Opera in Focus: Juventas New Music Ensemble
National Opera Week is here! Let’s indulge in more and more opera! So grap a cup of tea and settle in to learn more about several thriving American opera companies. Today featuring a little Q & A with Juventas New Music Ensemble!
How is your company celebrating National Opera Week? Are you offering any special events or activities in honor of the occasion?
We threw a late night Halloween-themed soirée at a city loft titled “Dress as your FAV Opera Character”. For this gathering, we encouraged guests to dress as their favorite opera characters. In addition to food, drinks, and conversation, the gathering included live performances of brand new music alongside opera standards, and a sing-along of signature opera choruses and arias.
What advice can you impart to young aspiring artists today?
Remain true to your love for the art and do not let other things take precedent.
Can you comment on what now seems like a standard practice of charging fees to singers for auditions for main stage and/or young artist programs? Does your company charge a fee? If so, what does that fee go towards?
On principle, our company never charges audition fees. Young singers are already forced to pay hefty fees for lessons, coachings, and summer programs, and incredibly high educational loans, while making very little money through their craft. We do not need to make the field even more prohibitive. More importantly, the fact that our auditions are free ensures that no high-level singer is ever discouraged from participating.
I would like to see Eminem’s music on the operatic stage, perhaps incorporated into a larger new work that features rapping alongside singing, and acoustic sounds alongside electronic? However, given our program for this season, it would need to be Jay-Z, in a bear suit, in the silent role of “The Bear” in our production of Ketty Nez’s The Fiddler and the Old Woman of Rumelia [http://www.juventasmusic.com/current-season.html].
What are some of the qualities that singers contracted with your company share?
Openness to new ideas and musical styles; an incredibly high level of musicianship; intellectual curiosity; and a constant strive to grow as an artist, no matter how much one has already achieved.
What do you think is the biggest threat to opera as we know it today? What is your company doing to ensure the survival of the art form?
The biggest threat is the death of innovation in opera, i.e. a recycling of traditional productions of the standard works. As a company that specializes in new works by young composers, this is not something we face. However, we try to push innovation further by producing operas in non-conventional spaces (such as our unMET program at Club Oberon in Cambridge, MA this February; more to come on this soon).
Speaking of survival, some divas just can’t perform without 148 white calla lilies adorning their dressing room. What has been the weirdest or most extravagant green room request?
We rarely come across “diva” personalities, as the work we do self-selects very open-minded individuals. However, two seasons ago, we had to ensure that all our performers had access to full showers, shower materials, and robes on premises in order to wash off vast amount of body paint (their only “costume” on the stage). See photos of 3 x 3 = ∞ here.
What interview would be complete without a joke? Please share your favorite opera joke with our readers!
It’s dress rehearsal at the opera… everyone is a bit worried and the conductor feels very uneasy. He gets into the pit, and gives the orchestra a few notes before rehearsal begins. “In the opening, please cross out “Adagio.” We will play this section at quarter note to 100; at rehearsal B, play all the dotted rhythms as triplets; in mm. 120-145, add a fermata on the second beat of every bar. From there to the end, just hold on and please watch me carefully!”
The soprano on the stage raises her hand and says, “Maestro, maestro! Did you want me to make those changes as well?” “Oh no, dear! You sing it exactly as you did last night!”