KU Opera taps into apprenticeships

From left, Justin Petersen, Benjamin Winters, Gernaro Mendez and Hugo Vera rehearse for Mahagonny

KU Opera is keying into an apprenticeship program with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. In the past, the Lyric Opera has offered the program only to students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Mark Ferrell, an associate professor of music at KU, has been associate conductor and sometimes chorus master for the Lyric Opera for a number of years. His connection to the Lyric has already brought KU students into the fold.

“Sometimes people have to be let out of a contract, so at the last minute, we are scrambling for a replacement and often it’s easy to plug KU students in,” he said. “But they couldn’t put it on their resume as being an apprentice.”

The new arrangement with Lyric Opera will provide the students with performance, educational and technical opportunities, as well as benefit the opera company and university.

Ferrell said KU voice faculty will be asked to nominate students they believe are qualified to audition at the Lyric Opera. The auditions are quite competitive, and selected apprentices are paid.

“Next year, (the Lyric) hopes to have national auditions and/or go to major cities and universities to hold auditions, in addition to auditions at KU for KU students,” he said. “KU and UMKC will have the potential for four student apprentices each one in each voice type. They’ll be offered a position in the chorus and to perform various small roles and to do understudy work. They might have light PR responsibilities, and they’ll attend master classes and other classes.”

Lyric Opera apprentices also can audition for KU productions.

KU Opera has three productions planned this school year:”Carmen,” by Peter Brook, that will be sung in French and feature a chamber orchestra, November, black box theater in Murphy Hall.”The Mikado,” by William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, which will be sung in English and feature a chamber orchestra, late January, Swarthout Recital Hall, Murphy Hall.”The Magic Flute,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which will be sung in German and English and feature virtual-reality technology and a full orchestra, April 26-27 and May 1-4, Crafton-Preyer Theater, Murphy Hall.