“TOI” celebrates 10th anniversary
By Kandac Nachtrab
Pictured: Soprano Julia Dwyer performs a piece from Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” to a crowd gathered at St. James Episcopal Church in Taos to kick off the 2015 Taos Opera Institute Festival. Photo by Katharine Egli.
This year marks the Taos Opera Institute’s (TOI) 10th year presenting an opera festival by the same name. During June, the TOI Festival features 17 free classical music performances open to the public in Taos County and Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two performance groups: the TOI Singers and the Cantos de Taos Quartet.
Both groups are part of a month-long, intensive training program that helps aspiring undergraduates and graduates studying voice to prepare for performance, production and educational careers in opera. TOI participants are chosen through rigorous auditions and come from all parts of the country.
TOI Singers includes all 28 of the institute’s participants. Performances feature solos by each participant in one of five languages (French, German, Italian, Russian or English). The concerts, approximately two hours in length, will be held at two private homes, St. James Episcopal Church in Taos, Holy Trinity Church in Arroyo Seco and a performance at the Historic Taos Plaza.
The Cantos de Taos is a quartet consisting of TOI graduates and more established artists. This year, the Cantos features Jillian Cox, soprano and TOI graduate; Britt Brown, mezzo soprano; Eric Barry, tenor, former Cantos and TOI instructor; and Andrew Craig Brown, bass-baritone returning Cantos singer from 2016. All four hold advanced degrees in music from distinguished universities and have enjoyed featured roles in opera productions nationally and internationally.
The Cantos de Taos serve as ambassadors for the Taos Opera Institute, and perform in numerous venues in Taos including Pizaños Italian restaurant, David Anthony Fine Art Gallery, Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, Sabroso Restaurant and Bar in Arroyo Seco, Taos Retirement Village, Bella’s Mexican Grill and The Historic Taos Inn.
In Santa Fe, on June 22, the group will perform at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and the Center for Contemporary Art. Cantos de Taos performances are one hour in length and are also free and open to the public.
The festival kicks off on June 8 at 7 p.m., with a Cantos de Taos performance on the patio of Pizaños and ends with the 10th Annual TOI Gala and Reception on July 1, 7 p.m. at The Taos Center for the Arts (TCA) located at 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos. Tickets for the gala may be purchased by calling the TCA office at (575) 758-2052, online at tcataos.org, or on the night of the performance.
The gala showcases the achievements of both the TOI singers and Cantos de Taos quartet, and is a fundraising event with a ticket price of $25. A dessert reception is held during intermission. A full schedule of events and locations is available at TaosOI.org. For more information, call (575) 740-6431 or email TaosOIinfo@gmail.com.
About Taos Opera Institute
TOI was established by Mary Jane Johnson and Linda Poetschke in 2007 as a four-week comprehensive program designed to bridge the gap between academia and apprenticeships for emerging vocal artists. Johnson’s international performing career included a longtime relationship with the Santa Fe Opera. She and Poetschke, a recognized college vocal educator and performer, created TOI’s philosophy that focuses on integrating and improving technique, physical well-being and artistry.
Twenty-eight outstanding opera singers from across the country are chosen each year to participate in the institute, which is housed at the Taos Ski Valley. In addition to technical training, students receive physical conditioning, individual coaching and numerous opportunities for performance. The acronym for Taos Opera Institute (TOI), the expression “toi, toi, toi,” is the operatic equivalent of the theater’s “break a leg” and is derived from the German language.