We possess amazing faculties – self-awareness, memory, the capacity to imagine the future, the ability to reflect on the past. Yet how extraordinary to cast all these aside and completely lose oneself - for a moment, to really lose one’s self. This can happen in the theatre, and performing artists strive to embody as well as create these experiences in others. Paradoxically, it takes tremendous preparation and discipline.
A highlight of our season at San Francisco Opera Guild has been the annual Summer Conservatory. A group of 24 young people, ages 11 to 18, from around the Bay Area and as far away as San Diego and New York, come seeking a summer program focused on opera. Under the guidance of Caroline Altman, our former Director of Education, students are immersed for three weeks in opera history, singing, acting, and preparing and performing an opera, in this case, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
It’s something very special to see an ambitious project like this realized by a group of talented young people. Were there ever witches more nefarious, sailors more rowdy, royalty more noble? The level of accomplishment was extraordinary, but what made this production especially moving was to observe the sheer joy of performing, of being in the moment.
Not all these young people arrived here with prior opera experience, but I wager they all take with them an appreciation of the triumph of beauty that opera, and all the arts, make possible.