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Friday | Oct 15, 2010

Sing for the Cure: a proclamation of hope

One Voice
(Proclaiming Hope)

I am one voice. Just one voice. Can one voice make a difference? We have only to turn the pages of history for the answer. The winds of change have always been propelled by the breath of one action.

The individual voices in these battles are wrought with emotion and determination. We are brought full-circle by their stories. Who will speak? If one single voice in the cause can be heard, imagine the power of all our voices lifted together in chorus. For it will take all of us to carve out a cure from our concern.

Do you hear it? “Sing!” the voice is calling. “Sing about the sighs of apathy! Sing a future without fear for our daughters! Sing! Herald the hope of healing with your voice. Sing! Celebrate our sisters with the song of life! Sing the dream into reality! Sing! Sing! Sing!”

from Sing for the Cure. Copyright 2000 Shawnee Press, inc.

Tuesday | Oct 05, 2010

Collaboration

As we quickly approach the opening of our 53rd Season with Opera for the Cure, I am thinking about what collaboration means to Opera Omaha. You will see in all of our materials our tagline, “Opera for Everyone” and we truly believe that opera IS for everyone. Part of this belief fuels us in seeking out community partners that we can share our mission with. A few of the excellent relationships we have had over the years include Bloodlines with South High School, All the King’s Men with the Rose Theater, and last year’s amazing Brundibár, that was produced in association with the Institute for Holocaust Education.

Many of our alliances begin with our belief in education and Opera for the Cure is no different. Komen Nebraska’s mission is education for breast cancer awareness. Their belief that the world can be without breast cancer resonates throughout the United States. Opera Omaha had an opportunity to be at Sunday’s Race for the Cure and saw almost 20 thousand people come together for a single cause. It was truly an amazing site. When Kyle Albertson, one of our Valmont Voices in Residence sang the National Anthem before the start of the race, the hush across the crowd was something no one will soon forget.

Ten years ago, Nancy Brinker, Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure decided that the marriage of music and message would result in a truly unique and powerful way to “get the word out” about their mission. That is how we feel about opera; the strength of the music has the ability to transform. Ms. Brinker went to Pamela Martin and charged her with creating this piece. Ms. Martin went to the survivors and asked for their stories. With these stories she approached ten different composers, from sacred choral composers to popular choral composers, and asked them to set these words to music.

What came out of this project is, Sing for the Cure: a proclamation of hope, the choral oratorio that Opera Omaha will be singing during the weekend of October 15. Sing for the Cure is a story of a journey of not just one person, but an entire community that comes together when faced with cancer. Weaving narrations from doctors, partners, children, and ultimately EVERYONE, the music ranges from swing to jazz to Broadway, and ultimately tells the tale of hope and courage.

Part of this entire project was Opera Omaha reaching out to local survivors looking for their stories. Out of this was born www.operaforthecure.org, a place to share, learn, and marvel at how someone can come out on the other side of cancer empowered, enlightened, and almost better than when they started. Take a moment to read these truly outstanding love letters to life.

While the journey that is Sing for the Cure is not an easy one, the pure joy at the end of the program celebrating life and what it can be is something you won’t soon forget. The Opera Omaha Chorus, The Omaha Symphony, the Valmont Voices in Residence, and the Salem Baptist Mass Choir will join their voices together on the stage at the Orpheum Theater and show the Omaha community what “One Voice” can accomplish.

I’ll close with these words from Sing for the Cure, “Do you hear it? ‘Sing!’ the voice is calling. ‘Sing avove the sighs of apathy! Sing a future without fear for our daughters! Sing! Herald the hope of healing with your voice. Sing! Celebrate our sisters with the song of life! Sing the dream into reality! Sing! Sing! Sing!’’

Brad Watkins,
Communications Director, Opera Omaha.

Wednesday | Apr 14, 2010

The “I Do’s” in Singing

by Jennifer Berkebile

We were first asked to write a blog for Opera Omaha about four weeks ago. I was assigned the last date, but that didn’t stop me from immediately starting to brainstorm ideas. I’ve never written a blog before, frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone really wanting to read my thoughts and opinions on random topics, but I accepted the task (obviously) and was determined to write something interesting, current, and pertaining to the music world. Well, that was four weeks ago….

Now I’m offering you something totally different than what I first had in mind. But it is personal, hopefully interesting, and kind of pertaining to the music world. There are four people in our house and every one of us is currently in various stages of a personal relationship. Two are married, the other two in serious relationships. Two are involved with singers (me being one of them), one with a writer, and one with a dancer turned sales genius. We’ve spent many a night first getting to hear the stories of how/when/where we each met our significant others and later stories of how we were all going to make it through the months spent apart. I am sure my blog today is tainted by the fact that I haven’t really seen my significant other in over two months, living on phone calls and video chats, and that I only have to wait 10 more days before we are reunited again. It’s hard not to get excited.

All relationships are hard. My parents did not have an incredibly easy marriage, but it has lasted and I am grateful to have witnessed both their struggles and reconciliations. Their relationship taught me a lot about what I wanted and saw for my own personal life. A normal relationship is hard work, but add in all the elements of a beginning career in opera and the odds really become stacked against you.

