When opera company Just Love to Sing founders Jane Cormier and husband Carlos Martinez moved from the Lakes Region to Hooksett, they decided to bring their opera company along with them. They’d have more time on their hands, since they’d no longer be commuting so far to their Manchester voice studio. Plus, if they were to have a home base in, say, Concord, they’d be able to build better infrastructure and support because it’s so central.
The result of their efforts: Piccola Opera, a new company for which Cormier will act as artistic director and Martinez as music director. The organization launch happens Friday, Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m. at the Concord City Auditorium, during a Halloween Ball that will include a medley of arias (opera solos) split into two acts. During intermission, audiences members will be invited to go onstage for a costume parade.
It’s the first of what will be many events this year. The aim in building up Piccola (which means “little” in Italian) Opera is not only to offer the art to New Hampshire audiences, but also to create a means for young singers to develop their craft.
“Those young artist programs have been disappearing. The economy has killed not only businesses, but also the arts,” Cormier said in a phone interview. “Our vision short term is to introduce ourselves to Concord by putting up high-quality productions. Long-term, we’d like to create an institute summer program, an annual opera competition, a spring opera … and touring productions in schools and smaller venues.”
The next weekend, on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m., also at the Concord City Auditorium, the company hosts Piccola Opera’s inaugural Opera Vocal Competition. That night, 12 finalists from a pool of 40 will perform arias to a panel of three judges (David Ripley from UNH; Wayne Rivero, who runs the Hartt School of Music; and opera singer Susan Olson).
The participating singers will be judged on vocal beauty, diction and the communication of the aria. There is $3,500 in cash prizes and performing contracts, including roles in the 2015 touring-in-school programs The Magic of Mozart and The Magic Flute.
Education is another spoke of the nonprofit venture.
“If we’re not educating the next generation, we’re going to lose it. It will go away. And to allow the art, which has been around since the 1600s, to drizzle out would be a sin,” Cormier said. “My drive is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Ashley Therrien, one of Cormier’s voice students who will compete in the opera competition Nov. 8, didn’t become interested in opera until after college.
“I think opera at times can seem almost intimidating or untouchable. Young kids feel like they can’t relate to it. A lot of times, it’s not in English, and you’re just singing crazy notes all over the place. It’s very different from what you hear on the radio,” Therrien said. “I don’t think I realized that opera is composed of stories, these incredible, beautiful stories. … At least if [kids] see opera when they’re 10, they’ve had exposure to it. Because how can you like something you’ve never had exposure to?”
Part of the problem, Cormier said, has to do with business. She and Martinez will be making no money in building this nonprofit.
“In part, opera has killed itself by becoming an expensive art form,” Cormier said. “The dirty little secret that, with administrators and directors, if you look at their budgets, they’re taking the largest portions of the funds coming in.”
Therrien is eager to perform onstage.
“You spend so much time in the studio and in practicing rooms, trying to get these pieces as perfect as possible. … But you can’t simulate that type of adrenaline you feel in front of an audience in the practice room. You can’t practice not letting that adrenaline affect your singing, not letting the nerves inhibit the performance,” Therrien said.
Later on this year, there will be a touring group, The Dickens Carolers. Opera workshops and a Piccola Youth Opera program for younger classical singers are also on the drawing board.
As seen in the October 30, 2014 issue of the Hippo.