Opera making a fine point

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 140 views 

EUREKA SPRINGS — For more than 60 years, Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point has been a training ground for some of the most talented opera singers in the country.

The opera will open its 62nd season on June 22 with Mozart's The Magic Flute. The one-month summer season continues with alternate performances of Puccini's La Boheme and Sonhiem's A Little Night Music. Three Arend Arts Center performances are also slated for Bentonville. The full schedule and ticket information at the opera group’s website.

Since 1950, Inspiration Point has been a summer workshop conducted under the highest professional standards and carefully planned for vocal students. Opera roles are performed in their entirety by the students; no lead singers are brought in to sing the principal roles. The theme of Inspiration Point is “The students are the stars."

James Swiggart, the opera’s general director of 24 years, recently commented on the Point's selection of operas for a given season.

“The season's repertory is chosen with concern for a balance of roles that will fit the level of singers who need a chance to develop their future repertory," Swiggart said.  He went on to say that the criteria is based on serving young singers.

"We double cast to insure a singer will have multiple performances and leave with the confidence and growth necessary to step on to a professional stage." Singers are on stage every night, either in principal role, chorus or smaller roles, so they have great opportunity to gain acting skills and maturity on stage.

Swiggart says an average day for a singer during the first month's preparation begins with breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by yoga class, movement classes, cast rehearsals and coaching until noon. There is a short lunch break, then cast rehearsal and coaching resume until dinner, followed by rehearsals until 10 p.m. This daily schedule is repeated every day until the orchestra arrives and dress rehearsals begin, one week before opening.  

"[It’s] pretty much like boot camp," Swiggart said.

The opera hosts some 40 to 45 singers and orchestra musicians. This summer, six participants have Arkansas connections and two are international students. The performance orchestra is made up mostly of professionals and post graduates.

"Once we hold our opening performance, there are more rehearsals to improve in all areas of the productions," he said of the opera’s schedule.

The Point's theater seats 300. All performances are reserved and available online or by calling (479) 253-8595.

English subtitles are provided for foreign language productions, and the program provides a synopsis of each production.

Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point continues to influence the careers of those who work and performed here.

“Conductors from the Point have gone on to conduct at the [Metropolitan Opera],” Swiggart said. “Many Point singers are now major college voice teachers. Our alumni have sung on all the world's stages and most have commented on the life changing experience they got early in life at the Point."

After the opera season, Inspiration Point is host to week-long camps in string, vocal and piano for junior and senior high students.