Everything that makes opera singing grand and exciting: the constant traveling to new places, the pride of working for yourself and being contracted for your talent, the thrill of performing and auditioning, the fulfillment of spending hours with a score learning every detail to better your art; can be murder to a personal life. How do you make it work then? I was talking to one of my housemates the other night about this very issue. He said that, right now, we’re doing what we absolutely love, what we were made to do. Our partners must do the same thing in their lives too, or we will never be happy together. I believe his statement. And if that’s the case, then I actually get off a little easy. My partner is a singer! What luck! We have the same passion; we were made to do the same thing; we get each other. I completely understand his want and need to pursue this dream, but does that mean that our relationship is doomed to take a back seat to our careers? Honestly, I cannot answer that now. I do not know. Yes, there have been sacrifices made already and we are just starting our lives together. It’s interesting to think about our future, because even though we know we will be together, our career paths are still very unknown and we are forced to take everything day by day. You never know when a company will call or a gig will come up, so you have to be ready to change plans, budget in visits, make compromises, and put forth the effort needed to sustain weeks away from each other. It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. We as singers get to test that theory year-round.

I recently attended an intimate masterclass given by the great soprano Virginia Zeani, who was married to the well-known bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni. She addressed her marriage during the class and told us why they were so successful in their relationship for so many years. She said you must love each other “too much” and that was the only way to survive together. I liked that statement very much and I think it is a good representation of the depth of commitment needed for such a demanding career. I have faith in my relationship; we are independent people but we are stronger together than apart and we will both work at keeping our lives fulfilled and happy. I am excited to see what the future has in store for the both of us, and I am certain that whatever happens our lives will be filled with “too much” love.

Jennifer Berkebile just completed touring Nebraska and Western Iowa with Opera Omaha’s Voices in Residence, a series of engaging, interactive, multi-media classroom performances created for students in middle school, high school or college, the performances provide a framework for experiencing the interaction of word s and music – the essence of opera. She will appear in Opera Omaha’s celebration of the great American musical So in Love with Broadway.

Lyric Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Berkebile is thrilled to be a part of the Voices in Residence Program with Opera Omaha this season! A MMus graduate from the Eastman School of Music, Jennifer studies under Ms. Rita Shane. Jennifer most recently was a member of the Gerdine Young Artist Program with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and will be returning this season to make her debut in the world premier of Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket. Previous honors include winning the Jessie Kneisel German Lieder Competition as well as being chosen to participate in the Marilyn Horne Masterclass for the Foundation’s The Song Continues…2007 Festival. She has been a participant in the Resident Artist Program with the Berkshire Opera Company where she was in Hansel and Gretel and Madama Butterfly as well as participating in numerous song and aria concerts where she “unfurled a voluminous, opulent voice in a richly expressive performance of Respighi’s gorgeous Il Tramonto” (Music&Vision, August 2006). A native of Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, Jennifer received her BMus Degree at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music under Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff and currently resides in New York City.

Tickets for So in Love with Broadway start at just $19.

Friday | April 16, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 2:00p

Click Here for Tickets

Thursday | Apr 01, 2010

The Importance of Community

by Ric Furman

Did you know that right now you are part of over 150 different communities? Seem like a lot? It did to me. So I started thinking about it.

My family. Okay, that’s one. My neighborhood, my city, my state and nation, even the world. How about this group of 3 other singers I’m here with? I guess that would count as another. And the company here in Omaha or even Omaha itself, for the time I’m here, anyway. Then there’s the “singers world,” and beyond that the “opera world.” Okay, now I can see how these could add up. So why would I care?

I came to Omaha on February 21st and I’ll leave on April 19th. That’s two full months! Have you ever spent a day around people who hate you? When you can feel them sour because you just came in the room. Their conversation just stops.

Flip side: Remember a day, a whole day, with people you love. People who love you back. People who are happy just because you’re there.

Another illustration is this: remember back to junior high or high school and being at a dance or even a class where no one knew you were there. Even worse, they didn’t care. You weren’t even important enough to say “hi.”

What if you had to spend two months is one of those situations? Not too difficult to deside which one to chose, is it?

I can’t tell you how what a difference there is in a company where I feel welcome versus one where I’m just tolerated. I want the people of Omaha to understand that they really have something special here! And to please keep it coming!

Within the first week here nearly everyone at the Opera Omaha office found me, as well as the other Voices in Residence members (VIR’s) and told me they were glad I was here and that they were looking forward to the next two months with me. We were invited to two performances of Le Nozze di Figaro, the cast party, and both the Artistic Advisor and the General Director invited our group to dinner or lunch. At these events many board members and guild members came up and introduced themselves just to say “hi.” Amazingly, the public seems to be following suit.

This type of thing continued beyond the week. We’ve been treated well by more people than I can remember, though I wish I could. My time here is more than half over now and we’re still being treated like family or at least treasured friends.

