The Juilliard School is about to get to know one of its Lincoln Center neighbors a whole lot better. The Metropolitan Opera and Juilliard recently announced a partnership to create a joint program that will train the finest young opera singers, as well as pianists who hope to make careers as vocal accompanists or opera conductors, preparing them to work in the world’s great opera houses.
The program, called the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program in Partnership with The Juilliard School, was announced on February 27 by Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, and Joseph W. Polisi, president of The Juilliard School. It will start in the 2010-11 season.
“This new program will bring the resources and artistic traditions of two great institutions together for the first time to create a nurturing environment for future generations of opera singers from around the world,” President Polisi said. “We view this endeavor as a significant effort on the part of the Met and Juilliard to heighten the level of artistic education in operatic performance in the time ahead.”
Mr. Gelb added, “This is a winning opportunity for both of our institutions and, most importantly, for aspiring young singers who need the best training to prepare themselves for the demands of an opera career.”
The program will be co-directed by the Metropolitan Opera music director, James Levine (Diploma ’63, orchestral conducting) who will be the artistic director, and Brian Zeger, artistic director of Juilliard’s Vocal Arts Department, who will serve as the executive director. In an effort to expand both study and performance opportunities for young artists, participants in the program will have access to both organizations’ extensive resources and personnel, and will have the opportunity to perform in one fully-staged or concert opera production per year in Juilliard’s 900-seat Peter Jay Sharp Theater, conducted by Maestro Levine with the Juilliard Orchestra.
The Met’s young artists program was founded in 1980 by Mr. Levine and renamed the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program in 1998 when George Lindemann, a telecommunications entrepreneur, and his wife, Frayda, a musicologist, donated $10 million to the Met’s endowment fund, earmarking their gift for the training of young artists. Singers with a variety of educational backgrounds from the United States and abroad have been in the program; past participants include Anthony Dean Griffey, Paul Groves, Nathan Gunn, Aprile Millo, Heidi Grant Murphy, and Dawn Upshaw. In its new partnership with Juilliard, the program will continue to train artists from around the world who will be chosen through auditions held at the Met. Participants will take part in the program for a maximum of three years, with contracts renewed on an annual basis.
Mr. Zeger, who will also continue in his current Juilliard role as artistic director of vocal arts, will assume his new duties as of June 1, 2008, when he begins to develop the new expanded program. “I am honored by the opportunity to work with these two great institutions,” he said. “We will have the opportunity to create an educational continuum in graduate studies by dissolving the wall that existed between our master’s degree program and the Juilliard Opera Center. The concentration on acting training which Stephen Wadsworth has brought since his arrival will continue as the program continues to take shape over the next few years.”
Mr. Wadsworth, a renowned opera and theater director, joined the Vocal Arts Department in January 2008 as the head of opera studies for the Juilliard Opera Center (J.O.C.). He and director and acting teacher Eve Shapiro have helped bring to student singers a rigorous approach to dramatic training while teaching them to integrate dramatic and musical ideas. “The singers in J.O.C. receive a degree of acting training that is unique in an academic setting,” Mr. Zeger said. “Mr. Wadsworth will continue to play an important role in Juilliard’s collaboration with the Met.”
The new program’s yearly opera production will mark the first time that the Lindemann Young Artists will take part in a fully-staged opera performance mounted for them in Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater. (As before, they will also be cast in Met productions.) The young musicians will continue to receive a yearly stipend from the Met (currently they get between $30 and $40 thousand a year), in addition to musical and language coaching with the Met’s artistic staff. Vocal coaching, master classes, acting and movement classes, and Juilliard’s related educational courses will be available to the young artists, although they will not be enrolled in any Juilliard degree program. They will, however, have access to Juilliard’s practice rooms and studios as well as its Lila Acheson Wallace Library’s extensive resources.
Juilliard’s Vocal Arts program annually enrolls more than 70 singers in a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Between 12 and 14 Artist Diploma students currently study and perform in the Juilliard Opera Center (J.O.C.), the most advanced of the School’s three opera-performance groups. Currently, the J.O.C. is a tuition-free, two-year residency program leading to an Artist’s Diploma in Opera Studies. Each season it presents two fully-staged operas, open to the public.
Many renowned singers are alumni of Juilliard’s vocal programs. Among them are Renée Fleming, Barbara Hendricks, Hei-Kyung Hong, Simon Estes, Anthony Dean Griffey, Audra McDonald, Leontyne Price, Risë Stevens, Tatiana Troyanos, and Shirley Verrett.
When the new program with the Met begins in 2010, Juilliard will continue to admit between six and eight Artist Diploma singers a year, but the focus will not be solely on opera. The J.O.C. will be reconfigured so that all of the School’s vocal students—from the undergraduate level through Artist Diploma—will be eligible to perform in two staged public performances at Juilliard each season.
Partnering with other organizations is not a new idea for Juilliard. In 2001, the School and Jazz at Lincoln Center formed the Institute for Jazz Studies. Last year, Carnegie Hall, Juilliard, and the Weill Music Institute launched the Academy, a two-year fellowship providing young artists with performance opportunities, advanced musical training, and intensive teaching instruction and experience. And just last month, Juilliard students participated in an early-music collaboration with William Christie and his group, Les Arts Florissants.
Do these collaborations represent a trend in the training of musicians? “Nothing replaces the sequential and continual instruction that is provided by our faculty,” President Polisi said. “However, occasionally, with appropriate preparation, it is very beneficial to have our students experience great artists from around the world who come to Juilliard. In the case of the Met-Juilliard partnership, we are bringing together two great institutions with long track records of excellence and using each entity’s resources to provide a program which may be second to none in the world for the preparation of young opera singers.