How do two hours fly by so quickly? We students were bursting with questions for our guests of Opera 101 last night. In fact, we passionate opera lovers could have remained in class all evening, eager for more behind-the-scenes information from experts who have devoted their lives to opera. Our first guest was Clare Burovac, Director of Artistic Operations. Some of her responsibilities include auditioning and hiring all the vocalists and instrumentalists for the Portland Opera. This includes the singers for the Portland Opera Resident Artists, the chorus, the mainstage singers, and the children’s chorus. Of all the positions we’ve learned about, Clare’s has the most appeal to me. Can you imagine a job where you can listen to and evaluate hundreds of opera singers each year? Where you can meet both the young, aspiring singers beginning their careers, as well as experienced singers who have sung all over the world? I imagine that would be fabulous. Extraordinarily difficult, but enormously satisfying.
Next we met the amazing Rodney Menn. I have had the pleasure of knowing Rodney for many years in his capacity as an opera accompanist. But that’s only one hat he wears. He’s also a conductor, teacher, and vocal coach. Underlying all his jobs is a passion for the music and a mission to train and encourage young singers. Rodney shared his insider knowledge about the differences between instrumentalists and singers in relation to the conductor. Most singers are motivated to get along well with the conductor, but instrumentalists often have a combative relationship with him/her. “Instrumentalists are from Mars,” Rodney pointed out, “and singers are from Venus.”