One of the best ways to understand the teaching and learning experience that is at the heart of Aspen’s music is to come to our Opera Scenes Master Classes, every Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to noon. Working with professional coaches and directors, students prepare scenes and arias from a very diverse group of operas and present them on the Wheeler stage. Ed Berkeley, the brilliant director of our opera center, then offers a critique in terms of stage direction and acting motivation, and the students improve right in front of the audience.
The work is accomplished with much humor, insight, and a very supportive atmosphere. It’s a hallmark of our entire teaching program that we want to encourage and nurture students, even as we challenge them to be the best. The programs are also fun because of the variety — a duet from Puccini, a scene from Sondheim, an aria from Verdi, an ensemble from Mozart, all rapid-fire but very satisfying.
Then these same young singers present complete performances of beautifully staged operas, also in the Wheeler, throughout the season. Right now, we have Mozart’s The Magic Flute (July 14 and 16). Though he was a supreme master in the forms of sonata, concerto, quartet, and symphony, Mozart almost certainly regarded himself foremost as an opera composer. Flute is one of his great successes, at once, sublime, sweet, and funny. It is excellent for younger listeners as well as for the most sophisticated audience.
Next up will be Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (July 28 and 30), part of our lineup of significant American works this summer. Sweeney is dark where Flute is sunny, but the music is also wonderfully made for the voice and Sondheim, like Mozart, is a master of the theater. We have a particularly strong cast, and are confident that this is yet another opportunity for Aspen audiences to hear major stars of the future.
The 2012 season of the Aspen Music Festival and School opened June 28. Alan Fletcher is the president and CEO.