Last weekend we had the honor of singing at a dinner for Eve and Fred Simon. It was a wonderful evening with great singing, skits, roast-like comedy, and, of course, great food. At the end of the evening there was a dessert reception where all were invited to come and personally thank Fred and Eve. Amazingly, before I could tell them thank you, they both thanked me for my part in the evening and for coming to O/O! This is a rare kind of class. A rare kind of grace.

Thank you to all of you who have taken a moment to say “hello” or gone out of your way to make us feel welcome. There is a good community here in Omaha. This is one place that has gotten it right. My hope is that anyone reading this will take a moment the next time they are at an O/O event, find someone on the staff there, and thank them. This is the kind of community we all need.

Ric Furman is enjoying touring Nebraska and Western Iowa with Opera Omaha’s
Voices in Residence, a series of engaging, interactive, multi-media classroom performances created for students in middle school, high school or college, the performances provide a framework for experiencing the interaction of word s and music – the essence of opera. Ric Furman will appear in Opera Omaha’s celebration of the great American musical So in Love with Broadway.

Ric Furman, tenor, studied at Western Illinois University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for his Bachelors and Masters respectively. Mr. Furman won two State National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Competitions and one Regional NATS Competition, as well as winning the District Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions and placing third at the Regional level. Mr. Furman is rapidly becoming much sought after on both the concert and opera stage. His roles include Rodolfo in La Boheme, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Alfredo in La Traviata, the Duke in Rigoletto, both Roméo and Tybalt in Roméo et Juliette, Chevalier de Danceny in The Dangerous Liaisons, Detlef in The Student Prince, Beppe in I Pagliacci, and two world premiers: Adam in Eve’s Odds and Jay in A Stranger’s Tale, as well as notable roles in Aïda, Don Carlo, Ainadamar, Carmen, Salome, Samson et Daliah, Dead Man Walking, Il viaggio a Reims, The Marriage of Figaro, Gianni Schicchi, Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Così fan tutte, The Tender Land, and Die Zauberflöte. Concert venues include Carnegie Hall, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and Dayton Philharmonic.

Tickets for So in Love with Broadway start at just $19.

Friday | April 16, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 2:00p

Click Here for Tickets

Wednesday | Mar 24, 2010

The Reason I am Singing Opera Today

by Maria Lindsey

When we get to the part of introducing ourselves in our “Voices in Residence” program for the schools/community members of Nebraska and Iowa we always say the same bits of information about ourselves. Since we started our performances for the community I have said the same thing… “Hi, My name is Maria Lindsey, I’m the Soprano of the group. I am from Fort Collins, Colorado and I received my undergraduate degree at BYU-Idaho, and am currently working towards my master’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. When I was in high school you never would have told me I would end up singing opera!” I hope that by sharing that last bit of information about myself with people who are new to opera I can help them realize that everyone is new to something at some point in their life and the first step is giving it a chance. Finding opera and having the chance to be a part of it, even in a small way every day, is something that I hope I never take for granted! I am so happy that I have the chance to bring the message of opera to people everyday in many different ways and in many different communities around Omaha.
One woman made a comment after one of our programs and said she was so excited that young people were taking the message of opera around to the schools. She said something to the effect of “participating in a live-performance art form is such a magical experience because there is a unique exchange of energy and emotion that takes place between singer and audience member that only happens in that moment”. This woman felt like youth today are missing out on this experience the more technology develops and that it is wonderful to perform at schools and teach them about an art form that they can participate in and enjoy, live, today. This woman really moved me and as hard as it is moving around the country and being away from loved ones to participate in whatever singing job comes next, I quickly remember that I am singing opera and that I have the chance to teach others about it too!
Disclaimer… I know I am still fairly new at this and that I have many years ahead of me that will include disappointment as well as success, I hope that I never lose track of why this art form is something I decided to dedicate my life to in the first place. As we bring the passionate, dramatic, comedic, uplifting, and inspiring aspects of opera to the communities around us I hope I am able to give back part of the joy that is the reason I am singing opera today.

Besides touring Nebraska and Western Iowa with Opera Omaha’s
Voices in Residence, a series of engaging, interactive, multi-media classroom performances created for students in middle school, high school or college, the performances provide a framework for experiencing the interaction of word s and music – the essence of opera, Maria Lindsey will appear in Opera Omaha’s celebration of the great American musical So in Love with Broadway.

Maria Lindsey, soprano from Fort Collins, Colorado, received her BMA degree in Voice from Brigham Young University-Idaho and is currently working on her MM degree in Voice at the University of Colorado. For the BYU-Idaho opera, she sang Pamina in The Magic Flute and Yum Yum in The Mikado. She has participated in scenes from Roméo et Juliette, Rigoletto, and Die Fledermaus. Most recently she was Adina in the Loveland Opera Theatre’s The Elixir of Love, and Miss Wordsworth in Albert Herring with CU Opera. This summer Maria was an apprentice with the prestigious Santa Fe Opera where she covered Coryphèe in their production of Alceste, as well as sang Juliette from Roméo et Juliette in the Santa Fe Opera’s Apprentice Opera Scenes.

Tickets for So in Love with Broadway start at just $19.

Friday | April 16, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 2:00p

Click Here for Tickets

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