Toi! Toi! Toi!
That's a cry for good luck in the opera world. It's also the three-letter acronym for the Taos Opera Institute, a four-week intensive program of study designed for emerging vocal artists.
Founded in 2007 by Mary Jane Johnson and Linda Poetschke, TOI selects 28 young opera singers each year to participate in the Institute at the Taos Ski Valley. Throughout the month of June, TOI offers free vocal performances in Taos County, Los Alamos and Santa Fe. The concerts are presented by two groups: the TOI Singers and the Cantos de Taos Quartet.
This week marks the beginning of TOI's musical festival with three Cantos de Taos concerts performed at Medley Restaurant today (June 7) 7-8 p.m., David Anthony Fine Art Gallery Saturday (June 9) 4-5 p.m. and the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House Sunday (June 10) 1-2 p.m.
The TOI Singers perform at Taos Ski Valley's Edelweiss Lodge Friday (June 8), 5-7 p.m., and St. James Episcopal Church Saturday (June 9), 5-7 p.m. For the first time the two singing groups will present a Broadway Night with show tunes at KTAOS Solar Center Tuesday (June 12), 7-8 p.m. All of the shows are free.
"We are excited to add a 'Broadway Night' concert this year," said co-founder Linda Poetschke. "Many opera companies include musical theater in their season repertoire, so we hope to delight and expand our audiences with this music."
The 28 TOI Singers perform solos in either French, German, Italian, Russian or English. Each week participants work with a different teacher and coach on an aria that they have not sung before.
The students receive technical training, physical conditioning and individual coaching from faculty members. They strive to perfect their arias vocally, technically and dramatically before performing them at the end of the week.
The singers are selected by Johnson and Poetschke through online and in-person auditions. "They have to have good voices and have a desire to have a career in singing," said Johnson.
"After they've been with us … they'll pretty much figure out if they can be in the business or not," Johnson said. "We feel our job is to get them to the next level of their development. It's intense, yet we have a lot of fun."
Soprano Mary Jane Johnson has performed widely with the most renowned of the world's opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, Prague Opera House, Teatro alla Scalla and the Santa Fe Opera, and has been the artist professor at Amarillo College since 2000. Soprano Linda Poetschke has taught as professor of voice at the University of Texas at San Antonio for the past three decades and has performed as a soloist with numerous symphony orchestras and opera houses.
The Cantos de Taos quartet differs from the TOI Singers in that it is made up of selected TOI graduates and established vocal artists.
"Cantos de Taos is a more advanced group. They're all managed singers. They all have agents and have been singing awhile.... They are our ambassadors. They go out and show our students what it's like to be a professional singer," Johnson said.
This year the Cantos de Taos quartet is comprised of Abigail Krawson (soprano), Britt Brown (mezzo soprano), Darius Thomas (tenor) and Simon Dyer (bass). This is Brown's second consecutive year as part of Cantos de Taos. All four artists hold advanced degrees in music and have performed featured roles in national and international opera productions.
Concerts by the TOI Singers and Cantos de Taos take place for the duration of June. The TOI Gala concludes TOI's 11th annual festival at 7 p.m. on June 30 at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Both Cantos de Taos and TOI Singers will perform for the gala, which features work by composer and conductor Michael Ching, creator of the contemporary musical/opera "Speed Dating Tonight!" Tickets are $25 for this fundraising event.
For more information and a full event schedule, visit TaosOI.org, call (575) 740-6431 or email TaosOIinfo@gmail.com.