The Atlanta Opera’s best kept secret? Its chorus.

The upcoming production of Turandot puts the typically overlooked singers center stage
63
Atlanta Opera
With Turandot (April 29 – May 7), the Atlanta Opera mounts Puccini’s grand final work about a cruel princess—thought to be loosely based on the niece of Kublai Khan—who will accept a suitor only if he answers three riddles correctly.

Illustration by Marylou Faure

The Atlanta Opera’s full sound is part of what makes it a world-renowned company. For that, you can thank not the full-throated stars, but the typically overlooked chorus. This month, though, the chorus is center stage for the opera’s production of Puccini’s Turandot (April 29-May 7). Sixty chorus members, plus 15 children, are needed to accompany the Italian composer’s grand score, which includes the famous “Nessun Dorma” number. “The music is like movie music that just engulfs you,” says Grant Jones, a tenor who has sung with the chorus for nearly two decades. “It’s one of the few shows that allow you to sing like you’re a principal.”

  • Unlike most opera choruses, which are paid hourly, the Atlanta chorus is paid a set fee for each production. This enables a flexible—and often rigorous—rehearsal schedule.
  • During the 1996 Atlanta Games, the chorus performed at the Cultural Olympiad, meant to showcase humankind’s highest achievements in art.
  • The chorus has 80 core members, most of whom are not full-time singers, but attorneys, doctors, and civil servants.
  • Up to 15 new singers join the chorus after each annual audition, held in the summer.
  • For 28 seasons, the chorus was led by Walter Huff, who trained under legendary conductor Robert Shaw and stepped down in December 2016.

This article originally appeared in our April 2017 issue.

Advertisement