Alltech Artist-in-Residence Gregory Turay and the students in his CentreTerm course, Study of the Principles and Techniques of Opera and Broadway Production Through Scenes Preparation, are deep in coursework and rehearsals that will culminate in a final public performance Sunday, Jan. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Grant 114.
Centre’s three-week January term is known for its rigor, but the schedule that world-class tenor Turay has set for his students is particularly challenging.
“The principles involved in scene preparation are many,” Turay says. “Before class even started, there was an audition for everyone involved in order to determine their voice type and what scenes would be suitable for them to sing. Next, they received the music and began the process of learning the notes and words in Italian, German and English.”
A formidable task, but that was only the beginning.
“The process of learning foreign languages is a daunting one for sure, but in order to be successful, one has to master pronunciations, inflections and meanings of the words they are singing,” Turay continues. “Next, there is learning the background of the operas: the period in history; the social issues of the day; the libretto; source material; the composer and his/her circumstances during the composing of the opera; and much more.”
With the assistance of his collaborator — conductor, vocal coach and pianist Marcello Cormio — Turay was able to compress what would normally have taken many weeks of preparation into 15 days.
“Once they had mastered the music, background, language, and period of the music, they were ready to stage the scene,” Turay says. “This involves character development, deportment of that character and period in which they reside, and the ultimate portrayal of that character within the blocking that is given.
“Normally, an opera singer would arrive to a venue memorized, having done all this initial work, then they would have a minimum of two weeks (up to eight weeks) of rehearsing six hours a day to develop their character and portrayal (staging) of the opera. We have compressed all this time into three weeks, working only three hours per day.”
Thomas Burkey ’20, while relatively new to the world of opera, has been excited by the experience.
“We’ve gotten a glimpse of what it takes to perform an opera,” Burkey says. “We did research, learning crucial information for understanding how to best act out the scene and convey the best emotion to fit the character and time period. And because the majority of the class are singers and not actors, we spent several sessions discussing and practicing acting techniques.”
Catherine Hines ’17 adds that Turay is a great example for all students interested in performing arts.
“His performing experience bleeds through his teaching, and he has an uncanny ability to make us feel at ease with each other even if, at first, we are uncomfortable. His energy is contagious and his attention to detail is extensive.
Professor Cormio was also a great source of information regarding operas, constructive criticism and encouragement!”
Despite the accelerated pace of their work, Turay says his class brought their A game.
“The students have all risen to the challenge and are progressing brilliantly,” he says. “They have been so open and willing to explore their characters and the scenes they’ve been assigned. It has truly been a joy to work with them and witness their progress and growth.”
According to Burkey, the students are equally pleased with the course, pointing out how Turay’s class is “comfortable and welcoming.”
“He is cheerful, full of energy, and very knowledgeable on the subject,” he explains. “I always leave the class feeling energized and having learned something new.
“I believe the most important thing I have learned is to love and believe in my voice,” Burkey continues. “Even though I’m not the best vocalist at this point in my life, starting by loving your voice is important for having the confidence to perform.”
The show on Sunday will be a working performance, highlighting the many facets involved in preparing to stage an opera.
The world-renowned American tenor and Metropolitan Opera veteran’s year-long tenure at Centre was made possible by the support of Alltech’s founder and president, Pearse Lyons, whose on-going support of the arts and continuing partnership with Centre was also responsible for bringing the Vienna Philharmonic and talented Venezuelan virtuoso conductor Gustavo Dudamel to Centre as part of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™.
A Lexington resident and alumnus of the University of Kentucky, Turay won the Metropolitan Opera National Councils Auditions in 1995 at the age of 21. After training in the Met’s Lindemann Young Artists Development Program, Turay made his Met debut in “Ariadne auf Naxos” conducted by James Levine. He has since appeared on the Metropolitan Opera stage for 10 consecutive seasons.
Turay’s impressive resume includes engagements with notable companies like the San Francisco Opera, Deutsche Opera, Santa Fe Opera and Boston Lyric Opera, and he has also performed with leading orchestras and prominent conductors such as Seiji Ozawa.
Since returning to Lexington, Turay has developed a long and deep relationship with Alltech through the School of Music at his alma mater.
Highlights include performances at Alltech’s 25th anniversary of its presence in China and entertaining at Alltech’s annual dinner in Dublin, which honors members of Ireland’s diplomatic corps, including consuls general, ambassadors and other dignitaries representing more than 70 countries.
by Cindy Long
January 20, 2017