In the Wings

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Gala News: Joyce Kulhawik interviews John Conklin

Sep 27, 2012 10:48:00 AM
By BLO Staff

Joyce Kulhawik

Boston Arts and Entertainment Critic Joyce Kulhawik has interviewed legends of screen and stage. This time, she set her sights on BLO’s Artistic Advisor, John Conklin. Conklin created the artistic program for this season's Fall Gala, Cantiamo, a Grand Serenade to Opera , and Joyce, who will be the MC of the elegant evening on October 13, got the scoop on John’s creative process.

Joyce: John, what was your inspiration for the program this year? It seems quite different from the themes of the past several years.

John: “If I cannot sing, let me fly” I came across this evocative quote from Stephen Sondheim somewhere, and it became more or less the source point and inspiration for the 2012 BLO Gala. It has been used in many of the printed materials we have sent out. I have worked on the programming of this festive event for the past four years. This year, I made a conscious effort to make the event feel different than in the past. It is often linked to an opera in the season, but this year, our program is entitled “Cantiamo” and, rather than focusing in on one opera, it celebrates the very essence of all opera—singing and song.

Joyce: It sounds like a lovely celebration of song, voice and opera. Tell me about how you will bring that inspiration to life.

John Conklin, Artistic Advisor
John: Eight singers, drawn from our Emerging Artists and from leading singers in this season’s operas, will perform an ever-changing collage of operatic excerpts. Mixed in with serenades, ballads, prayers, barcarolles, and lullabies will be soaring poetry (from the likes of Shakespeare, Shelley, and Whitman), which also revels in the power of the singing voice and the eloquence of song.
Joyce: How is creating the program for the Gala different than something you would create for the stage of a theatre, like the Shubert Theatre where BLO performs most of its season productions?

John: The Gala is an elegant evening of excellent food and drink, old friends and new acquaintances, good conversations, glamorous outfits and musical entertainment that is up close and personal. We try to weave the performance elements throughout the course of the evening, creating a theatrical flow in and around the gala atmosphere.
Joyce: In addition to the eight performers you mentioned previously, it seems that there are some special guests this year. Can you tell us more about them?
John: Well Joyce, we are thrilled that you will join us as host, as well as join in the theatrical programming of the evening by reading some of the beautiful poetry I mentioned earlier. In addition, we are excited to welcome PALS Children’s Chorus who will join us in one of the performances of the evening. And our Guest of Honor, acclaimed baritone Sherrill Milnes, will join us and lend his expertise and experience to our fund-a-need to support BLO’s Emerging Artists. It promises to be a rich mix indeed.
Joyce: John, can you tell me more about BLO’s Emerging Artists and their role in the Company and in the Gala?
John: The Gala gives recognition to, and raises invaluable financial support for, our important program for Emerging Artists. Boston Lyric Opera’s Emerging Artists are selected annually by invitation resulting from their presence at Company auditions or in BLO performances. Later in the program, we will highlight the Emerging Artists and ask the guests at the Gala to show their support in the form of donations that will keep this program going throughout the season and for many seasons to come.
Joyce: It sounds like an evening that is not to be missed. And I, for one, am looking very forward to October 13. John, are there any parting words you would like to share with us about the Gala?

John: In closing I would like to share a quote from Shakespeare: “Here will we sit and let the sounds of music creep in our ears; soft stillness and the night become the touches of sweet harmony.” I hope many of you will join us for some of that sweetness and some of that harmony.

  To purchase tickets or for more information about Cantiamo visit our website at or contact Renee Dunn, Manager of Special Events and Corporate Sponsorships at 617.542.4912 x264 or

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