The Bel Canto Young Artists are in for a special treat this year. As Caramoor embarks on its most ambitious opera season in history, opera director Will Crutchfield plans to make use of the mentoring program’s artists by expanding their performance opportunities as Caramoor celebrates Verdi’s bicentennial.
About a dozen young singers visit Caramoor every year for six weeks of intensive training in vocal technique, stage movement, and specialized study of the ornamentation that characterizes bel canto singing. In addition to participating in full-scale rehearsals of the summer operas, these emerging artists act as understudies to the principal roles, take on some of the smaller roles, and perform in afternoon recitals that precede the main concerts.
This year the young artists will participate in an additional recital July 25 as Mr. Crutchfield presents a series of Verdi’s rarely performed piano-accompanied songs, or romanza. “These are essentially opera arias without the orchestra,” Mr. Crutchfield explained. “Only half of these works have even been readily available in print, and we are excited to present the entire series.”
In keeping with Caramoor’s tradition of creating performance opportunities for emerging artists, Mr. Crutchfield is pairing the younger singers with soprano Angela Meade and a quintet of Caramoor Virtuosi on June 27 for a program called “The Intimate Verdi.” The Virtuosi – including violinists Jesse Mills and Arnaud Sussmann; violist Nicholas Cords; bass player Leigh Mesh; and cellist Edward Arron – were once participants in Caramoor’s mentoring program for instrumentalists, the Evnin Rising Stars.
Mr. Crutchfield, who has directed Caramoor’s opera program since 1997, is known for his ability to identify talent in young singers and bring out the best qualities in established stars. At Caramoor, he showcases the emerging and established talent, an approach that benefits both. “I’ve always invited singers who were already stars, whom I met when conducting for them in other theaters. If I know their approach is a good fit for what we do with the young singers here, I can bring them into the mix, which adds excitement,” he said.
When selecting the young artists to participate in Caramoor’s mentoring program, Mr. Crutchfield looks for three qualities: voice; technical preparation; and a “communicative impulse,” or desire to take what they have and pass it to an audience. With this season’s presentation of Verdi’s Don Carlos and Les vepres siciliennes, that communicative impulse will be reflected in the music, which will be sung as it was originally written, in French, rather than in the customary Italian. “The operas of Verdi came to the international scene from Italy, represented by Italian singers,” Mr. Crutchfield explained. “Of course in Italy they did these operas in Italian; they weren’t going to sing in French. It is a revelation to hear them with the words that Verdi actually set to music.”