DC's Opera for the Young
This week marked the start of the Washington National Opera's Opera Institute at American University, a program for young singers aged 15-18 who dream of opera careers. It's an intense three-week session of master classes, coachings, diction lessons, and, yes, performances: an Italian art-song recital on July 3rd, a program of opera scenes on July 10, and a culminating recital of opera scenes at the Millennium Stage on July 11th. More than 100 teens auditioned for 32 places -- meaning you have a better chance of making it into this program than getting a job at an opera house as a professional singer. (OK, I have no statistics to back me up on that; it's just based on anecdotal evidence.)
This isn't the only program to target young singers just starting out. Though singers mature considerably later than, say, violinists -- many professionals didn't discover they had voices until they were in their teens -- some pedagogues say it's essential to get them while they're young to prevent bad habits from developing later. In July, Dolora Zajick will head up a three-week workshop for singers aged 15 to 22, which she envisions will develop into a multi-year program designed to get good habits going young. And the Chautauqua Music Festival has long held a program for singers 18 and older.
I'm not sure how much bearing this has on the much-bruited issue of getting younger people to buy tickets, though. I remain unconvinced that former music students represent a significant percentage of the future classical music audience. But I hope they all go on to wonderful careers.
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