Los Alamos native returns to the Santa Fe Opera stage

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By Special to the Monitor

This year is a record year for The Santa Fe Opera’s Apprentice Singer Program. In all,  1,498 young singers applied and 38 were chosen to come to New Mexico from as far away as Venezuela, Spain, Louisiana, Washington and Pennsylvania to perform with The Santa Fe Opera during its 54th season.

Although the program has attracted an international crowd, a local face can also be spotted on the opera’s stage.

Mezzo-soprano Audrey Walstrom, a 2000 Los Alamos High school graduate, will participate in the apprentice program for a second time. She also was involved in the program last year.

This year, Walstrom will sing the part of Nancy in “Albert Herring” as well as the role of the Second Lady in “The Magic Flute.”

Walstrom has two bachelor’s degrees, one in voice performance and a second in history from Rice University.

She earned a master’s degree in voice form the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and is currently pursing a doctorate in musical arts at the conservatory.

The Opera’s Apprentice Singer program is among the oldest and most respected in the nation.

The Apprentice Program for Singers was founded along with The Santa Fe Opera in 1957 by John Crosby, who believed in the importance of training young American opera singers in a diverse repertory. It was the first program of its kind, with many companies around the world to follow suit.

The Apprentice Singer Program affords young artists the opportunity to work and perform with some of the most respected conductors, directors and singers in the classical music world. They receive coaching, lessons in diction and performance and master classes by leading teachers and esteemed artists such as famed soprano Evelyn Lear, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artists Development Program and Artistic Director of Vocal Arts at The Juilliard School Brian Zeger; teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music, Julliard and Manhattan School of Music Marlena Malas; internationally known tenor Bruce Ford; tenor and voice teacher at Roosevelt University in Chicago Michael Best and Italian diction coach at Julliard and the Metropolitan Opera Corradina Caporello.

Throughout the summer, the apprentices work toward the Apprentice Scenes held Aug. 15 and 22. This a review which gives each apprentice a chance to star on the main stage in fully-staged and costumed scenes from beloved operas.  Each Apprentice Scene is designed and costumed by a team of technical apprentices, making it an original collaboration between the Opera’s programs for young singers and technicians.   

For many young artists, the Apprentice Singer Program is a significant benchmark in their professional development. The program has launched numerous distinguished careers and many former apprentices return to star on the main stage. This year’s former apprentices include Brandon Jovanovich in “Madame Butterfly.” Keith Jameson in “Madame Butterfly;” and “Life is a Dream;” Walstrom and Elizabeth Luna in “The Magic Flute;” Celena Shafer in “Albert Herring” and Kate Lindsey in “Albert Herring” and “The Tales of Hoffmann.”

 The Santa Fe Opera’s 54th summer festival season features 38 performances of five operas and runs from July 2 through Aug. 28.  The 2010 repertory consists of “Madame Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini, “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; “The Tales of Hoffmann” by Jacques Offenbach; the world premiere of “Life is a Dream” by Lewis Spratlan and “Albert Herring” by Benjamin Britten.   

 The 2010 operating budget for the Apprentice Singer Program is $654,500.  The program is funded in part by proceeds from the Gala Opening Weekend Celebration, income generated from endowment funds and contributions to the annual operating fund.