Rachmaninoff is one of my favorite composers largely due to the gorgeous melodies that ring out in his symphonies. I'm new to the world of opera, so I was surprised to learn that he completed three of them. His first, Aleko, is an adaptation of the poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin, and was completed as a graduation project when he was only 19.
Rarely performed, this one act opera, less than one hour in length sounded like another great opportunity to get a little more exposure to opera. Better yet, it was performed by the Russian Opera Workshop at the Academy of Vocal Arts for free. The opera was enjoyable and included some wonderful music, but I was just as interested in learning about the workshop, itself.
Ghenady Meirson founded the workshop last year and experienced immediate success with his first class when several members were hired for roles in the opera they had just studied. Meirson, a Russian immigrant who is a vocal coach at both the Curtis Institute of Music and AVA, focuses on operas and music from his homeland. He's a great story teller (see this video on YouTube) and he has the kind of exuberant, outgoing personality that makes him a natural leader for what appears to be a month of intensive training AND fun. Their Facebook page and YouTube channel are full of fun photos and videos like: "You come, we sing for you, is good!" There's much to admire about the workshop as it employees musicians in an off-season, utilizes space at AVA and Curtis that would normally be empty during the summer, and draws talent nationwide for a month in Philadelphia. The next workshop will present Tchaikovsky's "The Queen of Spades" on July 24-26, so mark your calendars and go to their site for more details here: http://www.russianoperaworkshop.com/index.html
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