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About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (June 27, 2019)
THURSDAY, JUNE 27, 2019 // 7
Training for their future
Young artists stage Puccini opera
By JONATHAN WILLIAMS
COAST WEEKEND EDITOR
hile the auditorium of the Lib-
erty Theatre won’t be filled with
the colossal sounds of Beethoven’s
Ninth Symphony this summer, young art-
ists in the Astoria Music Festival are still
training to perform an opera.
The singers are mounting a fully staged
production of Puccini’s “Gianni Schic-
chi” at 7 p.m. June 27 and 28 at the Per-
forming Arts Center in Astoria. The opera
is directed by Dr. Mark Ross Clark. It is
a pay what you can performance; a $15
donation is suggested.
For two weeks, the students have
trained from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Peace
Lutheran Church in Astoria.
During this time, they get stage expe-
rience and coaching from Clark, who is
director of Louisiana Lyric Opera and
professor at the University of Louisiana;
Kosta Popovic, who has worked as Assis-
tant Chorus Master with the Metropolitan
Opera; Metropolitan Opera singers Allan
Glassman, professor at Chicago Conserva-
tory of Roosevelt University, and baritone
In the morning, Clark gives them
movement exercises to wake them up.
Then they work on new concepts and
methods for movement and acting before
moving into staging rehearsals and
The group then has lunch, where the
students can talk to each other, the faculty
and coaches about what it’s like to be a
The afternoons are slated with more
staging and private coaching.
Deac Guidi, board president of the
Astoria Music Festival, said the program
is one of the great breeding grounds for
“We’ve had several people go on to
win Met Opera auditions, we have people
who are performing all over the world and
they got their start here,” he said.
Clark has directed the opera many
times at universities.
“I realize how interactive the opera is
and when you sing it in Italian there’s a lot
Students in the Astoria Music Festival’s young artists program in rehearsal for Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi.”
of passages which are rich, comic opera,”
There is lots of physical comedy, too.
Clark said, “to have 10 people on the
stage at the same time that are all interact-
ing with each other is really super good for
young singers. It’s hard opera that we do.
It’s not very long but it is really intense and
Last year, Clark gathered props from
around Astoria for their production. He’s
looking for an armoire (Europeans don’t
have closets) and a bed, where most of the
show’s drama is centered around.
Clark is setting the opera in the 1950s.
“It has a story, a situation that people can
relate to,” he said. “It seems cynical, but it’s
the family that goes in their mourning to the
deathbed of a relative but they are actually
there because they expect an inheritance
and begin to fight over the inheritance.”
The opera originally premiered in 1918
near the close of World War I and was one
of Puccini’s last.
Singers from across the U.S.
Leah Huber, a student of Dr. Clark’s at
the University of Louisiana, plays Lauretta
Huber drove from Louisiana to partici-
pate in the program.
“I think the best thing to learn here
is how to work kind of quick and dirty,”
Huber said. “It’s a good learning experi-
ence in how to get really comfortable with
your cast members really quick.”
Casey Winkelman, a recent graduate of
the University of Alaska Fairbanks, hopes
to perform for a living, specifically as a
professional opera singer.
She plays La Ciesca and is excited to
get feedback on her technique and per-
formance from the program’s faculty and
Bryce Genovese, who plays Rinuccio,
is a singer from Chicago who performs
improv with the famous Second City com-
edy theater, which includes notable alums
like Chris Farley and Tina Fey.
Glassman, Genovese’s private teacher
from college at the Chicago College of
Performing Arts at Roosevelt University,
initially told him about the program.
Because it is a one act opera, the char-
acters are on stage the whole time, forcing
the singers to focus on their stamina.
“Rinuccio is a very heavy, big sing
role,” Genovese said.
Kristina Terwilliger, a recent physics
graduate from the University of Washing-
ton, plays the roles of Lauretta and Nella
and shares them with Huber.
She enjoys the program’s intense work-
“I’ve just been going downstairs and
rehearsing on my own over and over and
over again so it’s like you do something
and you can soak it in and you can go prac-
tice,” she said.
Terwilliger is also a baton twirling
champion, competing at UW and soon at
the World Championships this summer in
Festival Artistic Director Keith Clark
said, “in a smaller opera house, typical of
Europe or the PAC, you’re this close to
somebody, you can see their faces, you can
see all the emotion. It’s exciting.”
Looking toward 2020, Clark said the
festival plans to stage the Oregon premiere
of Richard Wagner’s “Das Rheingold,” one
of the composer’s ring cycle operas. CW