As you will recall, I was invited to join Morgan State University's summer faculty for their Opera Workshop. Finding my way here to Baltimore and Morgan State was a piece of cake; however, if you had seen me driving around campus for a hour after I got here--you guessed it--frustration was high. I maintained my cool and eventually hooked up with our Artistic Director, Vincent Dion Stringer. It was a pleasure to see Vincent and he eased all my stress immediately.
I was escorted to the Alumni House, and my accommodations were simply spectacular! I'm staying in a full suite with all the amenities. It is an enriching experience because all of the teachers are housed on the same floor. The first to arrive were Ridley Chauvin (baritone), Ivan Griffin (baritone), Louise Toppin (soprano), and myself. Later Donna Roll arrived from Cambridge, Mass. The camaraderie that exists among the teachers is absolutely lovely, and the students are some of the finest in the nation, not to mention the musicians and directors.
We've already performed one opera, Highway One USA, and are in the process of preparing five others. Ridley Chauvin happens to be Denise Graves' voice teacher. Miss Graves was appearing at the Castleton Festival and Ridley was able to get four tickets, so Ivan, Vincent, Ridley, and I drove all the way to Piedmont, Virginia for the concert. The car ride was a riot and we laughed all the way there and back. We met Miss Graves and her family after her performance and took pictures. She was very gracious, but had a great deal of attention to pay to her children, which she managed with tremendous ease.
The beauty surrounding Morgan State is infectious: we are all up early in the morning to take advantage of the gym, going to the gorgeous lake where I ride my bike for four mile each morning, and, in short, preparing for our day far differently than how we begin in NYC.
We have five more weeks to go and we've hit a high with the first production. All the teachers are giving Master Classes and I'm glad to say mine was well received. We also have what is called "A Random Act of Opera" at Germanno's, a restaurant in Little Italy. Singers are chosen to perform after having their names drawn by the audience from a raffle basket, so they never know who goes next. They all sing very well and are, of course, treated to a lovely dinner. There is one more such night before the season ends.
Vincent has implemented a program which happens near the end of the season called "Wisdom from the Journey." The artist chosen is interviewed onstage before an audience and questioned about his or her life in this thing called Show Business. It seems that I am that artist who has been selected to share my journey. It is yet another moment in which I've finally experienced "Artistic Fulfillment."
(Photos: (1) KKS; (2) KKS, Ivan Griffin, Vincent Dion Stringer; (3) Vincent Dion Stringer, Ivan Griffin, Denise Graves, KKS, Alessandro Marc)