What does a typical day in the PORA program look like for you?
Work at the Hampton Opera Center usually starts around 10, and PORA often begins the day together in Italian classes or guided yoga. Depending on the day, I may have individual coaching hours with the PORA singers, play for their voice lessons, rehearse concert programs with them, or have a coaching session of my own with Assistant Conductor Nicholas Fox. When we have a show going, I am called to play for rehearsals some days, provide coaching for the cast, or be a set of ears for the conductor in the rehearsal room on others.
What are you most enjoying so far and most looking forward to in the PORA program?
My time spent preparing the PORA singers with coaching for both their roles in The Marriage of Figaro and their auditions has been so rewarding. Coming up, I'm looking forward to sharing the stage with them in our fall and spring recitals!
Tell us about what production you’re excited about most this season and why?
Each one offers something uniquely wonderful. As the chorus rehearsal pianist, I cannot wait to hear our fabulous chorus in a big Puccini concert at the end of the season. Contemporary works are my first love in opera, so I'm ready to discover the beautiful story and music of The Snowy Day, and I'm eager to dive into the genre-mixing score of The Factotum. The Marriage of Figaro was one of the first operas I ever studied, and it has been an absolute treat to play it professionally for the first time.
Do you have any dream roles you'd like to perform?
Actually, dating from that time when I was first studying Figaro, I have been captivated by the depth of the characters, especially the dynamic duo, Figaro and Susanna. Playing for the recitativi (sung dialogue accompanied in many cases only by harpsichord) in staging rehearsals has been an absolute dream as I get to freely improvise music to support these characters' desires, frustrations, and the drama that ensues.
Tell us about what you’re most excited about performing in your upcoming recital (either fall or spring)?
Although at the time of writing the program is being fully fleshed out, I am so glad that we are planning to include Shawn E. Okpebholo's Two Black Churches in the fall recital. The first song of the two, "The Ballad of Birmingham" is a heart-breaking telling of the horrific and tragic history of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in my hometown, Birmingham, Alabama, with allusions also to the impactful Children's Crusade earlier that year in 1963.
Claire Forstman is a pianist and vocal coach passionate about bringing new stories to the operatic stage. Drawn to contemporary opera, she has worked on premieres by Nicolas Benavides, Carla Lucero, Whitney George, Andrea Clearfield, and Leanna Kirchoff, in addition to productions of works by Missy Mazzoli and Julian Wachner.
Claire has held studio residencies at the Florentine Opera (’21-’23), Opera Steamboat (’23), and Finger Lakes Opera (’21) and coached at Chicago Summer Opera (’23, ’22), dell’Arte Opera Ensemble (’22, ’20, ’19), and Sarah Lawrence College (’19-’21). In the traditional operatic repertoire, she has enjoyed coaching and playing for productions of Rigoletto (Florentine), Massenet’s Cendrillon (Chicago Summer Opera), L’enfant et les sortilèges (Florentine), La bohème (Florentine), Gianni Schicchi (Opera Steamboat), Roméo et Juliette (Florentine), Agrippina (CSO), and Il barbiere di Siviglia (Florentine; Finger Lakes Opera), among others.
She earned her M.M. in Contemporary Performance from the Manhattan School of Music and a B.M. in Piano Performance from the Eastman School of Music.