Star-Filled Stage: Opera in Ozarks alumni return for recital

Star-Filled Stage: Opera in Ozarks alumni return for recital
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com


Described as “a superb singing actress,” and “a possessor of a generous dramatic soprano instrument and passionate acting skills,” soprano Alexandra Lang, a veteran of Opera in the Ozarks in 2009, is rapidly gaining recognition for her musical integrity, distinct vocal color and versatility.

Baritone Joshua Scheid, who studied in Eureka Springs in 2017, is also a composer and librettist. He is particularly drawn to new music and is finishing up a doctorate at Peabody Conservatory. “Forgot to mention,” he adds in an email, “my opera company, Strange Trace, also includes another OiO alum from the same summer as myself, Felix Aguilar Tomlinson!”

The two will come together March 20 for a recital at the Eureka Springs City Auditorium. It’s the first in a spring series of alumni recitals, says OiO General Director Nancy Preis, and includes “a wide variety of repertoire” from Massenet to Sondheim.

Lang, based in New York City, and Scheid, who lives in Baltimore, met up via email to answer three questions for What’s Up!

Joshua Scheid has his own production company, which is currently developing and filming four brand-new shows by an international cohort of composers and librettists. (Courtesy Photo/Madison Trottman)
After she sings at the Opera in the Ozarks Alumni Recital March 20 in Eureka Springs, Alexandra Lang will be all over the country, singing everything from contemporary opera to Wagner. (Courtesy Photo/Jiyang Chen)

Q. How did you fall in love with music and specifically opera?

Scheid: I’ve always loved music and singing — even as a child I would make up little songs to sing to myself — but really I came to opera through my love of acting. Like many young performers, I started out doing plays and musicals, and it wasn’t really until my undergraduate studies that I really dove into opera. I really appreciated the room opera gives you to nerd out about music, plus I was never a good enough dancer to go into musical theater anyway!

Lang: I’ve loved to sing ever since I was a little girl. Music was always a part of our family experience growing up. My brothers and I all took piano, and there was usually music on around the house. We have a wonderful theater in town, Georgia Ensemble, where I learned everything from Shakespeare to improv and stage combat at their camp and conservatory. I could finally join choir in fourth grade, and in middle school I started doing community musical theater. Freshman year of high school, I was auditioning for the musical, and a voice teacher sitting in thought I might have an operatic voice. I started taking lessons with her — Francesca Richards — got the bug, and the rest is history. Fran is always on my shoulder to this day, whispering to “keep going” in my ear.

Q. Tell me about your experience at Opera in the Ozarks.

Lang: My summer at OiO was a big deal for me — Massenet’s Manon was my first official leading lady role, fresh out of grad school. I remember taking the BoltBus to audition in New York. I brought an aria from the opera, “Adieu, notre petite table,” and my audition ended with sight-reading the Gavotte! I returned home to Boston, and upon sharing this information with my professors, was cautioned against ever doing anything like that in an audition again. A good lesson to learn, to be sure, but maybe not that time around, since it all worked out!

There was so much to learn that summer. … I was definitely the greenest Manon, and was so glad to be double-cast with some really supportive colleagues. I just felt like a sponge all summer — watching my older colleagues and learning from them. Trying things out and experimenting. I still remember the first time we sang with orchestra; it was magical.

This is what’s incredible about Opera in the Ozarks — that it provides budding artists the chance to get up and perform a role. Not only covering and singing in the chorus, which can both be great experiences, but having the opportunity to step into the light and seize your moment.

Scheid: I came to Opera in the Ozarks in the summer of 2017 to perform Blitch in “Susannah” and Escamillo in “Carmen.” Very much a city-slicker, spending eight weeks on a rickety bunk bed on a mountain in rural Arkansas was a bit of an adjustment — and still the closest I’ve ever come to camping — but it was impossible not to fall in love with the beauty of my surroundings. I honestly had no idea that there was anywhere in America you could see so many stars! My time at Opera in the Ozarks was the first opportunity I had to really spend all day every day doing opera, and it was also my first chance to play a leading role — both of which were pretty overwhelming at the time, in a chaotically wonderful kind of way.

Q. What’s next for you after this recital?

Scheid: I work with a small opera company called Strange Trace, which creates and produces new works of opera theater. Right now we’re in the process of developing and filming four brand-new shows by an international cohort of composers and librettists for our annual spring festival, Stencils, which will be available for streaming this summer.

Lang: Up next, I have the second installment of my passion project, “LITER ABEND,” in New York City. “LITER ABEND” is a joyful and intimate art song experience that celebrates German Lied, and I’ll be performing a Brahms set and Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder alongside my guest artist. Later in the month I’ll head to Michigan to perform my first “Carmina Burana” as soprano soloist with the Marquette Choral Society. In June I’ll perform contemporary opera and song in concert at the Mostly Modern Festival in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. July takes me to New London, N.H., where I’ll join the Berlin Wagner Group for their inaugural U.S. concert: Wagner’s Ring in One Evening. And I’ll close out the summer with more Wagner: my first performance in a full production from “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” singing the Valkyrie, Gerhilde, in TUNDI Productions’ “Die Walküre” in Brattleboro, Vt.

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FAQ

OiO Alumni Recital

WHEN — 2:30 p.m. March 20

WHERE — Eureka Springs City Auditorium

COST — $20 in person or streaming

INFO — 253-8595 or opera.org

BONUS — Reserved parking at the Aud is available for $10 per car. Must be purchased in advance from the OiO box office.

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FYI

Alumni Recital

Series

March 20 — Lang and Scheid, Eureka Springs City Auditorium

April 24 — David Adams and Rose Kearing, venue pending

May 8 — Dawn Pierce and Justin Burgess, venue pending

June — Catherine Cook, who will be resident voice teacher this summer, date and venue pending

INFO — 253-8595 or opera.org

Categories: Music