The fourth International Opera Workshop will take place this summer at the newly renovated theater in the Chase County High School in Cottonwood Falls. The Workshop began in 2017. This will be the fourth summer in Chase County.

“The day of the non-acting opera singer, who only has a small repertoire of gestures that he can implement while singing, is over” said Martha Sharp, artistic director.

After living, performing as an opera and concert singer and teaching in Europe for 40 years, Martha Sharp retired from the "Mozarteum" University of Salzburg in Austria and moved to Cottonwood Falls. She was interested, if not passionate to find opera talent in the United States. Having connected with former colleagues now teaching in the United States and traveling to major Universities in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, she was indeed able to find American talent. Sharp was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma and studied voice at Tulsa University and the Conservatory of Music - UMKC in Kansas City, Missouri.

"It is so awesome to meet young students from this area who remind me of myself as a young student," Sharp said. "I love being able to advise them in next their career choices. I had no idea back then as to what to do and what was possible. I was just lucky enough to fall into it. I would have given anything for an opportunity like this."

Joining Sharp will be Margaret Singer, a concert pianist and well-known opera coach. She currently teaches young conductors and opera coaches at the Atelier Lyrique/Académie of the Paris Opera. Singer has been involved with the International Opera Workshop since its beginning in Lofer, Austria in 1999.

While teaching at the “Mozarteum” Sharp observed that many of her students could benefit from a course that gave them specific information in regard to maintaining their vocal instrument while acting and moving on stage. From the beginning in Austria the International Opera Workshop moved on to Iceland, Germany and now the USA.

Bridget Hille will be joining the Opera Workshop on the staff for the first time in the USA. She currently works as pianist and coach at Wichita State University. She plays for the Opera Studio and for the classes of many well-known singer/professors.

Besides conducting rehearsals every day, Sharp, Hille and Singer will be giving lectures at 3 p.m. every afternoon. Guest Artist Cameron Becker, who is originally from Kansas City, Missouri, will be teaching vocal technique and body movement.

“Cameron is a former student of mine from the 'Mozarteum' in Salzburg, Austria," Sharp said. "He is having a very successful career in Europe. I thought it would be a good idea to bring in someone for the students who is young, successful and from the Mid-West. He is pretty savvy about what it takes to get from here to there."

Seven singers have been accepted into the program this summer, from Kansas, Oklahoma, New York, New Hampshire and Texas.

If you ever wondered what it takes to put an opera together, you will have that chance. You will be welcome to visit behind the scenes to see what really goes on. Just be careful that they don’t put you to work. Rehearsals are open every day to the public to encourage community involvement. This year the Chase County High School has nominated several students to join the Opera Workshop and become acquainted with the ins and outs of opera theater from learning how to walk across a stage to lighting and building flats.

Many of the singers are just finishing their studies and are looking to make the next step, which is usually to make a trip to Europe. While going to Europe to learn more about the music culture there is advisable, many of the programs are very expensive and sometimes overrated. Prof. Sharp and her staff are able to provide the same content of information that young singers would receive in Europe. The big difference is that the opportunity is right here to receive expert advice, regarding diction in all languages, musical style, stage movement, developing a role, information concerning making a career in Europe or the USA, contacts and agents, etc. All of this costs one-fourth of what it costs to fly to Europe.

"We have appreciated the amazing response and support that we have received from the communities of Cottonwood Falls and from Marion, our first two locations for the Workshop in the USA. They have hosted our singers in their homes and provided props, costumes, stage furniture, meals and rehearsal space, etc. They have been willing to help in any way they could. It is exciting and rewarding to be able to work with these young, dedicated, disciplined and talented singers, who are looking for exactly what we are offering. We are making plans and looking forward to this years’ Opera Workshop in July 2020."

The Opera Scenes that we will present this year are from “La Boheme”, “Il Pagliacci”, “Cosi fan Tutte”, “Hänsel und Gretel”, “Die Lustige Witwe” (The Merry Widow) and “Carmen”. This year, for the first time there will be Sub-texts in English for every scene.

Staging and musical rehearsals run simultaneously every day — 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.  and 4 - 7 p.m. July 6 - 10 and July 13 - 15 at Chase County High School. The public is welcome to drop by. 

We are doing everything we can to insure the health and safety of our staff and students. You will be asked to sign-in and take your temperature. Masks are mandatory.

Lecture Series: 3 p.m. Chase County High School Auditorium

  • Monday, July 6 Prof. Sharp. Basic Stage Skills
  • Tuesday July 7. Prof. Sharp. Theater Improvisation
  • Wednesday July 8 Cameron Becker “How I got from here to there”
  • Thursday July 9 Margaret Singer “How to prepare musically for an opera role”
  • Friday July 10 Prof. Sharp “Fach System” (categories of singers and their repertoire)
  • Monday July 13 Prof Sharp “The Body as your Instrument”
  • Tuesday July 14 Prof. Sharp “Preparing a role as a singer and an actor”
  • Wednesday July15 Prof. Sharp “Let’s talk about the business side”

Performances: 7:30 p.m. July 17 - 18 at Chase County High School. 

Admission is free and donations welcome.

For more information, visit www:operaworkshopintheflinthills.org.

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