12 Apr 2018

The Utah Opera Chorus Community

Members of the Utah Opera Chorus play a special part in opera productions: together, we create the social environment within which the stories of the main characters take place.  The communities we are called on to create are diverse.  Whether the setting is Paris at Christmas time for La bohème, the court of Princess Turandot or the downtrodden Okies in The Grapes of Wrath, the chorus helps define the town, neighborhood, or party the composer and stage director envision.  We take you outside the bullring for Carmen and into the masked ball in Die Fledermaus.  And we often get to sing music composed just for us: music written for choruses is some of the most beautiful and recognizable in all of opera. For just a few examples, remember  “The Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore  (or any Verdi opera!), the priests’ scene in The Magic Flute, or the Bell Chorus from our March production of Pagliacci.
Just like the communities we create on stage, the Utah Opera Chorus is made up of people from many walks of life, with personalities large and small.  We are teachers, accountants, healthcare providers, students, cashiers, and IT professionals.  Several of us work for Utah Symphony | Utah Opera in various administrative capacities.

Photo Credit: Kent Miles

The process of taking an opera from “page to stage” begins with several weeks of musical preparation with the Chorus Master.  We learn and perfect pitches, rhythms, and language.  In addition to the traditional opera languages, Italian, French, German and English, we have even performed operas in Russian and Czech! When the principal singers, conductor and stage director arrive, we have the music memorized and are ready to learn our movement.  In addition to the vocal stamina required of us, there can be physical demands such as dancing or long periods of freezing in place while the action is focused elsewhere on stage.
Each chorus member creates a particular character based on director guidance and the costume made for us by the world-class Utah Opera Costume shop.  Attention to detail with individual costume fittings ensure each piece is tailored to fit us so we look our best.  Over the course of just three weeks, the opera takes shape as we continue to add new elements.  The props, lighting, costumes, wigs, and make-up all make the piece come alive.  There truly is magic when the final layer—the orchestra—is added.

Photo Credit: Dana Sohm

Utah Opera Chorus members re-audition each season. Several of our current members have sung in the chorus for over 25 years!  We are chosen to participate based on the needs of each show.  A Mozart opera typically utilizes 16-20 singers. This season’s Moby-Dick required 40 male singers and Aida (our largest chorus show to date) is scored for two choruses: a total of 65 singers.
The excellent reputation of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera attracts world-class artists to perform principal roles.  It is a great privilege for the chorus to share the stage with these singers.  It is a thrill to stand just a few feet away from these artists, as they give voice to their characters. Being in the Utah Opera chorus can be hard work, but it yields great rewards.  We take great pride and joy in creating memorable on-stage communities for our audience.
Written by Carolyn Klassen