Gusties Shine By Working With Renowned Opera Company Posted on June 23rd, 2023 by

Each year, the Chautauqua Opera Young Artist Program attracts anywhere from 700-900 applicants, of which approximately 400 are invited to auditions in the fall. From those auditions, 24 Young Artists are chosen to participate in the summer season. This year, Gusties Larissa McConnell, Theatre & Dance, and Myra Nelson ‘24 are working together in Chautauqua as the venerable institution presents Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and La Tragédie de Carmen in the coming weeks.

Nelson is a double-major from Alexandria, Minnesota in Theatre (focused on costume technology) and Gender Women and Sexuality Studies. She sees the Chautauqua experience as very complementary to what she encounters at Gustavus. “I found that the environment that Larissa creates in the costume shop is very professional and similar to what I am finding in the ‘real world,’” Nelson says. “The opportunities to collaborate and problem solve are fully encouraged and supported by my peers and professors.”

The Gustavus Theatre and Dance mission emphasizes the value of performance, and all that entails, as a vital way of working toward social justice and personal transformation. Gustavus students explore a wide range of ideas and experiment with techniques through multiple opportunities to perform, design, write, craft, build, choreograph, collaborate, direct, and devise in faculty productions and student-led projects.

Being able to do this in a renowned environment such as Chautauqua provides immeasurable additional benefits. “It is important to get professional experience as early as possible,” McConnell says. “Many of my students have gone around the country in professional opportunities, and they come back to campus enriched and more independent. In fact, many of them said they were more prepared than their colleagues. I push my students to be equipped and successful in the professional world.”

Founded in 1929, the Chautauqua Opera Company is North America’s oldest continuously operating summer opera company and the fourth-oldest opera company after the Metropolitan Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and San Francisco Opera. The Chautauqua Opera Company offers more than 30 operatic events each season, including three mainstage productions, performed in the historic 1,300-seat Norton Hall and Chautauqua Institution’s 4000-seat Amphitheater; concerts with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra; weekly artsong recitals; opera performances for young audiences; Young Artist open-mic nights; and Opera Invasions. Chautauqua Opera productions feature internationally recognized guest artists alongside emerging artists from Chautauqua Opera’s Young Artist Program.


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