Summer Spotlight: Opera Alumnus Simon Dyer Writes from The Santa Fe Opera

Opera alumnus Simon Dyer (M.M. '15, G.P.D. '17) is spending summer 2017 as an apprentice singer with The Santa Fe Opera, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Widely considered the country’s top summer opera festival, Dyer describes working directly with some of biggest names in the industry and making meaningful professional and personal connections during the 13-week program.

July 10, 2017

Santa Fe, New Mexico

After graduating from Boston Conservatory at Berklee with my G.P.D. in opera performance, this summer, I have been fortunate enough to experience the intense and majestic landscape of Santa Fe, New Mexico at The Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe may seem an unlikely spot for opera, but those familiar with the field will know that The Santa Fe Opera, and its apprentice artist program of which I am a member, is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the country. Founded in 1957 by renowned conductor John Crosby, the company is well known for producing world- and U.S.-premiere works—such as the Grammy-nominated Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon—as well as the standard operatic repertoire.

For 13 weeks, my colleagues and I—including another Boston Conservatory opera alumnus Eric Ferring (M.M. '16)—will undertake rigorous work singing in small roles and in choruses of operas, such as The Golden Cockerel and Lucia di Lammermoor, alongside some of the greats in our field. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, tenor Barry Banks, tenor Alek Shrader, and soprano Elza van den Heever are but a few of the singers we see wandering around the open-air cantina on the nearly 200-acre compound. This compound, by the way, includes a swimming pool in the shape of a chili pepper for those rare moments of rest!

In addition to the mainstage work, we also perform fully staged and costumed scenes designed by the technical apprentices from the apprentice program at the Crosby Theatre. We are also treated to master classes, lessons, and coachings with some of the industry's most influential and inspiring individuals. Director Paul Curran, who is directing The Golden Cockerel in which I have a small role, will teach us movement class; Donald Palumbo, chorus master of The Metropolitan Opera for 10 years, gives us private coachings; and Matthew Epstein, whose list of credits is too long to mention, gives us career consultations.

However, as much work as there is, there is still time for play, be it opera related or otherwise. One of my favorite memories so far was the “opera olympics,” in which teams of eight competed in fun games such as sack races and the baloney face toss, a game in which one team member seeks to land as many slices of baloney on the face of another (Barry Banks was the winner) for the prize of pride. It was a great way to get to know each other, and Eric and I competed on an international team representing countries such as my native U.K. and his U.S.A., as well as Mexico, Jamaica, South Korea, Russia, and more. Sadly, our single point on the scoreboard came from the post-games award of “most diverse team,” but our team spirit won us many new friends!

The community here is much like that of the Conservatory. We are a small, but diverse, group of excited artists ready to face the challenges ahead. We are delighting in the time spent together working as well as finding innovative ways to socialize within a busy schedule. But most of all, we are all here to enhance ourselves, our talents, and the art form that we love.