Voice Program wraps up season with celebratory Sing-Out

Thinking back to the June 22 Sing-In, Emily Pogorelc recalls the tension between the Voice Program students. It was like everyone was judging each other, she said, sizing up one another and trying to gauge what to expect from their colleagues.

Today’s Voice Opera Sing-Out, however, celebrates the friendships, respect and talent that have developed since that afternoon.

“No matter how we run the Sing-In, it feels like an audition, and it’s a fairly tense affair,” Voice Coach Don St. Pierre said. “The Sing-Out is an opportunity for the singers to thank Marlena and the rest of the faculty, and to say goodbye to one another for the summer.”

At 1:30 p.m. today in Fletcher Music Hall, 41 Voice Program students will take the stage in the final performances of their summer at Chautauqua Institution.

The Sing-Out is a more casual performance and a more relaxing experience for the students — in the best way possible, St. Pierre said.

“From my understanding, some people do skits, and some do serious 15-minute arias,” said Pogorelc, who is a soprano studying for the first time with the Voice Program. “It can be something that’s a little more laid-back, but it’s just fun.”

From silly to serious, the audience is in for one of the most beloved events of the season, St. Pierre said.

“It’s full of surprises,” he said. “For some, it’s a chance to show how much they’ve grown and changed during the intensive season we have. All of our singers have grown as performers and colleagues — being part of the Voice Program is a life-changing experience.”

Voice Chair Marlena Malas agreed the Sing-Out is a fun time for the students and the faculty — even if they keep her in the dark about what they’ll be performing.

“I’m not allowed to know,” she said. “They can sing whatever they want, but for me, it’s a surprise. It’s very, very enjoyable, and also to see — for me and themselves — how far they’ve come. I’m blessed. Really blessed.”

Working with Malas outside of the Curtis Institute of Music for a summer has exposed Pogorelc to a larger community of people who share the same passions, she said. But outside of the Voice Program itself, she’s most thankful for the Chautauqua Theater Company.

“My favorite thing — definitely Our Town, ” she said. “You come into this and you’re so overwhelmed here, but Our Town has this theme of living in the moment and that really helped me start off my summer here.”

Surrounding herself with young artists and a community of dedicated patrons of the arts has been monumental in realizing her potential, she said. She’d gladly repeat her summer here, especially for the exposure to classical arts as both a member of a cast and of an audience.

“My generation just doesn’t understand it,” Pogorelc said. “It’s these people that help it survive.”

Pogorelc asked her performance be kept a secret. Her surprise is tailored to Malas and her husband, Spiro Malas.

“Let’s just say I did some research, and I think I’ve come up with something Marlena and Spiro will love,” Pogorelc said. “I’m excited to see what they think.”

Many of the students are scrambling to put something together, and the rumors are flying about who’s performing what, she said.

“It’s a free-for-all — we’re free to let go a little bit and do something that’s different from when we came in,” Pogorelc said. “It’s one of those things you do your best to prepare for, but when inspiration strikes, you just have to go with it.”