Behind every successful artist, you’ll find a story of grit, perseverance, sacrifice and a group of people that supported them through it all. Recently, I discovered the ultimate support program for young opera artists called Merola. Although it is new to me (mostly because I’m not an opera singer by trade), this incredible organization has been around since 1957 and has launched the careers of many successful opera singers. What made my ears perk up about this program is that Merola is one of the BEST opera training programs in the world and it happens to be located right in the heart of San Francisco! But what makes it the best? Scroll below to find out…
1. The Program
Merola is based on talent rather than financial ability; Merola pays all tuition, housing and travel expenses for each of its participants and also grants them a living stipend during their intensive training in San Francisco. Out of hundreds of young artists that audition from all over the world, around twenty-three singers, five apprentice coaches (AKA: vocal coaches in training) and one apprentice stage director are chosen to participate in this extensive summer program.
Over a course of eleven to twelve weeks, the selected artists receive extensive lessons, opportunities to perform major roles on stage and support even after the program has ended. “For me, the most exciting thing about each season is to hear how much the artists progress throughout the course of their training,” says Merola’s Executive Director, Jean Kellogg. “It’s incredible to see how much they evolve!”
2. The Training
Each day the artists attend classes and training to prepare for Merola performances. The courses include deep-dive lessons on music, diction, language, combat, staging, acting and even the art of moving in a costume! It’s pretty much like an “opera boot camp” taught by some of the best opera instructors in the world that cover every topic imaginable for the stage. Merola has a reputation for embellishing elements of opera training that are often overlooked at conservatories with additional one-on-one coachings, specialized lessons and unique masterclasses with guest artists.
What also makes Merola unique is the placement of their artists while the Merolini (AKA: Merola artists) are going through their courses. Most training programs place artists-in-training within the chorus of an opera company but Merola gives them leading or major supporting roles! It’s almost like being a Commis Chef and getting the chance to step into the role of Head Chef or Sous Chef. Talk about jumping in with both feet!
3. The Opportunity
Merola artists get the opportunity to perform in three productions and a Grand Finale performance that showcases each artist’s progress since they started the program. This year the three productions are the Schwabacher Summer Concert (July 5 & 7), Il re pastore (July 19 & 21) and Rake’s Progress (August 2 & 4) and the Grand Finale will be held on August 18. Click the links to grab your tickets!
** We are so excited to partner with Merola and the Asian Art Museum for a special concert event on August 9th! The Merolini will sing excerpts from some of the most famous operas that evoke the underworld, plus we’ll have drinks and bites for you to enjoy. Click HERE to grab your seats and use MerolaRed to receive a special Red Curtain Addict rate.
4. The Artists
Most Merolni are between ages 22 – 35 and they’re from different countries around the world! I had the chance to meet each artist last month and I was inspired by their unique and individual stories and I was impressed by the diversity within the group. They are all fueled by the passion to be an artist and to take opera into the next century. I couldn’t have been more impressed.
After each performance, you’ll have the chance to meet the artists yourself! Trust me, it’s worth sticking around for. You’ll walk away being amazed by their talent and motivated by their ambition.
5. The Future
Merola helps artists apply for grants to advance their career for up to five years after their time within their program. “We don’t just let them go after our program and say, You’re on your own – have a good life!“, says Jean. “We help them apply for career grants to use for upcoming auditions, to travel overseas for language studies in Europe, to build a website, to hire a team to create them professional videos, to buy a piano or additional formal wear for auditions, to purchase scores and the list goes on”.
Many have even ended up having careers in Europe because they provided the funds for them to go over and audition where they got hired and they never left. It’s so exciting to know that this type of program exists and that it is right here in San Francisco. Yes, this city is well known for the advancement of tech but it’s important to note that it is widely known for the acceleration of music, thanks to Merola!
Now that you know all about Merola, GO AND SEE THE ARTISTS!! The current Merolini will only be in San Francisco for a few more weeks. Going to their performances is an amazing way to support the future of the opera. We also hope to also see you at our event, An Evening with the Merola Opera on August 9th!
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