

On Sunday, May 6, YSM Dean Robert Blocker told graduating students that he looks forward to hearing their music in venues around the world. The occasion was the School’s annual Honors Banquet, which was held this year at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale. Attendees included students and alumni, faculty and staff, YSM board members Mary Beth Buck, Walter Buck, and Stephanie Yu Lim, and emeritus staff and faculty members Rosemary Gould, Gene Kimball, Judy Long, and Mary-Jo Warren. Aimlee Laderman, whose late husband Ezra Laderman was a longtime member of the School’s composition faculty and from 1989 to 1995 served as Dean, was also in attendance.

Blocker announced that the Ian Mininberg Distinguished Service Award would be presented at Commencement, as this year’s recipient, composer Lori Laitman ’76MM, was unable to attend the Honors Banquet, at which the award is traditionally conferred. Blocker congratulated students who won or placed at competitions this year and acknowledged YSM’s Music in Schools Initiative, whose leadership — Director Rubén Rodríguez ’11MM, Associate Dean Michael Yaffe, and Yaffe’s assistant, Rachel Glodo — was recognized by the University in April with an Ivy Award for the work the program does at Yale and in the New Haven community. “Yale has no finer community engagement program than Music in Schools,” Blocker said.

At the end of the night, Blocker expressed his gratitude to students, faculty, and staff for a wonderful year. “As one who at different moments has been touched by your talent and compassion,” he said, “I want to thank you on behalf of a wider audience.”


The following student prizes were presented during the Honors Banquet.

Brass and Woodwinds

The Thomas Daniel Nyfenger Memorial Prize, which is awarded to a graduating student who has demonstrated the highest standard of excellence in woodwind playing, was presented to oboist Lauren Williams. The John Swallow Prize, which is given to an outstanding brass player whose artistry and dedication have contributed to the department, was awarded to trombonist Zachary Haas.

Left to right: Dean Robert Blocker, Director of Choral Conducting Marguerite Brooks, Joseph Kemper, and Professor of Choral Conducting Jeffrey Douma

Left to right: Dean Robert Blocker, Director of Choral Conducting Marguerite Brooks, Joseph Kemper, and Professor of Choral Conducting Jeffrey Douma

Choral Conducting

The inaugural Robert Shaw Prize, given in honor of the renowned American choral conductor and awarded to a choral conducting major in the School of Music chosen by the choral conducting faculty for distinguished achievement, was presented to Joseph Kemper.

Composition

The Woods Chandler Memorial Prize for the best composition in a larger form written during the year was awarded to Krists Auznieks. The Rena Greenwald Memorial Prize for the best piano composition written during the year went to Alishan Gezgin. The John Day Jackson Prize for outstanding chamber music compositions written for strings with or without other instruments was presented to Fjóla Evans. The Frances E. Osborne Kellogg Memorial Prize for the best composition written in a contrapuntal style was given to Liliya Ugay. And the Ezra Laderman Prize for the best compositions written for musical theater or voice was awarded to Sophie Cash-Goldwasser and Eli Greenhoe.

Dean Robert Blocker, Sophie Cash-Goldwasser, Eli Greenhoe, and Professor of Composition Martin Bresnick

Left to right: Dean Robert Blocker, Sophie Cash-Goldwasser, Eli Greenhoe, and Professor of Composition Martin Bresnick

Guitar

The Eliot Fisk Prize, which is given to an outstanding guitarist whose artistic achievement and dedication have contributed greatly to the department, was awarded to Gunnlaugur Björnsson.

Organ

The Charles Ives Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding organ major, went to Diana Chou. The Julia R. Sherman Memorial Prize for excellence in organ playing was awarded to Matthew Daley.

Piano

The Charles S. Miller Prize, which is given to a gifted pianist who has done outstanding work during the first year of study, was awarded to Gabriele Strata. The Elizabeth Parisot Prize, which goes to outstanding pianists in the School of Music, was awarded to Dong Won Lee and Yannick Van de Velde.

