La Traviata chorus brings varied voices together

Every summer, Henri Venanzi comes back to Cincinnati from the Arizona Opera to serve as chorus master for the second oldest opera company in the nation.

The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music alum is now in his 22nd year of leading dozens of professional singers through their paces as they prep for time on stage at Music Hall.

As part of the highest paid professional chorus in town, the Cincinnati Opera chorus pulls from top education programs and a pool of other professionals who look forward to the chance to sing with some of the world’s top talents, according the Cincinnati Opera’s Ashley Tongret.

On a steamy Cincinnati afternoon, the heat inside Music Hall was supplied by Verdi, whose La Traviata was in rehearsal. Chorus members, seated on stage in street clothes and on folding metal chairs, launched into an early run-through of the opera.

The stage was draped and swagged in an elegant set carried out in shades of turquoise.  Chorus members wearing their everyday clothes—an orange shirt, an argyle print, bare knees under short skirts—tapped their toes and chair danced.
Ellen Graham, who has been part of the opera chorus for several years, is finishing her doctorate in voice at the University of Kentucky and finds performing in Music Hall “really special, so much a part of my development as a musician.” A Cincinnati native, she saw her first opera there at the age of 12.

Luther Lewis, in his third season in the chorus and also a University of Kentucky music student, speaks of being on stage, in the lights and soaring music, as being “in a bubble of a world.”
Do Good:

Watch the chorus in action during one of only two La Traviata performances this week.

• Make opera your friend. On Facebook, of course.

• Join the Guild. Committed Cincinnati Opera volunteers play a vital role in outreach, education and support of this local and national treasure.

By Jane Durrell
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