An Operatic Gem in the Ozark Mountains
September 19, 2019
From Opera in the Ozarks’ 2019 production of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio: Jeremy (right, in what he calls a “gross beard”) in a sword fight with University of Michigan sophomore Jack Merucci (left).
By Jeremy Lopez
Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point is a long-running summer program for singers looking to receive valuable operatic training in a space that promotes risk-taking in a safe, productive space. Since its inception in 1950, the program has undergone many changes. However, it continues to reflect the values that it proposed from the beginning in the way the students are seen as the leaders and the next generation of performers.
This past summer, I spent two months in the Northwestern Arkansas region at Opera in the Ozarks exploring my limits as a performer and learning more about the practical aspects of opera than I could have learned in any class. As a studio artist, I participated in the children’s opera outreach production of Monkey See, Monkey Do by Robert Xavier Rodriguez. The opportunity to sing a lead role in an outreach opera was extremely formative. I learned what it takes to interact with kids on stage, what it takes to bring a show on the road, and how rewarding it is to teach children all about what an opera is. Being such an important aspect of how the art form will live on in the future, I am glad to have experienced this for the first time at OIO. (I shared this experience with another Eastman voice student, Gwen Paker, from Robert Swensen’s studio.)
Opera in the Ozarks’ summer 2019 production of La Boheme
In addition to being in the cast of the outreach opera production, I was also a member of the featured choruses of the mainstage productions of La Bohème by Puccini and The Abduction from the Seraglio by Mozart. Being in these choruses was so much fun for me because I was able to explore this music without the pressures of learning a role as well as adding it to my repertoire if I am in either of these productions again in the future. The chorus of Mozart’s Abduction was particularly fun for me because I got to be in a choreographed sword fight! It was my first time being in a fight scene of that capacity, so it was a thrilling time.
When I wasn’t busy in rehearsals and performances, I was enjoying my time with my new friends. All of the singers and instrumentalists at OIO lived in close quarters, so we all got very close very fast. Over my two months there, I got to explore the area around Inspiration Point by taking hikes, going down to Beaver Lake, and driving into the nearest town (Eureka Springs) for even more activities. Above all, I am so happy to have gained the friends that I gained at Opera in the Ozarks, and am excited to see where these new experiences take me.
Jeremy Lopez is the Eastman Communication Office’s Arts Leadership Intern for 2019-2020 and a senior voice student in the studio of Ruth Hennessy.