Singer Diana Soviero and director Bernard Uzan had worked with Florida Grand Opera's Young Artist program, they recall, about a decade ago, but in the fall of 2016, they became officially its co-directors.
Soviero, who has gained international acclaim for her roles, from Cio-cio San in Madama Butterfly to Violetta in La Traviata, and everything in between, recalls a time when she was backstage with the great Beverly Sills. There was a bit of advice the opera legend gave to her that would influence Soviero for years to come, especially when the singer herself began to mentor and teach young singers.
"We were singing The Merry Widow together in Houston, and she turned and said to me, 'Di, you will see in your time the art form (of opera) slowly disintegrate. I won't see it because I won't be here, but you will be able to influence this. It will be your job to keep it up,' " Soviero remembers. "So here we are, and it must come to pass, and it is now our job to make sure that I give students positive incentives, and where they may be weak help them to become stronger."
Soviero has a long and rich history with Florida Grand Opera, having appeared with the company numerous times in works such as La Traviata, Pagliacci, Manon Lescaut, and Madama Butterfly. "We are delighted that our young artists have opportunities to benefit from her expertise," said Susan T. Danis, general director and CEO of Florida Grand Opera, last February when Soviero was hosting a masterclass for singers at the Steinway Piano Gallery Miami in Coral Gables.
Her husband, stage director Bernard Uzan, and her co-director for the Young Artist Program, staged FGO's Carmen in the fall of 2016, and returns this year to direct Soleme in January, the second offering of FGO's season.
In 1984, Florida Grand Opera founded its Young Artist Program. Selected artists receive extensive and instruction during a six to eighth month residency. The highly competitive program accepts 8 to 15 artists each year and has trained more than 180 professionals. In May 2016, FGO introduced its summer program, YALA (Young Artists Learning Academy), designed to provide instruction for those who want to develop their classical singing skills in a summer camp environment.
Soviero and Uzan admit that young artists who want to seek an opera career in the modern performing arts world face different challenges than they did decades ago.
"We want to not only help train their voice – this gift that they have been given, this instrument – but all of the Young Artist programs are designed to give them more insight into what a career in opera entails. Our job is to co direct them, co think for them. Many that come into the program are very talented. Our job is going to be to polish what they have to make it better," says Soviero.
In addition to working with FGO's Young Artists, she has trained students at the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Program, and serves as official voice instructor for the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera.
The lirico-spinto rattles off some of her role models who have performed the role that Soviero has become so known for in Madama Butterfly, and it is this idea that she teaches to her students. The great singers of Cio-cio San, she says are, Licia Albanese, Renata Tebaldi and Renata Scotto. "What I love most about these women is they knew how to say the text. They didn't just sing beautiful tones."
This is what co-director Uzan says he wants to bring out in his young artists. Uzan began his career as an actor and director in Paris in the early 1960s. He came to the United States in 1972 from France, when he established French Theater in America, a company that toured for a decade, giving 100 performances per year of classic French plays.
"What I learned then and what I want to teach students, and to do with the shows I direct, including Soleme (Jan. 27 to Feb. 10) at FGO, is to have an audience leave the theater different than when they arrived. But that doesn't mean to modernize or change things just for the sake of changing them. I like to work with what the work means, find ideas maybe in the words. Every world has a million possibilities."
The best advice he says he gives to his students is that he tells them to not merely rely on their talent. "You have to accumulate knowledge, experience, be worldly. That's what audiences will see on stage, and that's what I expect my students to give on stage. I tell them, 'Every word you sing, when you have all of that background of your own, has an enormous amount of meaning and feeling.'"
Young Artists perform recitals and concerts for the community and appear in outreach programs for students. They also perform featured and supporting roles in mainstage performance, as well as study appropriate leading roles in the season's repertoire.
In the upcoming FGO production of Lucia di Lamermoor, opening Nov. 11, Young Artists include tenor Dominick Corbacio, who returns for his second season in the Young Artist Program, singing Normanno; Benjamin Dickerson, baritone, who will study-cover the role of Enrico; Simon Dyer, bass, who will sing the role of Raimondo; Jessica Faselt and Jessica E. Jones, sopranos, will study-cover the role of Aliza; tenors Benjamin Werley and Chaz'men Williams-All, who will share the role of Arturo. Rafael Porto, bass-baritone, who will study-cover the role of Raimondo, and Mary Beth Nelson, mezzo-soprano, who will sing Alisa.
Florida Grand Opera opens its season with on Nov. 11 with one of the most dramatic and best-loved works in the bel-canto repertoire, Donizetti's haunting drama of a young Scottish girl who is pressured into helping her vicious family revive its fortunes features one of the most thrilling mad scenes in all of opera-a breathtaking fifteen-minute tour-de-force in which Lucia, who has just murdered her bridegroom, completely loses touch with reality, accompanied by some of the most glorious music Donizetti ever composed.
Lucia Di Lammermoor
Miami performances are at the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami.
Fort Lauderdale performances are at the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale.
Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 7 pm
Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 2 pm
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 8 pm
Friday, November 17, 2017 at 8 pm
Saturday, November 18, 2017 at 8 pm
Broward Center for the Performing Arts' Au-Rene Theater
Thursday, November 20, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, December 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm
For subscriptions to the 2017-2018 season: http://tickets.fgo.org/subscriptions/index.aspx.
For single tickets, click here.
For the calendar of events, click here.
Miami Administrative Office & Ticket Office at the Doral Center 8390 NW 25th Street Miami, FL. Call Ticket Office: 800.741.1010 or go to fgo.org.