At Yale Opera’s first major performance of the year, members of the Yale and New Haven communities will experience a diverse set of scenes from world-renowned operas, without the sometimes daunting three-hour time commitment of many full-length productions.
This Friday and Saturday evenings, 15 singers from the School of Music’s opera program will perform the annual “Fall Scenes” production at Morse Recital Hall, located in Sprague Memorial Hall. The performances will cover a variety of scenes from well-known comic and tragic operas performed with piano accompaniment. Each night will feature four scenes from major operas by composers including Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Giuseppe Verdi.
“[The musicians] are immersing themselves in more than one character, singing in more than one language and understanding the context of more than one opera — and more than one composer — all in a very short period of time,” said Yale School of Music Communications Officer David Brensilver.
Friday’s performance will include excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” Ambroise Thomas’ “Hamlet,” Gaetano Donizetti’s “Roberto Devereux” and Jacques Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffman.” Saturday’s concert will comprise Mozart and Verdi excerpts, as well as Benjamin Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia,” and a second scene by Tchaikovsky.
Students in the School of Music’s two-year opera program are assigned roles for the Fall Scenes as soon as they arrive on campus in September. The roles are based on voice type, experience and the students’ respective strengths. Brensilver said that the musicians develop the pieces “up to performance level” over the course of the subsequent months.
Much coordination is required for the production — lessons with movement coaches, language practice with diction experts and choreography training on stage. Brensilver described the preparation process as a “full-on immersion into these operas.”
“The rehearsal process was, in a word, fast,” said soprano Madeline Ehlinger MUS ’20, who will sing the roles of Antonia in the “Tales of Hoffmann” scenes and Tatiana in a “Eugene Onegin” scene.
“All of us play multiple roles in completely different operas, so the biggest challenge was creating totally different characters for each opera,” Ehlinger said. “Many days we would rehearse multiple operas in one day, so flipping between characters was a unique challenge.”
Mezzo-soprano Rachel Weishoff MUS ’19 said that the most challenging part of the rehearsal process is “staying healthy.”
“Our bodies are our instruments, so it’s important that we stay in top physical and vocal health,” Weishoff said. Weishoff will sing the roles of Larina in “Eugene Onegin,” Maddalena in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” and Sara in “Roberto Devereux.” She looks forward to “sharing wonderful music with the audience and performing alongside [her] incredibly talented colleagues.”
While Friday and Saturday’s performances will feature different scenes, Yale Opera’s manager Erika Niemi ensured that audience members at either performance will see nearly all of the program’s singers. She said this year’s performances cover a “big mix of scenes” — some scenes are well-known and others are less commonly performed.
The two scenes of “Eugene Onegin” precede Yale Opera’s February production of the complete opera. Niemi considers this work — written entirely in Russian Cyrillic script — an “ambitious” choice due to the difficulty of the Russian language. Russian features “quite different sounds” from those of standard languages like German and Italian, which are most frequently featured in major operas.
Brensilver noted the Fall Scenes give audience members the opportunity to see the “next wave of great opera singers perform … in a small intimate hall on their way to leading full careers.”
Yale Opera also presents a series of scenes during the spring semester.
Allison Park | firstname.lastname@example.org .