Strings

The Georgina Lucy Grosvenor Memorial Prize, which is awarded to the violist in the graduating class whose performances while at Yale have exhibited the highest potential for success as a soloist or chamber musician in the field, was given to Julia Clancy. The Aldo Parisot Prize, which is awarded to gifted cellists who show promise for a concert career, was presented to Samuel DeCaprio and Bitnalee Pong. The Broadus Erle Prize, which is given to outstanding violinists in the School of Music, went to Laura Park, Alyssa Blackstone, and Dhyani Heath.

Voice

The David L. Kasdon Memorial Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding singer in the School of Music, went to Stephen Clark. The Smriti Deb Memorial Prize, which is given to an outstanding graduating singer who best reflects and exemplifies the ideals and values of Smriti Deb and her commitment to teaching low-income and underrepresented children, was awarded to Sylvia D’Eramo. And the Phyllis Curtin Career Entry Prize, whose purpose is to assist in launching the career of a graduating voice student who demonstrates exceptional talent as an artist and promise for professional success, was awarded to Bryan Murray.

Doctor of Musical Arts

The Friedmann Thesis Prize, which is awarded to a DMA candidate whose thesis is notable for its distinguished research, original perspective, in-depth engagement with its subject, and well-crafted presentation, was presented to composer Krists Auznieks.

Left to right: Dean Robert Blocker, Deputy Dean Melvin Chen, Sophiko Simsive, Leo Sussman, Scott Leger, Liliya Ugay, Director of Admissions and Alumni Affairs Donna You, Bora Kim, Sarah Saturnino, and James Simon Lee

Left to right: Dean Robert Blocker, Deputy Dean Melvin Chen, Sophiko Simsive, Leo Sussman, Scott Leger, Liliya Ugay, Director of Admissions and Alumni Affairs Donna Yoo, Bora Kim, Sarah Saturnino, and James Simon Lee

School

The Malcolm L. Mitchell and Donald M. Roberts, Class of 1957 Prize, which is given to an outstanding graduating teaching artist in the Music in Schools Initiative, was awarded to flutist Helen Hye Jin Park. The Philip Francis Nelson Prize, which is awarded to a graduating student whose musicianship is outstanding and who demonstrates curiosity, talent, and the entrepreneurial spirit in the many dimensions of the music profession, was presented to violist Florrie Marshall. The Presser Foundation Music Award, which is awarded to an outstanding returning student to advance his or her music education, went to Shawn Hutchison. And the Yale School of Music Alumni Association Prize, which is awarded to graduating students who have not only excelled in their respective fields but have also made important contributions to the general life of the School, was presented to clarinetist Graeme Johnson, violinist Bora Kim, choral conductor James Simon Lee, hornist Scott Leger, mezzo-soprano Sarah Saturnino, pianist Sophiko Simsive, flutist Leo Sussman, and composer Liliya Ugay.

Photos by Harold Shapiro.

Published May 8, 2018
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In Yale Opera’s “Hansel and Gretel,” the witch personifies the internet

In reimagining Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel for Yale Opera’s spring production, director John Giampietro found inspiration in the technology that consumes us even as we recognize the benefits of being so thoroughly connected.

In the libretto, written by the composer’s sister, Adelheid Wette, and based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel are sent into the forest by their mother to pick strawberries, and to give her a break from their rambunctiousness. Learning this upon returning home, the children’s father expresses concern about a malevolent witch who lives in the forest, and he and his wife set out to find their children.

Giampietro wanted to ask, by way of the production, “How is this immediate to our world and our experience?” The Brooklyn, New York-based director pointed out that “in our modern-day world, we’re sort of lost as a civilization,” we’re having “our lost-in-the woods moment,” consumed by technology and asking ourselves, “What is real?”

In the Yale Opera production, the mother hooks the children up to a virtual realty game in which they enter a forest depicted by projected designs. To find and rescue their children from danger, the parents, too, have to enter a virtual reality and play the game.

Like the forest in the story, the internet, Giampietro said, “can be full of wonder. It can be full of magic. It can also be treacherous.” The witch, in Giampietro’s turn at Hansel and Gretel, is the personification of the internet’s harmfulness. The web “can consume us,” much like the witch tries to do to the children in the story of Hansel and Gretel, he said. In the Yale Opera production, Hansel and Gretel have to free themselves from the clutches of technology and return to reality.

