Opera Workshop brings acting talent to light in Marion County

Students rehearse at the Opera Workshop to get ready for performances throughout the week. Laura Fowler Paulus
Students rehearse at the Opera Workshop to get ready for performances throughout the week. Laura Fowler Paulus
Opera Workshop in the Flinthills is a master class for advanced students and young professional singers from around the country.

For two weeks students come together in Marion to focus on acting talents as well as to build their singing skills. At the end of the two weeks, they preform scenes from five different operas and operettas based on skill level and capabilities.

“The students get their music a few months ahead of time so that they can learn it. They do all the work and memorize ahead of time,” said Abigail Triemer, project director. “Then when they get here, we fine tune everything.”

The program, founded in 1999, has become widely known for its artistic excellence. This year’s ensemble consists of 10 students. Students apply in the spring to find out if they are accepted. Once accepted, they receive the music.

Tuition includes the accommodations at the Historic Elgin Hotel, meals, use of practice rooms as well as daily musical coaching and staging rehearsals by the professional staff. A Stage Theory class is another valuable benefit of the program that teaches students skills such as improvisation, interpretation, auditioning and finding an agent. The goal is to set students up for success in their chosen areas of music.

“All of the students are music majors in college, and some years there are some who have just graduated from college,” Triemer said. “Not all are looking at necessarily going into opera for their career, but they still build a vast skill set by doing this program. There are a lot of places you can go from here.”

During Saturday’s rehearsal, students worked through each scene. Director Martha Sharp worked with each student in each scene, offering praise on some aspects and constructive feedback on others. Other professional staff chimed in with helpful tips and ideas.

“It’s great because they get to come here and have all these great professionals here give them all their information,” Triemer said. “All of the faculty is world class. They are really fun and nice. You can ask them anything.

“We are all here to learn and they are here to help with that. The students get a lot of career advice, high quality instruction and staging advice such as how to move on stage. These are things the students don’t always have time to pick up on in school performances.”

Cole Bellamy, a sophomore at WSU who is double majoring in Vocal Performance and Music Education, said, “Martha has a huge emphasis about making it very real, very believable to the audience. My biggest gain this week is I have learned quite a bit about staging and how to really bring a character to life through acting.

“In terms of performance, acting has always been my weak area, but this program is really helping me to be a much more rounded performer in general. This program has helped me in so many aspects for the future. Working with other musicians will always be an extremely relevant skill and this has really helped with that.”

Rehearsals are being held in the old city auditorium in the Marion Community Center, making the Elgin a convenient place to stay as it is right across the street.

“I love Marion, Kansas,” Bellamy said. “It is such a cool little town. Everything is so close together. And I love being out here on the prairie. Staying at the Elgin has been magnificent. I have never had a hotel experience quite like it. You get taken care of so well.”

Because everything is located in one spot, the students and staff are able to immerse themselves in the program and devote all of the two weeks to it. This allows for everything to get covered in the short time they have together.

“It’s really great having it in a small town like this so the students can all focus without distractions of a big city,” said Triemer. “We can really get to know each other and talk about our art and non-rehearsal stuff as well,”

The performances will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 3 and Aug. 4, and at 2 p.m. Aug. 5. You can purchase tickets at https://2018-opera-workshop-in-the-flinthills.eventbrite.com/. Tickets are $30 each. If you are unable to make it to one of the performance times, rehearsals are open to the public through Aug. 2. If interested in attending a rehearsal, email Abigail.triemer@gmail.com for the schedule.

For more information about the Opera Workshop, please check out its website at https://operaworkshopintheflinthills.org.