By Margaret Siegrist
The path of an opera singer is not for the faint of heart. During a regular season, close to 900 young singers compete for 20-30 slots in Central City Opera’s acclaimed Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program. Those who make the cut immerse themselves in a jam-packed eight-week season, devouring courses in language and diction, movement, acting and stage combat; then immediately putting those skills to use rehearsing and performing roles in Festival productions.
This year’s young artists were selected through the same rigorous audition process and will hone their craft in a season chock-full of performance and professional development. But after 15+ months innovating in order to perform in the digital world, learning skills never-before required of their profession and absolutely scrapping their way through 2020 for the love of this art form — what they bring to our Festival is unlike any group before them.
Like most of the Festival company, members of the training program work primarily as freelancers. They travel the nation, sometimes the world, on a job-to-job basis — appearing in competitions, singing roles, participating in young artist programs, often a bit of everything. When COVID-19 shut down our industry, emerging artists faced an especially challenging situation as they’re at such a crucial moment in their careers. Each singer is working to bridge the gap from training into main stage contracts. Most are finishing the last years of their degrees as they tackle their first few seasons in the business. Building experience and professional relationships through young artist programs is a valuable step for emerging opera singers, and all the opportunity of 2020 eroded beneath their feet.
As the arts industry struggled to continue creating, young opera singers acted as unexpected and fearless leaders. Many quickly developed audio/visual recording skills of their own for virtual performances and newly online audition circuits. With shows moving o« the stages and into the digital world, artists bravely put their hard-earned craft on the line for personal projects, collaborations and companies endeavoring into new territory. In the midst of all this essential expansion, the singers who have weathered this storm also managed to keep their voices in shape, learn hundreds of pages of music and continue refining their artistry.
While we salute the hard work of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program members every season, this roster of resilient 2021/2020 artists deserves particularly hearty recognition. Each and every young singer performing at Hudson Gardens Amphitheater or the Opera House Gardens has shown grit and passion beyond imagination. No pandemic can keep them from singing, and whatever the state of opera house stages, they’ll be artists to watch for years to come.
Learn more about the program and singers at centralcityopera.org/artists-training-program