As a society, Giampietro said, “we’re losing touch with what is real, which is human-to-human contact.” And in that regard, he said, “I think we all have the same fears and experience. I wanted to see how these morality tales or cautionary tales still apply to our world.” The irony of the internet, he pointed out, it is that while it is designed to bring us closer together, what it is really doing is creating gaps between us, leaving us starving for contact and meaningful relationships.

Yale Opera presents a fully staged production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel on May 4&5 in the intimate Morse Recital Hall.

YALE OPERA DETAILS & TICKETS

Published April 27, 2018
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Yale Opera’s production of “The Magic Flute” asks what it means to be human

Dustin Wills

Theater director Dustin Wills, a 2014 graduate of the Yale School of Drama, says there is a reckoning happening in his industry, an accountability for what one is putting on stage and what that work has to say socially and politically. “That’s where I’m coming from,” he said recently, during rehearsals for Yale Opera’s new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which he is directing. The 1791 opera, a Singspiel, was Mozart’s last. It added punctuation to his life and to an Age of Reason that was giving way to Romanticism. The story of The Magic Flute, crafted by librettist Emanuel Schikaneder, explored and celebrated Enlightenment ideals, the flaws of which, Wills pointed out, we are dealing with today. A movement that was born of goodwill, Wills said, forgot those who were not white, male European landowners.

“It would be irresponsible for me to allow this opera to happen in a vacuum,” Wills said. And while he can’t change the libretto, he has used the work as a vehicle for revisiting the original inquiry. “What is our modern-day equivalent of this movement?” he asked. Male-focused heroism, for one thing, is “really old nonsense,” Wills said, mentioning his own struggles with playing roles steeped in male stereotypes. With that in mind, he has reframed the focus—which Schikaneder trained on Tamino—to equally include Pamina. Wills’ fundamental inquiry is: What does it mean to be human?

The answer, to Wills, can be found, in part, in our relationship with artificial intelligence. “AI today is the exact same experiment,” he said, revisiting Enlightenment-period themes of egalitarianism and individualism. “You have to really investigate what a human is. In Saudi Arabia, they gave citizenship to a robot.” Wills’ turn directing The Magic Flute brings up the same moral questions that 18th century philosophers and artists were asking in their time. And that, he believes, is part of the responsibility of the artist who is faced with staying true to a piece of work while bringing it into a modern-day context without going too far. “If we’re not making attempts to find that line,” Wills said, “I don’t know how much of an audience in the future there’s going to be.” In other words, “How do you reconcile these beautiful, amazing old works with politics that are potentially very harmful and triggering today?”

The goal, he said, “is really to be absolutely more inclusive, to try to open the door wider to more people.” This production, he explained, gives us the opportunity to take a break from the chaos around us and also leaves us with questions to ask ourselves and one another. It is his job, he said, to push members of an audience beyond their comfort zones. “The artists are the ones who’re up all night thinking about the future,” he said.

It’s not all about angst, though. “We rehearse from a place of joy at all times,” he said, “because that’s what’s at the center of this thing.”

Soprano Anush Avetisyan ’18MM, who is sharing the role of Pamina with soprano Sylvia D’Eramo ’18MM, said, “It has truly been a joy working with Dustin on this production of The Magic Flute. What I have noticed and really appreciated is Dustin’s commitment to the work at hand. His vision and personality are rare in this world and I am grateful for them every day of rehearsal.”

Yale Opera presents a new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Shubert Theatre Feb. 16-18.

PROGRAM

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DUSTIN WILLS

Published February 9, 2018
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YSM faculty mezzo-soprano Janna Baty, on collaborating with faculty pianist Peter Frankl

Janna Baty

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, YSM faculty pianist Peter Frankl will give one of his last performances at Yale before retiring at the end of the semester. He’ll be joined for an all-Schumann program by faculty mezzo-soprano Janna Baty and baritone Randall Scarlata. We asked Prof. Baty about collaborating with Prof. Frankl, and about her colleague’s contributions to the Yale community and beyond.

Q: What about working with Peter Frankl is inspiring and artistically nourishing?

