I had the pleasure of revisiting The CoOPERAtive Program this past week, but a few things were different this time — 1) I was able to hear all of the CoOperative Fellows (ages 23-30) sing before we worked together, 2) I had worked with many of the seminar attendees previously and 3) CoOPERAtive is now offering a Young Artist level (ages 21-23).
1) Listening First
I was completely blown away by this performance. Laura Brooks Rice and Dr. Christopher Arneson continue to expand what this program offers and the quality is empirically impressive.
First off, there actually was an audience! It is quite often that I will pop into weekly recitals or operas at summer programs that I visit to find talented singers performing for very small audiences. Somehow Ms. Rice and Dr. Arneson are able to rally the community to support these singers, and it makes all the difference. And that very evening, one of the community members, unprompted by any direct appeal, approached Ms. Rice with a significant check in support of the mission. That is superb.
Second, the singers really have what it takes. I have heard many a master class teacher refer to “the whole package” — does the singer have the vocal product, look good, move well, interpersonal, some extra charisma or compelling back story? In the case of the CoOPERAtive Fellows 2011, yes all around in many cases. I think of the young tenor that closed the evening with such a compelling full-lyric sound singing an aria from L’arlesiana, and of the very young mezzo who presented Cherubino as if she were skipping rope. She doesn’t even quite know, I don’t think, how few of “her” there are out there. Brava.
Lastly, I looked through the program to find that the coach / accompanists are all professional musicians with significant accomplishments under their belt. Check out the bio on these guys: Thomas Bagwell and Anthony Manoli. Whoa, that’ll dress up a concert!
2) Second Time’s a Charm
It was very neat to start the seminar the morning after the concert with names memorized and insight into what types of performers I was working with. And it was also nice to have many repeat seminar attendees, so we were able to dig deeper into the topics and build on our previous work.
We carved out an entire day to work together on our business plans. It was a fairly hefty undertaking because these topics can be quite exhausting mentally and emotionally — what are your strengths and weaknesses, what kind of support do you have, what type of lifestyle are you looking to / willing to lead? That can be a lot to digest. I was impressed with how this group stayed with it, and I think that is a testament to the tone than is set at the program.
3) CoOPERAtive is Growing
It was also lovely to work with the Young Artist level (ages 21-23) singers and to see how CoOPERAtive is expanding what they have to offer. Adding younger singers into the program seems like an excellent move — these select group of singers have so much to gain just by being around and watching the older group, and likewise the older group is spurred on by the younger group’s energy, passion and zest. Certainly that was how things played out in my seminar, and I was delighted to have been a part of it!