For a week now, Fresno State has been the scene of some very talented singers and instrumentalists. The Fresno Opera and Orchestra Summer Academy – dubbed FOOSA for short — is a new initiative born of a collaboration between the Youth Orchestras of Fresno and Fresno State. According to press materials, the three artistic directors—Thomas Loewenheim (pictured above) and Anthony Radford of Fresno State and Scott Piper of the University of Michigan—dreamed of a summer festival that would feature the best aspects of summer orchestral programs and the best aspects of summer opera programs, allowing an unusual degree of interaction between singers and instrumentalists.
You can read my interview with Piper from Thursday’s Life section here. On Friday, the FOOSA horde traveled to Los Angeles for an appearance at the renowned Disney Concert Hall. Now they’re back in Fresno preparing for a big weekend event: performances 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday of the paired operas “Cavalleria rusticana” and “Pagliacci.”
The Beehive asked two students to write a couple of guest blogs for us about the experience. Meet Christina Swanson and Tomer Eres, both students at the University of Michigan studying with Piper. They’ll be back later this week on the Beehive with their thoughts about this weekend’s opera lineup. They wrote this entry from L.A.
Hello to everyone from the City of Angels! Despite having only two days to explore the greater LA area, we here at FOOSA have been having quite the blast. Yesterday, we stopped at the Santa Monica pier after the long drive from CSU Fresno to enjoy the sea and have a great dinner at Bubba Gump’s. We spent an hour exploring the pier, and taking in the sights and smells of the ocean. It was a truly humbling experience to spend time on the beach with my fellow studio mates and Scott Piper from the University of Michigan, along with the great Laura Pedersen. It’s amazing how our passions can connect us from across a country.
After meeting a waiter who looked suspiciously like Will Ferrell, a group of FOOSAns (as Julia Copeland, executive director of the Youth Orchestras of Fresno, so fondly refers to us) went to enjoy the beach before we headed to our hotel for some much-needed rest before our concert. Upon awakening today, FOOSA quickly hopped on the busses to get a taste of one of the most famous destinations in the world: Hollywood! Once our short visit drew to a close, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our big Disney Hall debut. After we took our picture in our FOOSA T-shirts, we quickly ﬁled into the rehearsal hall, and then into the main hall to rehearse the program for that night.
During the rehearsal, it was mind-blowing to see the amount of progress that the singers, the Fresno Youth Orchestra, and the San Luis Obispo Youth Orchestra had made over just a week working with Thomas Loewenheim. The entirety of FOOSA had a fast dinner at the nearby California Pizza Kitchen before heading back to change and begin the performance. Performing with the youth orchestras, Piper, and Pedersen was a huge honor, and it was an intense experience both musically, and dramatically. The chance to prepare these operas with this talented group of individuals in such a short amount of time is not to be taken lightly! In the end, the performance was a huge success, the combination of beautiful voices and instruments created a truly enjoyable experience for not only the audience, but the performers as well. After we ﬁnished the concert out, we hurried to the busses to get back to the hotel and rest before the long journey back to Fresno. As I write this, I really ought to be getting some shut-eye, I can’t wait to see the Getty Museum tomorrow! Wishing you all the best from the City of Angels, and FOOSA.
Copeland adds her impression of the instrumentalists and singers at the concert:
They really knocked it out of the park. My LA friends were impressed. In fact one of my friends, a longtime violinist with the LA Philharmonic, was so inspired that he found a violin and joined them onstage for the second half.
We’re glad to welcome you to Fresno, Christina and Tomer. Thank you for helping make such wonderful music.