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Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers To Lead New Opera Program In Aspen

Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS , with Fleming and Summers at helm, launches in 2020
Fleming takes on her first major education post, designing and co-directing this program at an institution that was pivotal in her own development as a young singer.
Program provides unique combination of professional performances, intensive coaching and instruction, and one-on-one mentorship.


In 2020, the Aspen Music Festival and School will launch the new Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS under the leadership of co-artistic directors Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers. The program provides a unique and premier-level opportunity for developing opera singers by combining performance with intensive individual instruction and mentorship with two of opera’s leading performing professionals.

The new program builds on the stellar platform of the Aspen Opera Center, led for more than 30 years by Edward Berkeley, who will continue on as stage director. All aspects of the eight-week summer program, continuing elements as well as new, are meticulously designed to train high-level young singers and vocal collaborative pianists for a career in opera and concertizing. Fleming and Summers, along with their hand-picked team, will work with all participants, and they will directly and intensively mentor the program’s top fellows.

“We are proud and honored that two of opera’s greatest minds and talents have chosen to lead this program in Aspen,” says Aspen Music Festival and School President and CEO Alan Fletcher. “The collective wisdom, experience, savvy, and sheer brilliance among the two of them, and their assembled team, including Ed, will offer an unparalleled educational experience to young singers pursuing a career in opera, and the combination of intensive education and mentorship with professional performance captures the very essence of our Aspen program.”

“At the start of my career, I was incredibly fortunate to be trained at the Aspen Music Festival and School,” says Fleming. “I feel just as lucky to have the chance to return to this beautiful place and share all I’ve learned in the intervening years with the best emerging talent in opera. And I’m thrilled to be building this program with Patrick Summers, with whom I have performed in America’s great opera houses, from the Met to San Francisco, Houston, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as on concert stages from Carnegie Hall to the Châtelet in Paris.”

Says Summers, “I’m overjoyed to accept this privilege with my treasured colleague Renée. We want to give a diverse group of gifted young artists a broad palette to help them find the tools they will need for meaningful careers in opera. This greatest of arts is rapidly transforming, and the young artists are the future of it, the stars of tomorrow on and backstage, directing, conducting, managing, and creating. Helping them dream their futures is a thrill. We want to integrate opera into Bob Spano’s amazing pedagogical and artistic vision for the Festival, a combination of inspirations that has drawn a faculty that has no equal in the United States, and we can’t wait to work with all of them. I’m eager to pass on the diverse legacies Renée and I have been so fortunate to mature within, and to build on the outstanding work Ed Berkeley has achieved so elegantly for decades.”

“I look forward to further developing the Aspen Opera Center with Renée and Patrick,” comments Berkeley. In Aspen in the early 1980s I had the real pleasure of directing Renée in several productions—sitting on rocks, studying language, poetry and then moving rich text into music: truly an exhilarating time.”

The application deadline for aspiring participant singers is September 25; auditions will be held in October in cities around the country. Approximately 14 singers will be personally chosen by Fleming as the Renée Fleming Artists and will work closely with Fleming individually.
Besides individual instruction in technique, etc., the young singers and pianists will gain deep knowledge about the nuts-and-bolts of life as a professional opera singer, the intricacies of the business, and receive specific coaching on auditions, resume-building, networking, and even financial planning for the self-employed.

Each summer the program will mount two fully staged professional productions presented in the historic 450-seat Wheeler Opera House. In 2020, the singers and pianists will participate in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” Students will also perform and be coached in weekly opera theater scenes master classes.

The Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS’s core team is Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers, co-artistic directors, Edward Berkeley, stage director, Rachelle Fleming, musical theater instructor, Robert Morrison, head coach, Kenneth Merrill, senior coach, William Billingham, senior coach, and voice faculty members Vinson Cole, Elizabeth Hynes, Stephen King and Carol Vaness.

Learn more.