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August 15, 2013

Young Artists to perform 'Camelot'

By Michelle Miller The Cooperstown Crier
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Every summer, emerging young artists come to The Glimmerglass Festival to be coached, trained and mentored in hopes of launching their careers.

Some have auditioned more than once before being accepted in the acclaimed apprenticeship. For instance, Sharin Apostolou, 31, said the third time was the charm for her.

Apostolou, who grew up in Oakland, N.J., said she was attracted to the program because it includes getting to participate in a musical.

The Young Artist will be performing the role of Guinevere during a matinee performance of “Camelot” at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23. Although the Young Artists are able to participate in all the operas, this performance is unique because they will make up the entire cast.

The Young Artists have been given the opportunity to perform one of four productions for the season each summer since 2011 when Francesca Zambello became director of the Festival. The Opera Guild sponsors the performance making it less expensive for people to attend. Tickets range from $10 to $25.

Apostolou said preparing for the role has been a balancing act. 

“It’s challenging because of nobility,” she said. “But she is very much a real person. It’s been a pretty good acting challenge to try and find both sides of her.”

André Chiang should be pretty comfortable filling the roll of Lancelot because he was able to participate in about five weeks worth of rehearsals in place of Nathan Gunn, who is serving in the roll for the mainstage performance. Chaing said Gunn did not arrive for his roll until the Monday night before the show opened on a Saturday.

“It was kind of hard to give (the roll) away. But I get it back for a day,” he said.

The Young Artists said those who have already seen “Camelot” should still come see their performance because it will not be a “carbon copy” because they will put their own spin on the characters.

In fact, Adrian Smith, 27, who will play Arthur said he has not been able attend any rehearsals for “Camelot” to see how David Pittsinger has been portraying the character this season.

“I haven’t even seen his character,” he said. “I was happily forced to not copy him and to do my own thing and figure things out.”

Chiang said it is kind of interesting because unlike the main performers, the Young Artists already have an established relationship because they live and work together all summer.

“They are kind of crafting new relationships, while we are sort of feeling out how our friendships translate to the stage. It almost gets more personal,” he said.

The Young Artists said the program has helped them gain experience, meet people in the industry they would not otherwise get to meet and enables them to step out of their comfort zones.

“We have a safe space for trying new things” said Apostolou, who likes to experiment with doing things she has never tried before.

“If we fail miserably, we know not to do it again and it isn’t happening on the world stage,” she continued.

This marks the 25th anniversary of the company’s Young Artists Program and this year’s group has been working with Julie and Nathan Gunn, who joined the company as artists in residence. Each year an artist in residence joins the company for the entire summer and is fully integrated into the Festival, serving as a coach and mentor to the Young Artists, as well as performing in a mainstage production and concert. Deborah Voigt inaugurated the role, followed by Eric Owens.

The Young Artists Program keeps growing, but according to its director Michael Heaston, the Festival generally accepts 36 to 40 participants. This year he said there are 28 singers, eight singer/dancers, two pianists and four stage directors.

Heaston said the program has one of the best reputations in country and he generally gets about 1,100 applications. It’s a rigorous process, said Heaston, who has to eliminate those seeking acceptance to just 350 before anyone even receives a live audition.

“You have to be very, very special to get here,” he said.