You might be lazing around propped up against the nearest air conditioning vent, but the students of the Fresno Opera and Orchestra Summer Academy — affectionately known as FOOSA for short — have been working hard this past week putting together a double-bill of fully staged operas. The students will perform “Cavalleria rusticana” and “Pagliacci” — which often are paired together — at 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
FOOSA participants Christina Swanson and Tomer Eres, both students at the University of Michigan, volunteered as guest bloggers with the Beehive. They wrote about their big trip last weekend to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Now they’re back with their thoughts about this weekend’s opera lineup:
Hello, all! We are well into our second week here at FOOSA, and we are entering our ﬁrst period of dress rehearsals in preparation for our performances this coming weekend. Since our return from LA and our great Disney Hall debut, we’ve been working in conjunction with the Orchestra, Singers, and Teachers to bring together a dramatic, musical, and passionate set of operas. A unique aspect of this learning experience is the study of the verismo style of opera. This style is widely known in the world of classical music for straying away from common themes using royalty, gods, and mythic beings as the protagonists and antagonists. Verismo, unlike other styles, does not strive to make a clear protagonist to antagonist relationship, and focuses on real people and real life. Through this study with our teachers from CSU Fresno State and the University of Michigan, we have delved deep into both Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana. This past week we’ve spent almost 8 hours a day working side-by-side with our Artists-in-Residence blocking, singing, and learning music.
The music school at CSU Fresno is abuzz with life this week as both opera singers and orchestral performers anticipate the upcoming event. We’ve had to learn the give-and-take nature of collaboration with so many different people, and at the same time, we’ve established new friendships and networks with the next generation of performers we’re working with. Our trip to LA was an especially great chance for the singers and orchestral musicians to break out of our expected places; singers onstage, and orchestra in the pit.
Our typical day has been mostly the same for the past week. All of us are up and ready to sing or play at 9 am. In our morning rehearsals singer’s review their music, text, staging, and more, while the orchestra spends their time reviewing the score and reﬁning their performance. Details, details, details! We’ve learned the importance of repetition through a short phrase our teachers like to say “Ancora, ancora, ancora!” — again, again, again! Such is the nature of the singer’s lifestyle when performing complex works like these. There are so many important components that help the show come together, and we would be in remiss if we didn’t give credit to our fantastic stage manager, director, lighting director, costume technicians, and the rest of the crew.
We’ve been operating on our newest mantra straight from the great Laura Pedersen, “Some people practice until they get it right, and some people practice until they can’t get it wrong.” Would you like to guess where we fall?
Make sure to come out to the music school at CSU Fresno this Friday and Sunday to see these spectacular opera’s put into work!