Eugene Opera Academy: Review of 2015-16 Season

The Eugene Opera Academy (EOA) had a great and busy season in 2015-16, with events preceding each of the four productions.

October 19, 2015: We started with a meeting to learn how the Academy works and to get registered.

Barb Myrick with the Academy

We were happily surprised when Mark Beudert came in with cast member Laura Wayte, who shared some insights into her upcoming role as the Governess in Turn of the Screw.

Mark Beudert with the Academy

This was followed by the first of the Ambassadors’ Listen Now! lectures, on Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, given by Dr. Vincent Centeno.

With this introduction, the Academy of 10 students attended the matinee performance on November 1 of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

December 3: The Academy re-convened to prepare for the production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor with a lecture given by Bereniece Jones-Centeno.

December 5: Students had a view of the chorus preparation as they met in a roundtable with Chorus Master Greg Sojka, Chorus Manager Colleen Gaskill, Rehearsal Pianist Sandy Holder, and Chorus Representative to the Board, Chris Lamb.

Chorus roundtable

We learned a lot about how much the rehearsal pianist has to anticipate the conductors to keep the rehearsals going!

December 14: Ananda Burke had a one-on-one with Lucia lead soprano, Leah Partridge.

Soprano Leah Partridge with Academy student

December 20: Students had a roundtable discussion with Stage Director David Lefkowich and Music Director Andrew Bisantz at the final floor run before moving into the Hult Center.

Andrew Bisantz and David Lefkowich

December 27: Students watched and listened to the orchestra rehearse with Andrew.

Tympani player at rehearsal

December 29: Final dress rehearsal night started with Bereniece Jones-Centeno and Mark Beudert giving a tour of the backstage…

Backstage tour with Mark Beudert


Props backstage

stage left ropes…

Backstage ropes

the pit…

Academy students visit the pit

and, among other things, Lucia’s wedding dress!

Wedding dress of Lucia di Lammermoor

January 3, 2016: the Matinee performance of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor!

January 10: The Academy got together for a much-needed debrief and pizza party. At this time, we also looked ahead.

Academy pizza party

February 13, 2016: The first session in preparation for Eugene Onegin. How does the chorus prepare for a Russian opera? EOA students came to an intense rehearsal working on the Russian language with Olga Aynvarg, our Russian langue specialist, and Associate Chorus Master Gustavo Castro.

Gustavo Castro and Olga Aynvarg

February 22: Listen Now! lecture was given by Ann Schafer, who explored the musical themes of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with the fabulous help of David Gustafson, tenor, and Sandy Holder, piano.

David Gustafson at a Listen Now! event

February 25: Roundtable with the production team. Molly Clevidence, Stage Manager, shared her job while on her dinner break…

Stage Manager Molly Clevidence

Caitlyn Tendick takes care of Hair and Makeup…

Caitlyn Tendick talking with Academy students

and Scott King is the Production Manager…

Production Manager Scott King with Academy students

Then, the students stayed for a staging rehearsal.

Chorus rehearsal

March 3: roundtable with the artists and a staging rehearsal. Here, Jake Gardner (Prince Gremin) and Christopher Cano (Chorus master and rehearsal accompanist) talked with the Academy students.

Pianist Chris Cano and Baritone Jake Gardner with the Academy

Stage Director David Lefkowich works here with Jill Gardner (Tatiana).

Director David Lefkowich and soprano Jill Gardner

Students were enchanted with David’s dog, Max:

David Lefkowich with his dog Max

March 5: Just two days later, we had a fabulous roundtable with Choreographer Antonio Anacan…

Choreographer Antonio Anacan

who worked with David on integrating the dancers into the production.

Dancers at rehearsal

March 9: On backstage tour we saw props with Sarah Beudert and Molly Clevidence preparing the show…

Backstage with the props

and then took a photo with the chorus!

Chorus and Academy

April 28: In preparation for the final production of Mark Adamo’s Little Women, Dr. Terry McQuilkin gave a lecture on the music, and Brooke Cagno sang an aria from the show.

May 1: Was a big day. Three Academy students gave fabulous presentations:

Isabel Renich continued the opera plot she presented last year by singing a duet she composed, with her mother accompanying and singing the tenor part. Isabel was awarded the Gaskill Family Scholarship of $500 towards her college education.

Isabel Renich sings

Wesley Coleman is also working on an opera and presented his opening aria complete with orchestral accompaniment, via computer technology. He was awarded $150 towards composition lessons with a local composer.

Wesley Coleman presented an aria he composed

Ananda Burke did her presentation on how a certain method of acting can be used in opera staging, and then sang in the master class led by Mark Beudert. She was awarded coaching lessons with Mark Beudert and Andrew Bisantz.

Ananda Burke sings

Each participant also received a Certificate of Participation from Eugene Opera and got to meet the cast for Little Women.

May 13: students were led in a backstage tour of the Soreng Theater by Mark Beudert and Amy Adams and attended the final dress rehearsal of Little Women.

May 15: The Matinee performance of Little Women was the final event of the season, at which the student awards were announced.

This year’s Academy was small but powerful. Those who attended were very excited with all they learned about the amazingly complex task of putting together an opera production. In a debrief, they were asked if it was too much to attend events for all four operas, and they were unanimous in saying that it was a great experience and that they wanted to do all four productions next year!

Our thanks to the Education Committee (Joyce Leader, Richard Long, Al Villanueva, and Phyllis Villec), Scott King, Mark Beudert, Bereniece Jones-Centano, Amy Adams, and all who helped this experience to happen for Academy students!

Special thanks to Richard Long for the photos!