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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Living, Learning, and Loving: How Opera Singers Have it Right

Editor's Note: Today's blog is written by 2013 Festival Office/Music Library Assistant Corbin Rugh.

As a recent graduate in music education, I never imagined that my degree would take me into the world of opera. Though I knew the summer internship would be full of adventure, I did not imagine I would be so deeply moved by my colleagues.
Blog author Corbin Rugh with William Ferguson, David Portillo and Patrick Carfizzi (George in Our Town and Almaviva and Bartolo in The Barber of Seville)
It is no secret that many talented singers bring Central City Opera to life each summer. Beyond the immaculately finessed notes and divine artistry lie some truly amazing people. This particular crowd of opera singers proves that an uncommon career path lends itself to appreciating often overseen dimensions of life. The most profound lessons that I will take with me long after this summer are the following:

Bloom where you're planted.

Opera singers find work in all corners of the world. This means that the conventional concepts of “home” and “work” change as often as the gig. It is up to the individual to establish roots and to blossom in each experience. As a twenty-something getting ready to move overseas, I know I will sport these same tenets as I venture into unfamiliar ground. There is no measure for success but our own accumulation of triumphs.

Be true to yourself.

"Work with what you have" sounds like bad advice from a mother to a temperamental teenage daughter, but it proves true in the most wonderful way in opera. Vertically challenged? Add that to the comedy of your role. Have an amazing high C? Use it to tug at our heartstrings! In Our Town, the Stage Manager says, “Something is eternal in everyone.” We are all one of a kind and that is our contribution to the world. Capitalize on your unique qualities and make the most of everything that is you.
Corbin with one of the 2013 Festival billboards outside the Central City Opera House
We create the culture that in turn creates us.

This is the quintessential phrase of one of my dear professors. My favorite Central City illustration of this was a moment in rehearsal for The Barber of Seville. Early in staging, two principals had the idea of a new move they could do in a scene. It came to fruition because the climate was supportive of creative collaboration and the director’s intentions were clear. This seemingly small exchange gave way to a wonderful moment in the show that leaves the audience in stitches! Once we individually embody aspects of a productive and supportive culture, we become part of something greater than ourselves.

Live in every moment.

On all levels, productions have an amazing power to bring people together for a common goal, but only for a short time. In my student teaching, the high school auditorium seemed to magically transform for the week of the spring musical, just as Central City takes on new life in the summer season. As quickly as it comes together, it ends. Enjoy each moment of the journey with those around you and put energy, intention, and love into every breath.
Corbin "lives in the moment" backstage at The Barber of Seville.
The gifts opera singers give us go beyond the two hours we experience in the theatre. The next time you see an opera in Central City or elsewhere, look beyond the production and consider the people who are bringing the characters to life. If we take even a page from their books, we are sure to live, learn, and love wholeheartedly.

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