Having completed his Master’s at the Manhattan School of Music, former Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist Oliver Sewell is now a resident artist at the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.
“I have been at the Academy of Vocal Arts for close to six months now, and it is remarkable how much has occurred in that time. The end of 2017 was a great time for me to find my feet at AVA and prepare me for a rather busy 2018.
2018 kicked off with music rehearsals for Ariadne auf Naxos with the visiting conductor David Aronson (who had just retired from Vienna State Opera). I was working on the role of Brighella with Maestro Aronson. It was going very smoothly until the tenor playing the Tanzmeister (another role in the opera) was offered a contract with New York City Opera that unfortunately clashed with Ariadne. The other tenor was released, to make his debut with NYCO, leaving a vital role in Ariadne vacant. With one week to go before staging started I was asked if I thought I would be able to learn the role of the Tanzmeister in a week. This may not sound too terrifying but the music in Ariadne is rather complex and the Tanzmeister has a knack of squeezing in rather a lot of words into very small spaces! However, I worked very hard speaking the Tanzmeister text all day everyday for a week, so that by the time we starting staging I was feeling relatively comfortable with the new role. Both Brighella and the Tanzmeister are rather silly characters and I had a great time showing off my acting chops to the music staff at AVA. We performed the show four times and it was great fun and a great success.
As soon as we finished Ariadne, music rehearsals for La Traviata began with the head of music at AVA Maestro Macatsoris. Working on Alfredo with Maestro Macatsoris is intense: he is the most detailed conductor I have worked with. He is inspiring and the results he gets out of people are astounding! In addition to that, we had orchestral rehearsals for the oratorio concert AVA puts on every year called Jubilate. Right now I am between these two big projects. Last weekend we performed the Jubilate program twice and and on Monday we start La Traviata staging. Jubilate went incredibly well and it was broadcast on WRTI (wrti.org). I sang two numbers from Rossini’s Stabat Mater, aria “Cuis Animam”, and the quartet “Sancta Mater, istud agas”, and a tenor duet from Rossini’s Messa di Gloria. Unlike a normal oratorio we were required to memorise the music which was a rewarding challenge. In other exciting news, outside of AVA, I will be making my Carnegie Hall debut in Mozart’s Mass in C Major on 23 April. This performance takes place between two performances of La Traviata – wish me luck!
Until next time,