Young Artists prepare for opera season at opening Sing-In

BRIA GRANVILLE | Staff Photographer
Mezzo-soprano Leah Hawkins performs “Ah, mon fils!” from Le Prophete during an “Evening of Arias” in Norton Hall on June 22.

BRIA GRANVILLE | Staff Photographer
Apprentice Artists for the 2015 season pose for a group portrait after performing in their introductory show “Evening of Arias” in Norton Hall. The event was held to showcase the voices of young opera singers who will be performing in the hall this season. Singers were able to choose their favorite aria, which they felt best showed their talents.

Norton Hall teemed with excitement before the season even began. On June 22, the Young Artists Program, composed of 29 singers, graced the stage to belt their chosen arias. The annual introductory sing-in named “Evening of Arias” is presented by the Chautauqua Opera Company to showcase the talent of the artists and prepare for a successful performance season.

From the chilling high soprano notes to the deep rumble of the baritone, each artist presented a unique style to their performance during the season debut.

Soprano Alison King demonstrated vocal control and clarity as she performed “Iolanta’s Aria” from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta. Mezzo-soprano Alice Chung added a theatrical element to her performance as she belted “Va pure ad altri in braccio” from Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera. Jared Guest, baritone and returning apprentice, performed “O Carlo, ascolta” from Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo.

Joseph Flaxman, a baritone from New Jersey mesmerized the audience with his theatrical performance as he sang “E sogno? O realta?” from Verdi’s Falstaff.

“It’s a great piece to sing and act. The character is going through so much,” he said. “It’s also got some great high notes and everyone likes that.”

Flaxman began taking voice lessons in high school with an extra chorister at the Metropolitan opera. His vocal coach would give him free tickets for the Saturday matinees so he began attending the opera.

“I didn’t know opera before that, but I fell in love with the art form,” he said. “I told myself, ‘This is what I want to do.’ ”

He said he is looking forward to exploring Chautauqua Institution and gaining more performance exposure, along with practicing his favorite art form.

Laura Soto-Bayomi, a soprano, opened the show with high notes that vibrated off the walls as she sang “Je veux vivre” from Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.

“I started off doing musicals in high school, which I loved, and then the world of opera appeared to me from my voice teacher,” Bayomi said. “Opera was more rewarding to me, and it was so fun.”

Bayomi said opera is the only art form where the audience can hear the voice unaltered by equipment, and it is very interesting to study how powerful the human body can be. She loves the stories behind the different operas and enjoys bringing the characters to life.

This is her first year participating in Chautauqua’s Young Artist Program, and she said she hopes to gain more confidence while performing.

“The staff is great, and they are really hear to help us,” she said. “They will not keep anything from you, they are here to make us better.”

Leah Hawkins, a mezzo-soprano and current Master of Music candidate in the Opera Program at Yale School of Music, filled the hall with her powerful voice.

“I begged my parents for voice lessons and opera chose me,” Hawkins said. “I saw my first opera at 12, which was Carmen, and I knew I wanted to sing in front of people and wear the costumes.”

Hawkins said while at Chautauqua this summer she wants to continue developing and growing as an artist.

“I want to continue strengthening my language skills, while networking and building this summer,” she said.

The Young Artist Program will continue gracing the stage throughout the season. The Young Artist Artsong Recitals will take place at 4:15 p.m. Thursdays in the Hall of Christ.