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A Foot in the Door
Megan Young, Artistic Services Manager, OPERA America
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Editor's Note:
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It seems fair to say that everyone in the opera world is aware of the existence of young artist programs -- the training grounds for tomorrow’s operatic power players. But many people don’t realize that apprentice programs are not just for the people who want to be on stage. A wealth of training opportunities are available for those who want to learn what it’s like behind the scenes in the areas of administration, coaching, conducting, and technical/production.

An opera without singers is no opera at all, but singers alone do not an opera make. With this in mind, many companies have made the conscious choice to encourage the teaching and growth of the next generation of both artists, artisans, and administrators. Among this progressive bunch are a number of summer opera festivals. Ash Lawn Opera Festival, Asheville Lyric Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Grant Park Music Festival, Opera North, The Santa Fe Opera, and Wolf Trap Opera Company all offer summer apprenticeship and/or internship opportunities for the non-singing crowd (or for those in the singing crowd who want to learn a new skill!). Be sure to check Opera Source for the upcoming application deadlines for these programs.

Administrative internships and apprenticeships come in many flavors at North American opera companies. Many programs during the regular season can be done for college credit, and a number of summer programs carry the added bonus of providing housing and transportation for participants. The range of internships available spans from general administration posts to programs tailored to the individual participant. Glimmerglass Opera, for example, offers administration internships in accounting/finance, box office, development, house management, marketing, operations, photography, public relations, artistic administration, music, and young artist program administration. A number of similar administrative internships are available at Asheville Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Dicapo Opera Theatre, Gotham Chamber Opera, Grant Park Music Festival, The Juilliard School, Lyric Opera of Chicago, New Jersey State Opera, Seattle Opera, Toledo Opera, and Tri-Cities Opera.

For those who would like to expand their knowledge of what it's literally like behind the scenes, there are opportunities in production and technical theater at opera companies both large and small. Ash Lawn Opera Festival, The Banff Centre, Chicago Opera Theater, Cincinnati Opera, Dicapo Opera Theatre, Glimmerglass Opera, Grant Park Music Festival, The Juilliard School, New Jersey State Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Opera North, The Santa Fe Opera, and Seattle Opera all offer technical/production internships and apprenticeships for emerging riggers, drapers, props artisans, scenic charges, wig designers, and others! The Apprentice Program for Technicians at The Santa Fe Opera, one of the more advanced production opportunities, has been available to opera artisans and technicians since 1965. A Santa Fe apprenticeship, like many of the other available opportunities, offers both the technical instruction and practical experience to advance in the field.

Coaches, Conductors, and Directors

Expanding the traditional young artist program to include coaches, conductors, and stage directors is a positive trend. In addition to selecting apprentice singers, companies such as Glimmerglass Opera, The Minnesota Opera, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Opera North, and Wolf Trap Opera Company include coach/accompanists, conductors, and/or stage directors to round out their battery of young artists. This enables the parties involved to collaborate with peers and foster a sense of collegiality among all the different artists who will become the movers and shakers of the opera world in years to come.

The number of behind the scenes internships and apprenticeships at North American opera companies grows every year, so there is plenty of room for potential artistic administrators, conductors, electricians, makeup artists, and marketing directors to test the operatic waters and find their niche in the field. The opera world is as expansive as it is close-knit.

Information on the programs mentioned above is available on OPERA America's Opera Source. To access Opera Source, simply log in to with your username and password. Company representatives: If your company's training opportunities are not yet listed in Opera Source, e-mail for information on how to add or update your information.

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