A Japanese monk lifted an empty teapot, passing an empty cup, ritualistically savoring bitter tea that no longer exists as a chorus of monks sang “though the bowl is empty, the scent glows.”
Members of the Las Vegas Guild of the Santa Fe Opera leaned forward, let the music, as fine and enlightening as vapor from steaming green tea waft over them during the American premiere of Tan Dun’s opera, Tea, last August in Santa Fe.
“During the Santa Fe Opera season, we carpool to the opera, and our Guild members volunteer to host preview dinners and assist at youth nights,” explains Las Vegas Opera Guild President, Carol Schwartz. Her husband, Art, also a member of the group, chimes in. “With our new youth members, we are seeing an incredible array of interest and talent.”
The Guild, one of several around the state, counts 170 adults and 39 students among its members. This Friday, Guild members along with the entire Las Vegas community have the opportunity to experience a taste of the Santa Fe Opera during a free concert at Kluge Auditorium given by several young artists-in-training as part of the Apprentice Singer Program.
Each summer, the Santa Fe Opera selects 40 up-and-coming singers from more than a thousand applicants from around the entire country. Apprentices are cast in many supporting roles and understudy leading roles, in addition to forming the ensemble for the season’s productions.
“The rigorous schedule of training and performance is an ideal introduction to the world of professional opera,” Mrs. Schwartz says. “The Opera has apprentices both as singers and as backstage people - craftspeople. There is a nation wide competition for these positions. In the spring before the opera season, the singers tour the state and visit 40 or more places such as high schools and the UWC, and they perform free of charge. We’re lucky to have them perform in our community.”
The Las Vegas Guild has been actively recruiting youth membership. A recent drive at West Las Vegas High School garnered several dozen highly interested students, many of whom perform in West’s impressive Choral program.
“For the size of our city, we have a huge organization, and this is only the first year we’ve had any youth members,” notes Mr. Schwartz. “We are targeting teenagers in high school and college. The Guild is a great opportunity for young members of our community to get exposure to the opera.”
“The educational value, the enjoyment, these are wonderful opportunities for our youth,” adds Mrs. Schwartz.
The Guild has big plans for young members this season. In addition to providing back stage passes for interested members, they will hold a tour of the Opera Grounds on June 7, as well as trips to the two youth-central concerts produced by the Santa Fe Opera on June 23 and 24. The Schwartz’s hope that the trips inspire talented locals to continue their study and practice.
“We have half a dozen serious students of opera in Santa Fe,” Mrs. Schwartz says. “Arnell David Arellanes has done an amazing job,” she continues, referring to the West Las Vegas High School choral director. “He’s produced a talented group, and advises them about application to schools and programs for college.”
Friday’s concert will consist of pieces sung by several apprentices, the program of which has not yet been published. The public is invited to attend the free event. Upcoming Guild events include an opening night dinner and an annual meeting. Persons interested in joining the Las Vegas Guild of the Santa Fe Opera may contact Klare Schmidt at 454-4490 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.