Ryan Opera Center From Home: The first week May 20, 2020

On May 11, the 2020/21 Ensemble of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center kicked off their first week of work. Hailing from three different continents, the first-year Ensemble members began the fun process of getting to know each other and the Ryan Opera Center staff, albeit virtually. With language classes and voice lessons and coaching via Zoom, they are already hard at work.

Read on to hear from the Ensemble's newest additions and join us in welcoming them to the Lyric Family!

Maria Novella Malfatti, soprano
Currently working from: Lucca, Italy

Katherine DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Currently working from: Traverse City, Michigan

Leroy Davis, baritone
Currently working from: Bloomington, Indiana

Lunga Eric Hallam, tenor
Currently working from: Cape Town, South Africa

Martin Luther Clark, tenor
Currently working from: Marshall, Texas

Katherine Beck, mezzo-soprano
Currently working from: Lake Placid, New York

Denis Vélez, soprano
Currently working from: Mexico City, Mexico

Chris Reynolds, pianist
Currently working from: Ithaca, New York

How are you settling into life as a member of the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble?

Maria Novella Malfatti: "This is, of course, really exciting for me and I am really happy about the work we are doing online via Zoom with the Ryan Opera Center. Everyone is really nice, helping us with everything, and they let us feel at home."

Martin Luther Clark: "I'm settling well into the Ensemble although I find it challenging not meeting in person. Usually on the "first day of school," I anticipate meeting new people. Everyone seems really down to earth and understanding so I'm eagerly looking forward to the time we're all able to be in the same room."

Leroy Davis: "With everyone social distancing, it has been quite interesting learning and wrangling with technology to help get settled. I do find myself missing the energy that comes with gathering so many talented individuals in one place."

Katherine Beck: "This has definitely been the most unique experience I've had when settling into a new job, but I'm thrilled about it! Joining the Ryan Opera Center seems surreal right now, but even on Day Two, I'm getting a sense of the camaraderie that is to come, whether it's virtual or in-person someday. The thought and care put into this virtual work by the Ryan Opera Center staff is tangible and makes me feel welcome."

Katherine DeYoung: "I am loving it! I am so grateful to have this opportunity and to work with such amazing colleagues and the Ryan Opera Center Team."

Denis Vélez: "I am very happy to be part of the Ensemble. The first week was wonderful, meeting all my colleagues virtually. I adapted well to the virtual way of working, although I can't wait to be in Chicago working live!"

Lunga Eric Hallam: "As much as I know that I'm part of this amazing group of singers, because I haven't met all of them in person, working online makes things a bit weird. I can sense a full positive energy coming from everyone in our Zoom meetings, though. The love, care and appreciation is overwhelming. I'm eager to meet everyone in person after this COVID period is over and learn more about each other."

What are you looking forward to most this year?

Maria Novella Malfatti: "I am really looking forward to being able to move to Chicago so that I can meet and work with all of the faculty members and singers of the Ryan Opera Center in person! During my time in the program, I really want to continue to build my skills in all areas of my craft (languages; auditioning; role preparation, etc). I am looking forward to building collaborative and lasting relationships with everyone at Lyric Opera of Chicago. I am also looking forward to the time that I will be able to share everything I will have learned as a member of the Ryan Opera Center with audiences who will see my performances!"

Martin Luther Clark: "I'm most looking forward to working on myself as a person to reach profound levels of artistry. I'm also excited to learn more about the opera business and to make connections with new friends and colleagues in the Chicago area. The Ryan Opera Center has been a long term goal of mine since undergrad so to say I'm excited would be an understatement!"

Leroy Davis: "I am most looking forward to absorbing as much knowledge from the staff and my colleagues, growing as an artist and a person, and hopefully experiencing art being made by artists whose work I both respect and admire."

Katherine Beck: "I am really looking forward to learning and coaching new repertoire, specifically and hopefully some art song to perform for events. I have some wiggle room in my schedule this year and so I'm allowing myself the time to explore and do some deep-diving into what I have to say as an artist, and I think this will be a great team to work with to help me realize that."

