Workshop prepares performers for stage


Current IU students Megan Hrabak, Synthia Steiman and Lauren Walker perform a scene from "Falstaff" for the Jacobs School of Music Opera Workshop dress rehearsal Monday at the Musical Arts Center. Rachel Wisinski Buy Photos

With an opera and a musical, Jacobs School of Music vocal performers had a summer outlet in which to immerse themselves.

However, productions were cut for financial reasons, and in 2002, Stiles implemented the Opera Workshop to provide Jacobs vocal performers a similar

On Wednesday, participants performed a series of scenes from various selected operas, including Don Giovanni and Falstaff, which will be put on by the Jacobs School this upcoming academic year.

Additional opera workshops on June 30 and July 25 will feature Jacobs students who are taking the summer Opera Workshop course with Professor Carol Vaness.

“They can learn a lot about different characters in a short amount of time,” Stiles said. “I started it with the purpose of helping young seniors with their stage craft. It’s mostly about acting and, of course, we want to give a nice musical performance.”

Nick Karageorgiou, IU junior and vocal performance major, said the workshop has helped his stage presence immensely.

“It’s one thing to focus on correct technique with breathing right and air pressure, but it’s another thing when you’re moving around, dancing, rolling or jumping on chairs,” he said. “You have to pay more attention to your body, and I’ve learned that, obviously, it’s important. I feel like I’ve taken steps in the right direction.”

Stiles said this year’s 19 participants were able to have at least two scenes, each involving contrasting characters.

“I chose operas with different languages,” she said. “I picked ensembles that are beautiful and have many people in them to get more people involved. Also, I know the students and picked scenes they’ll take the role of performing, so it could be a positive thing for them as singers vocally.”

She said the program was meant to take students out of their comfort zone.
“Yeah, it’s challenging, but it builds their ability in acting and in role portrayal,” Stiles said. “The more flexible you can be, the more you catch on and the better you’ll be in looking for a job in any field. Many singers want jobs, and many of them sing well, so if you are slow or not musically prepared you don’t have a chance.”

As coordinator, Stiles was able to hire a stage director, conductor and pianists for the workshop with the fee the students paid to participate.

She chose Brenna Corner from Canada as the stage director due to her experience directing actors to fight and dance on stage. Marcello Cormio joined the crew as music director.

“Marcello really knows how to bring out the best in someone’s sound in the fact that he knows the right things to say that will make you push harder as opposed to deter you from dwelling as a singer,” Karageorgiou said. “His way of dealing with constructive criticism is inspiring, and the same goes for Brenna.”

After his introduction to opera in April, IU sophomore Mark Phillips said he thought this program would help him learn the proper opera techniques for his audition into the vocal performance program at Jacobs in July.

“I wanted to do it to get a good start of being in opera,” he said. “I thought I would get a good view of how it feels to perform with others in opera and perform opera on stage because I want to do it for a living eventually.”

Evening rehearsals took place beginning June 4 and concluded with the performance Wednesday. Stiles said she expected the participants to arrive ready to recite lines and take direction.

“Part of the learning process is to figure out how long it takes them to learn something so they can be prepared when they go out in the professional world,” she said. “They must know music but also know themselves.”

As a cast member of “A View from the Bridge” and “Der Rosenkavalier” this year, Karageorgiou noticed a number of differences between these larger productions in the Musical Arts Center and the workshop.

“Working with new people presents its own challenges,” he said. “In opera you work against a symphony and this is not like that. The stage is different. For example, on the MAC stage there’s a certain degree your body has to be at for the audience to hear the sound. The rehearsal room is smaller so it has different acoustics. You never know what to expect.”

If accepted into the vocal performance program, Phillips said he will audition for the operas during the academic year.

“I feel like I have the technique, and this is just verifying I want to continue doing things like this in the future with opera,” Phillips said.

Stiles said performers who take part in the workshop are often cast in future

“A beautiful voice is the starting point, but you have to build from that,” Stiles said. “It should be a given that all these other things are required to be a well-rounded singer.


Nate Hill, Anne Chester, Christine Buras, Emily Blair, Andrew LeVan and Megan Hrabak act out their roles as Stage Director Brenna Corner stands in for a sick cast member during the Jacobs School of Music Opera Workshop dress rehearsal Monday at the Musical Arts Center. Rachel Wisinski Buy Photos

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