Magazine article Opera Canada

Summer Opera Lyric Theatre

Magazine article Opera Canada

Summer Opera Lyric Theatre

Article excerpt

The founding of Summer Opera Lyric Theatre and Research Centre in 1988 was a prime example of necessity being the mother of invention. Toronto-based tenor Guillermo Silva-Marin, artistic director of Opera in Concert and Toronto Operetta Theatre, and SOLT's founder, explains: "When I started TOT in 1986, I could only afford to hire a couple of professional singers. I immediately discovered that the supporting roles and chorus had very little stage experience, and even some lead performers had limited skills. SOLT was a response to a need, because I found myself teaching as well as directing."

Silva-Marin's program was designed to provide both performance opportunities (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre) and career education (Research Centre). "My basic goal," he says, "was to give the participants my insight into lyric theatre. My initial target was young singers who were thinking about a career. Over the years, however, we have attracted singers with a higher calibre of training, and we have become more of a way-station between opera school and a professional training ensemble. Nonetheless, while SOLT has become a stepping stone for young professionals, I do leave a door open for people with no experience at all."

Soprano Jackalyn Short attended SOLT in 1991, when she performed the lead in Handel's Alcina, a role she repeated with Opera in Concert. "There aren't a lot of training programs in the summer," she points out. "Singers are like athletes--we have to keep working at our skills to stay focused and motivated. I found Bill's program invaluable because the level of concentrated study was an artistic growth spurt. He offered master classes, voice lessons and language tutoring. He also brought people in to talk about marketing and promotion, and developing a career."

Tenor Eric Shaw attended SOLT for two years. One of his roles, in 1995, was Little Bat in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, which he, too, repeated for O in C. "I was a guy from McGill, and the workshop got me into the Toronto market," he says. "I also appreciated the fact that nothing was taken for granted about a career in classical singing, like how to get an agent, for example. We also had rehearsals every day, so we really got to learn, prepare and interpret a role. It was a terrific way to break in stage legs."

The 2001 SOLT runs eight weeks, from June 10 to August 5, and involves about 32 students who are double- and triple-cast out of an audition panel of over 100. In former years, SOLT presented two complete operas and a concert. This summer, Silva-Marin has moved to three operas, so each student gets a full share of opera performances. …

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