World Premieres Are Valuable Training Experiences for HGO Studio Artists

HGO Studio artist Daniel Noyola performing the role of Count Asdrubale in La pietra del paragone in the 2019–20 Studio Showcase. Photo by Lynn Lane.


This production of El Milagro del Recuerdo/The Miracle of Remembering is HGO’s 67th world premiere, the latest addition to a collection of works spanning several decades that have played a major part in the development of new American opera. World premieres are an important part of HGO’s identity, and the Company’s tradition of commissioning and producing new works has also been an important element of the HGO Studio, providing opportunities to generations of Studio artists. This month, we’re proud to present two current HGO Studio artists in the cast of El Milagro: second-year bass Daniel Noyola plays the family’s patriarch, Laurentino, while first-year soprano Elena Villalón plays the role of El Mujer (a young woman) in the alternate cast.

The Studio represents the future: the current Studio artists will be tomorrow’s leaders. In the same way that the development of new works revitalizes and sustains the operatic art form, the talent and vision of young artists will define opera performance and establish new traditions in the 21st century. HGO’s world premieres are an important part of the artists’ training, which develops their individual artistry with both their own path and the future of opera in mind.

Looking into HGO’s history, Studio artists appeared in many of the Company’s new works. Among the most notable are 1998’s Little Women, an opera that has continued to grow in popularity and remains an important part of the modern operatic repertoire. The original cast included several Studio artists who have now become international stars. Joyce DiDonato, Chad Shelton, Daniel Belcher, and Scott Hendricks, all of whom have recently performed leading roles at HGO, were just beginning their careers when they sang in the opera’s premiere. More recently, Studio artists sang the leading roles in HGO’s 2016 production of Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players—including HGO Studio alumna Mané Galoyan, who also sang Gilda in this fall’s Rigoletto. At times, these appearances have ignited a career fueled by new works; Ben Edquist, who appeared as Edward Kynaston in Prince of Players, has performed in two world premieres and two very recent works since leaving the Studio two years ago. Studio alumni are also eager to return in HGO’s premieres: most recently, Lauren Snouffer and Chad Shelton returned to the company in the cast of The Phoenix.

By performing new works, Studio members become an important part of both opera history and opera’s future. While we’re always looking for an original voice, it’s valuable to reference the original singer when casting a role. This is a common practice even when considering repertoire from centuries ago—who was the original singer, and what other roles did they sing? Even without recordings, this information gives us clues to better understand a role’s character and vocal demands. Historical tradition plays an important part in opera, and in just a few years, singers, conductors, and administrators may look to the original cast of El Milagro as a resource for casting a new production of the piece, or to better understand the voice of a singer in the original cast.

Of course, the most valuable and rewarding part of the world premiere experience is the chance to participate in the creative process to develop and perform an original work. This is a priceless experience for artists in the HGO Studio. It opens a door to artistic thinking that goes far beyond the current production and brings greater meaning to their interpretation of existing operas. New works challenge artists in every way, offering opportunities for growth and freedom to experiment. There is no recording to listen to, no video to watch, no expectation that a role should be sung in a certain way—only the opportunity to tell a new story through an extraordinary art form. For an artist, there’s nothing like it, and it’s an open door to a rich artistic life—the kind we hope every HGO Studio artist will lead.