Opera company expands Geneseo’s musical breadth

When students leave town for the summer months, the campus is normally quiet. This summer, however, it will be filled with music. If it’s up to professor of music Gerard Floriano, the soundtrack of Geneseo summers will be opera for years to come. Floriano’s Finger Lakes Opera will stage its first production, “Carmen” by French composer Georges Bizet, this summer on August 8 and 10 in Wadsworth Auditorium. He hopes to expand this small contingent of performances to a full two-to-three week music festival within the next few years.

“Carmen,” an opera classic, is one of the “ABCs of opera,” according to Floriano. With intrigue, romance and dynamic characters, he hopes it attracts community members, students and opera-goers from throughout western New York.

Floriano added that he is passionate about conducting operas, but was previously unable to work on them in the Finger Lakes region, which has very little opera programming during the summer. Finger Lakes Opera will fill this gap. The production will include a custom-designed set and a “full five sense experience” along with projected English supertitles to make the four-act French opera comprehensible to the general public.

The stars of “Carmen” are at various stages in their national and international opera careers. J’nai Bridges, who will play the production’s seductive leading lady, Carmen, is quickly gaining popularity as a young artist. Gregory Kunde, who will play Don José, the leading man, is at the peak of his career and performing in Milan. Local talent as well as students will fill in smaller roles and chorus parts.

These small student performance opportunities are part of a larger effort by Finger Lakes Opera to offer student internships. The company will offer 16 internships this summer with tuition for the one-credit opportunities funded by Student Association. Among the internships are stagecraft, house management, costume design and marketing positions. The students involved will have the chance to work closely with theater professionals from across the nation.

“I think that’s one of the great things that we can offer back to the college is opportunities for our students not to travel to Timbuktu to find a valuable internship,” Floriano said. “They can stay here.”

Senior Allison Abbott, a Finger Lakes Opera development intern since summer 2013, has been at the forefront of coordinating the company’s internship program. She sees the internship opportunities and the performances in general as a bridge for students to develop interests in theater outside of traditional musicals and plays.

“Hopefully with this kind of venue, students will get more of an entrance into the classical music scene in Rochester and hopefully become more interested in it,” she said.