Studio Artists take lead roles in Scenes Program

After a season full of recitals and supporting roles, the Studio Artists of Chautauqua Opera Company’s Young Artists Program can now try their hand at leading roles in scenes from a selection of famous productions at 4 p.m. today in Norton Hall.

“Recitals are almost strictly song literature made for intimate venues,” said Justin Griffith Brown, a stage director. “We will take 10 minutes from a two- or three-hour show and give them a taste of the characters they will either play now or in a couple of years.”

Brown and Cara Consilvio, also a stage director, each directed four scenes in the eight-scene program. Brown will direct the first half of the recital; Consilvio will lead the second half. They worked collaboratively toward giving everyone a moment to shine in each scene.

“The scenes are a great part of the program here, because they give everyone a chance to shine,” Consilvio said. “The music staff really tries to pick scenes that are challenging — but not too overwhelming — so everyone gets to show their stuff.”

The scenes feature trios, duets, quartets and ensembles, so it was a challenge to create a balance where everyone would receive “that moment,” Brown said.

The works of Shakespeare and Mozart are featured via famous climactic scenes from Hamlet, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Le nozze di Figaro, to name a few. Repertoire is performed in English, Italian and French.

Brown and Consilvio worked with the Studio Artists to develop their presentation of the pieces being performed. With the program showcasing drama, romance and comedy, each scene requires different preparation.

“It depends on the scene,” Consilvio said. “For the comedy, you want it to be clear and the movements of the scene to be concise and precise, because that is what makes comedy.”

In Hamlet, however, it is very much about what is going on internally, she said. Helping the artists figure out their objective in the scene is important.

Brown insists on understanding where the motivation lies in the productions and with the Studio Artists.

“How do you take something that is so heightened and motivated and bring it down to a human level?” Brown said. “Let the music speak, and not try to upstage the music or yourself as a performer.”

The two directors will give introductions to each performance, explaining what has taken place in the particular play, leading up to the scene. Although the plots remain the same, some of the scenes might look a bit different from the original.

“People might see something that they wouldn’t have seen otherwise — since the shows are condensed, it gives Cara and I the opportunity to put a different spin on the classics,” Brown said. “For example, Le nozze di Figaro is set present day.”

Consilvio enjoys collaborating with the costume shop and the musical directors while preparing for the show.

“We are working on some great costumes for Hamlet, and we want to have a lot of texture, metal and fur — it is a cold visceral scene,” she said. “The directors are fantastic at preparing musically and shaping the arc of the musical language and have been a pleasure to work with.”

Consilvio said it was a pleasure to see the Young Artists at the beginning of their careers, but knows they’ll move on to bigger things.

“People should come see the show while it’s free,” she said. “Later, you spend a lot more money.”