Katherine DeYoung: "I am really looking forward to working with the entire staff at the Ryan Opera Center. I also am looking forward to moving to Chicago very soon!"

Denis Vélez: "I am very excited to learn and take advantage of each class that the Ryan Opera Center schedules for me. I want to improve my languages in terms of diction and I am studying hard to be more fluent in English. I hope to continue to perfect my singing technique and sing a lot of new music. I love knowing that I will be able to learn a lot about the interpretation of the characters and my biggest dream is to have my debut at Lyric."

Lunga Eric Hallam: "I've decided to work more on my French and Italian language. I look forward to learning more roles and creating more opportunities and possibilities—to create my own legacy. I would like to explore more and share my talent with the world."

Chris Reynolds: "I'm most looking forward to finally living in Chicago. I've never lived outside of New York State! At Lyric, I'm most excited to work on The Marriage of Figaro with Sir Andrew Davis who has always been an idol of mine and a dream conductor to work with."

What does an average day look like for you?

Maria Novella Malfatti: "Since I am currently living in Italy, I have all my classes with the Ryan Opera Center during the afternoon. I usually wake up early and start my daily routine with breakfast, a little bit of meditation, and some jogging at home. After that, I study my violin and my repertoire for the Ryan Opera Center's program. After lunch, I warm up my voice carefully and prepare for the first lesson that usually starts around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. As soon as I finish all the classes, I spend a bit of time talking with my family, reading a book and/or watching a movie! This time of self-isolation is not easy for anyone, but the Ryan Opera Center is helping us face this difficult period with a healthy and productive routine."

Martin Luther Clark: "The average day consists of playing with and taking care of my new puppy, figuring out what I feel like eating, some vocal exercises, scrolling through social media, video chatting friends, and practicing or studying music."

Leroy Davis: "I always start my day around 6:45 AM reading the news over a cup of coffee, then I'll usually double check my rehearsal schedule around 7:45, and review music from the previous day. Afterward, I'll take the remaining time before the first scheduled activity to look at any music for the upcoming day. I was previously working at a theatre company in NYC and we were in tech (which came to an abrupt halt because of COVID) so rehearsals were around 12 hours. Afterward I would usually come home and immediately pass out!"

Katherine Beck: "So far, my average day is a normal morning routine of coffee, breakfast and walking my dog before sitting down for an online language course. I'm taking German and French in the mornings, Monday through Thursday, alternating every other day. Then, the afternoon usually holds a coaching, lesson, or group meeting of some sort. I try to exercise with either an in-home workout or a run around the lake after my 'work day' is over, and then my husband, Scott, and I have been making dinner together and having a glass of wine by the fire."

Katherine DeYoung: "My day always starts with a cup of coffee and listening to a podcast or music while I get ready for the day. I've especially enjoyed listening to Opera Box Score recently. I then login to Zoom for my language class in the morning. I'm taking German and French which has been a great way to start the day. The afternoon consists of coachings/lessons. It has been so wonderful getting to work with the ROC team virtually especially during this time of social distancing. Every evening my family tradition during this time is watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy together."

Denis Vélez: "I wake up, drink my green juice and do 30 minutes of cardio, bathe, and then eat breakfast. Then, I make coffee and start my virtual classes. After 7:00 pm it is my time to enjoy my hobbies, eat dinner and I fall asleep around 10 or 11 at night!"

Lunga Eric Hallam: "Well, being contained in one place, I'm learning new rep, reading, and watching Masterclass and other series."

Chris Reynolds: "Wake up, stretch (I've been learning to touch my toes in quarantine!), coffee, and lots of piano. I'm currently working on all of the solo pieces I've always wanted to play but never had time to. After that, it's a Ryan Center Zoom extravaganza, cocktail hour, Mario Kart with my family, and repeat."

Header photo: Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash