Building a career in the Opera World
with young professional Singers from University of North Texas Music,
Center for Contemporary Opera
and the International Arts Club in New York City.

By Greg Henry Waters

There are some values in life that are worth fighting for rather than go into the world of popular media which I believe is very destructive for our people and country. These groups of people, NTM, CCO and IAC are trying to uphold the high standards of music and culture. This is so rare and to be successful at it is another wonder we should think about.

Art is a business and it is not a business. If we look at musical art as a business what do we have? Pop Music, Broadway Shows, Rock'n Roll, for all these performances are judged by the dollar value of the performance not the musical value or cultural value. There are examples of course that are cultural icons in this arena, but not too many this is for sure. West Side Story being one of them and I think for me is a modern Opera and not a Broadway Show. Although this piece was written by several composers, arrangers and orchestrators it was not just a work by Bernstein alone.

My point being that Opera takes many people and organizations to make it happen. And what we do not have is the exposer to present all this effort to the public. Every morning when I turn on the news I hear information about pop singers, rock stars, and etc. I never hear anything about Opera, Orchestral Music, Chamber Music and Jazz. For me this is a big insult to myself and all these people who put into their love and work into these forms of music. For years I have watched and participated in jazz clubs who just exploit the musicians. We can take a space ship to the moon but we cannot take care of real artists and musicians other than a token consideration for them. Even Local 802 of the Musicians Union is trying to save jobs on Broadway. Why should they even have to fight for jobs is my question if we had real standards of Musical Art.

James Scott, Dean of Music at North Texas Music invited me to this opera event in NYC since I live here and was so happy to attend since I had no real dealings with NT since 1966. The event, Center for Contemporary Opera the 29th Season presents excerpts from the works of Anthony Davis-Jake Heggie and William Mayer. Jim Schaeffer being the the General Director. (also a graduate of North Texas)

The National Arts Club is a building that was there since 1903 and still had the same furniture if not remodeled. I left my tux at home so I got in with my new black summer jacket and orange tie with my Mexican Cow Boy Hat. I said Hello to James and walked around some and met some guest there. Also met a few classmates from NT but we really did not remember each other too much.

Elliott Forrest was Master of Ceremonies and introduced the program. Having never been to one of these events I wasn't sure what to expect. The program was in three sections, Jake Heggie's music first, William Mayer''s music second and Anthony Davis' Last. Listening to Opera is not the easiest thing in the world to do. One has to follow the story line, the development of it, the melodies all at the same time, plus the acting of the characters which for me got in the way of the music. Plus never having heard these singers before and adjusting to their tone and volume, I found this difficult too.

Also, I have performed in many rooms in many conditions and I thought this room was really not suitable for opera especially if there were 3 or 4 people on the stage. It was too hard for me to make out the story development and harmonic development with only a piano player. These were only examples of the Opera not a full production of them.

I must praise the singers for having such a positive attitude in these conditions. And they all did not complain about it; they just went forward and did what they had to do.

The names of the Operas were Again, Three Decembers and Dead Man Walking! I wish I had an opinion about these works, but I do not. I just think the singers did great under difficult conditions.

Singers: Lara Wasserman, Emily Hueske, Sergio Cepeda and Shaun Brown

Singers: Maria Bellanca And Shaun Brown

Singers: Emily Hueske and Christian Bester

I wish all the young people the greatest of luck in their careers.  Such a wonderful group of people this is for sure.  It is too bad I could not speak with all of them, but there is only so much time to do this.
They are so brave in learning new music. I have found that many musicians do not want to spend the time on new music for it doesn't offer them money. Not this group this is for sure. Warriors' in the fight against ignorance.

Resumes and info at the bottom of this article!

Part Two: William Mayer's

Opera: A Death in the Family, Sextet and Kitchen Duet

Seven Singers which seemed very crowded for me in the small space.

Singers: Jennifer Youngs, Maria Bellanca, Emily Hueske, Christian Bester, Shaun Brown, Stephen Morscheck and Lara Wasserman.

Next Composer, Anthony Davis, Solo voice piece with Stephen Morscheck called Amistad

Next piece, Aria Jake Heggie's Moby Dick Voice Richard Croft.

I can only say I had a lot of fun there learning about all of this and thinking about all of it too.

Greg Henry Waters, Artist of Classical and Jazz Music, Composition and Performance.

Dialog from this article from others:

Greg's Note:

I think it is wonderful if some thought came out of this article even though I could not get any response from the performers or from persons in the music school. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. I thought it was interesting especially when I got mail from Dean and Steve to open up the discussion.

Greg's Note II:

It is hard to give up my profession. I worked so hard now nothing to do and I do not have the strength to do it for it is like starting over from the beginning. So this is why I am upset. My College: North Texas came to NY to give a performance (I went) and all it was for was to raise money for an arts organization here in NY,
Center for Contemporary Opera. The singers didn't get a review, or a decent place to perform, and since they were all students I am sure
there was no money in it ,even though they were professionals. But I am sure the Opera company got money. It was a fund raising event. Such is
the music business. I hate it.

Hi Greg,
I enjoyed your piece about the opera, music and singers. I found that we have some similarities in that I some times find the acting and story telling get in the way of the parts that I really enjoy. But the arias are so powerful that even in a foreign language they can bring tears. Maybe that is set up or facilitated by the rest of the performance, but even listening to a cut on a disc,
I can find the music so exquisite, so melodic, that one doesn't even need the spoken language to be enchanted by it. I shied away from opera
until Sally, my second wife asked to go to some performances. So having seen some classics, I feel familiar with some of the music and
even seek it out from time to time. Could it be that an excellent singer's voice is like an instrument, and our familiarity with the musical part
we come to know and love is like a favorite concerto or jazz piece? Thanks for sharing, Steve

Dean's Note:

Greg ......a thought ...... I often thought about the "things" that man has invented vs. the 'natural gifts' that we are blessed with....... the beauty and purity of a human being singing far outweighs the gift of man playing an instrument. This is not to take away the backdrop of a man or woman being disciplined in the 'developing fine art' of mastering a musical instrument - and being 'creative' .......but when I think of singing without the aid/guidance of a musical instrument back-up, it becomes more apparent to me that 'voice' is the "original" cord of life ........Dean

Steve's Note:

Good Morning, Some how it feels to me like comparing apples to oranges. Voice and instrumental music each are beautiful and I think One can personify ( imagine a human quality ) to each. To consider one superior to the other as in more natural or pure has the risk of adding religion to the comparison. Quite frankly, I think of the solo instrument as just as much a “voice” as the one from Man or Woman. Take the clarinet in Mozart's concerto or the conversation between piano and cello in Rachmaninoff’s cello sonata are so moving and pure. Sure the arias evoke emotion beyond the translation of the language of the lyric, but so does Sing,Sing Sing or Buddy can you spare a dime? in the Jazz world. Cool question! Steve

University of North Texas Music