• Last modified 878 days ago (April 26, 2018)


Marion goes ‘international’ with opera

News editor

When Randy and Rachel Collett of Marion attend the Opera Workshop in the Flint Hills concert in August, they won’t have to drive to Cottonwood Falls; they’ll just have to walk around the corner.

“We’ll be in the Historic Elgin Hotel and performing in the municipal auditorium across the street,” workshop project director Abby Triemer said. “It’s so convenient.”

Opera Workshop in the Flint Hills is a collaboration between Symphony in the Flint Hills and International Opera Workshop. Ten to 15 singers selected through a rigorous audition process will come to Marion for two weeks to study with artistic director Martha Sharp, a university voice professor from Salzburg, Austria, and three other clinicians.

The Colletts attended the first Flint Hills workshop last year, and Randy Collett came away seeing an opportunity.

“It was nicely done for what they had,” Collett said. “I got to thinking if this is going to be an ongoing thing, maybe we should think about offering them something different.”

Already acquainted with Symphony in the Flint Hills executive director Christy Davis, Collett extended an invitation for her to come to Marion and look at the town’s facilities.

“She came over and spent an afternoon with myself and Tammy Ensey,” Collett said. “She was involved in some of the Elgin stuff long ago.”

Davis was favorably impressed with the Elgin, but the city building also caught her appreciative historic attention.

“She was really enamored with our city building because of the architecture and the time it was built,” Collett said. “She said, ‘Let’s go look at that building.’”

The opportunity for students to practice and perform in a historic venue just steps away from another historic place where they would be staying was too good to pass up, and Davis got her board’s approval to stage the workshop in Marion.

“There’s no rural community of 1,900 souls that has this setup — the auditorium, the old ballroom, the Elgin, a rehearsal site,” Collett said. “You could find this in Manhattan or perhaps Emporia, but it’s not what these folks want. That frankly was the attraction.”

Triemer said the workshop draws applicants from across the country.

“Our participants are usually college-age students, anywhere from entering their freshman year to completing their master’s degrees; preprofessional to early professional singers,” Triemer said.

Participants will arrive July 24, and people don’t have to wait for an Aug. 5 concert to hear them sing.

“All of our student rehearsals are open to the public,” Triemer said. “It’s an intensive workshop. People can stop by almost any time and have some opera going on.”

Another round of auditions will be taking place Monday in Wichita, Triemer said. Those interested in learning more can email her at

Last modified April 26, 2018