Alumni Profile: Chase Hopkins, Opera Edwardsville Artistic Director and Tenor

Opera Edwardsville Founder and tenor, Chase Henry Hopkins has been praised for his “Strong performance..delivered with tenderness and gusto .”(The San Francisco Chronicle). In addition to his performance career, Hopkins recently founded and launched Opera Edwardsville, a non-profit arts organization in Illinois working to develop performances, arts education, and community collaborations through the shared experience of live opera. Chase Hopkins is a native of Edwardsville, Illinois and a 2008 Graduate of the Artists-in-Training Program. He received his undergraduate degree from the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music and completed further studies while living and performing in Europe.

Get To Know Chase

How did the AIT program shape you as a musician? As a young person?

AIT prepared me both musically and vocally to begin my undergraduate career at Northwestern University, where I graduated ‘Cum Laude’ with a Bachelors degree in Opera Performance, Arts Administration, and a minor in Musicology. From work in my lessons with AIT teachers and coaches, I took foundational ideas about singing and artistry with me, which enabled me to grow while at Northwestern. My experience through OTSL & AIT provided a solid foundation, and as AIT‘s first Illinois graduate, I am grateful to have started my journey at OTSL in the AIT program.

How did AIT or your relationship with OTSL influence your continued training and professional career?

In rehearsal for Handel’s “Semele” with the American Bach Soloists in San Francisco

Having spent 5 years training and performing in Europe, it has been a great source of pride to have started at OTSL in the AIT program. While abroad, I’ve had the good fortune to work with many OTSL artists, directors, and conductors. These small world connections remind me of my roots at OTSL and I am always inspired by the kindness, professionalism, talent, good humor, and an enthusiasm common amongst OTSL alumni and professionals. These qualities are a guiding force for my own performing and career development.

Highlights of OTSL overlap abroad have included working with the late Lee Blakeley, who directed a production of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus in Scotland in which I sang the role of Herr Eisenstein. Lee also directed the beautiful and engaging production of Handel’s Ricardo Primo, or ‘Richard the Lionheart,’ which I had the pleasure of seeing before our work on Die Fledermaus. This past fall when I sang at the Wexford Festival in Ireland I was directed by Renaud Doucet and Andre Barbe who created OTSL’s iconic 2008 production of The Tales of Hoffmann, which starred Ailyn Perez – one of the first operas I saw at OTSL. I also had the pleasure of singing alongside Julia Bullock, another AIT graduate, in Aix-en-Provence working on Stravinski’s The Rakes Progress. These connections have had a continued influence on my career and development, and I am grateful to be part of the OTSL family and an alumnus of the AIT program.

What have been some career highlights for you thus far?

Chase Hopkins in recital with pianist Richard Fu at the Britten Pears Festival in the United Kingdom.

I’m very grateful that my career has taken me abroad where I’ve had the chance to connect with the history of this art-form and make lasting friendships all over the world. Highlights include work on Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro singing the role of Don Basilio with legendary conductor Rene Jacobs at the Royaumont Festival outside of Paris. Another career highlight would be singing the role of Septimius in Handel’s Theodora with Sarah Connolly and conductor Christian Curnyn at the Britten Pears Festival in the United Kingdom. Theodora provided three of my heroes in one place: Handel, Britten, and Christian Curnyn. I also enjoyed singing the role of Jupiter in Handel’s Semele with the American Bach Soloists in San Francisco, which marked my first performance in the States since leaving for Europe in 2012. Another highlight would have to be the launch of my own non-profit arts organization, Opera Edwardsville, which I founded in 2018. OE has allowed me to bring a piece of my work to my hometown while finding a creative outlet as the Artistic Director.

What are you currently/recently working on?

Marquee announces Opera Edwardsville’s sold out launch performance in December 2018

Currently, I’m developing my new arts organization, Opera Edwardsville. This project is inspired by my work at European festivals and builds upon the charm of historic Edwardsville as a place to create something very special. In 2018, I launched this non-profit, held several educational masterclasses, and finished the year with 350 guests attending a sold-out inaugural concert. Following this first event, the Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau awarded Opera Edwardsville as the “Best Tourism Addition” and I joined Opera America, a national network of opera professionals and companies, an associate member. 2019 promises even more for Opera Edwardsville. On September 7th, we welcome legendary soprano Christine Brewer, who will present a concert with pianist Craig Terry from the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Then on December 20th, Opera Edwardsville will present it’s second “Christmas at the Wildey,” this year featuring St. Louis native Julie Tabash Kelsheimer (AIT Alumna) and Scottish Mezzo-soprano Penelope Cousland, alongside myself in a program of Wagner, Humperdinck, and Rossini which promises to be a very special Wagnerian Christmas. Before these performances, I’m looking forward to presenting a week-long opera workshop at Edwardsville High School and will represent Opera Edwardsville at Opera America in San Francisco. More information can be found on Opera Edwardsville’s website: OperaEdwardsville.org.

I’m also looking forward to presenting a recital with AIT pianist Joseph Welch as part of St. Louis Art Song. The program is to include Beethoven’s ‘An die ferne Geliebte’ and Britten Folk songs. Performances in the St. Louis area are on March 23 & 24.

Do you have a favorite aria/composer/genre, either to sing or to listen to?

My favorite composers are Handel and Mozart. I’m lucky to have had so much time with them in my performing and have a true appreciation for their music. For me, the beauty in Baroque and Classical music is found in a structural expression. Compare this to Shakespeare and one can see the clear structure outlined in dialog and soliloquies, with nuance and beauty in the word-smithing, syntax, and use of meter. The structure of Classical and Baroque music reveals its meaning through the composers choice of arias, duets, recitatives, and choruses. As an artist, I enjoy discovering the story through the composer’s dramaturgical choices, dramatic syntax, musical structure, orchestration, and vocal embellishment. Not to mention, I love the layers added as historical performance practice meets modern interpretation. This music is old (!) yet still finds relevance, humanity, and beauty today.

When you’re not singing, what might we find you doing in your spare time?

I love to hike and have covered a good number of the US National Parks as well as outdoor destinations while working around Europe. Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park were truly awe-inspiring, while the Dolomites, Alps, and Scottish Highlands have been highlights of my travels abroad. I also love a good Gin & Tonic…

Hopkins (center), Opera Edwardsville founder and Artistic Director, with guest artists Evan Bravos and Sofia Trancosco

What advice would you give to young singers? What advice for singers currently in the AIT program?

My advice to young singers: If you’re going to do this, go for it. Don’t be afraid to obsess about the minutia of laryngeal functions, the mystery of what “support” is, the complexity of learning other languages, the many layers and facets of history, the hours spent on ornaments for Handel arias (a personal favorite), the importance of entrepreneurship, the qualities of professionalism, the skills required for good stagecraft, and nuance of artistry – That’s what the art-form is, so enjoy every minute of training for this art-form. Through Opera Edwardsville I’ve had the opportunity to speak with students about the changing landscape of this industry and what that means for training and early career development – it’s changing & exciting!