JB: He is utterly engaged and dedicated to getting the music right. He is exacting in his own work, which inspires me in mine. He is also deeply in love with vocal literature, which (alas!) cannot be said of all pianists, and understands its conventions and techniques. He has a Geiger counter-like sensitivity to the placement of consonants and an in-depth knowledge of every inch of the poetry, which means he colors his accompaniments perfectly. Schumann is especially good with Peter, as the singer and pianist are effectively two sides of the character’s brain. It’s an immersive and even overwhelming experience to work with him, one for which I’m enormously grateful.

Q: What are your conversations about music like?

JB: They range from matter-of-fact (tempi, rubati, choices of repertoire) to gossipy! We both adore opera and spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about this production and that, this singer and that. It’s always so much fun. Our musical conversations — meaning, poetry — are mostly just that, expressed in the music. When you get it, you get it.

Q: What do you learn — and what have you learned — about music and your own artistry from working with Peter? (In a sense, what kind of teacher is he?)

JB: My first collaboration was with Peter and Claude Frank singing Brahms’ Liebeslieder-Walzer as a graduate student (calling it a collaboration is a stretch … it was a public recital at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, but for us singers it was a master class!) and, more than 25 years later, this recital is the most recent. I’ve learned that sincerity, dedication, honesty, and passion onstage are all that matter. The other junk — egos, publicity, the public reaction — just doesn’t matter. When you are completely committed onstage, the audience comes with you.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from the concerts you perform with Peter Frankl?

JB: That vocal chamber music is every bit as viable an art form as any other type of piano repertoire. It is, in so many ways, the most important form of chamber music of all, because it includes words. Peter treats collaborations with singers no differently than he treats collaborations with other artists, which is validating to singers like myself and so important for the public to see. I wish all pianists had this dedication to and skill with the repertoire!

Q: How would you describe Peter’s artistic contribution to the YSM community and beyond?

JB: Immeasurable. He is a treasure and will be missed profoundly. But I have a feeling we’ll see him around here again someday! Are you listening, Peter?

Peter Frankl will perform a Horowitz Piano Series recital on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 pm, in Morse Recital Hall. He’ll be joined by faculty mezzo-soprano Janna Baty and baritone Randall Scarlata in an all-Schumann program. Learn more and buy tickets.

Published November 7, 2017
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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.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NOV. 3 & 4 FALL OPERA SCENES PROGRAMS

Published November 2, 2017
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Yale Opera prepares for Fall Opera Scenes programs

Richard Cross, left, and Doris Yarick-Cross

Shortly after arriving at the Yale School of Music to study in the Yale Opera program, ascendant vocalists are handed an envelope containing the repertoire they’re expected to learn and memorize for the Fall Opera Scenes performances. This year, those concerts take place on November 3 and November 4 and feature excerpts from classic and contemporary operas.

The repertoire is chosen by faculty soprano and Yale Opera Artistic Director Doris Yarick-Cross and YSM faculty bass-baritone Richard Cross with each student’s development in mind. That approach, Yarick-Cross said, is “how we can best get them ready for their future. We choose the roles that we feel will give them the best opportunity to progress.

“What we try to do is give them the tools to be professionals,” Yarick-Cross said. “Our students get hired because they’re prepared.”

And that means going beyond the vocal parts, “to break through inhibitions,” Cross said. “To become a convincing character on stage” isn’t just about singing and acting, he said. “It’s also internalizing the repertoire” — “to get them into the habit of meeting the demands” that will be placed on them throughout their careers, Yarick-Cross added.

As much as the repertoire for the Fall Opera Scenes programs is chosen with pedagogy in mind, the Yale Opera audience is also part of the programming equation. While “La Bohème is perfect for young singers,” Cross said, pointing out that the characters in that opera are themselves young, it’s long been an audience favorite, too.

Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, based on Sister Helen Prejean’s 1993 book of the same title, has been appreciated by audiences since its premiere in 2000 at the San Francisco Opera. The New Haven audience, Yarick-Cross said, will be “overwhelmed by the Heggie.” Likewise, she said, the first act of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos will appeal to local concertgoers. “I think they will really like it,” Yarick-Cross said. “It will be new to most of them. There’s a lot going on” and “There is some wonderful singing.”

On Friday and Saturday, November 3 and November 4, the Yale Opera presents performances of scenes from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and Don Giovanni, Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Massenet’s Cendrillon, Puccini’s La Bohème, Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, and Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos

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Published October 26, 2017
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