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WVU lends talents to Pittsburgh Festival Opera for summer

WVU faculty at PFO

The Pittsburgh Festival Opera has been home to many musical West Virginia University Mountaineers this summer. 

The festival’s summer season has included a world premiere of a new work, plus productions of popular operas that have all included talent from WVU’s School of Music.

Robert Chafin, assistant professor of voice, has worked with the company for four years, first as a resident artist, and currently as the young artist program director. He also plays the role of Stroh in the festival’s production of Intermezzo by Richard Strauss and directed the Strauss Recital.

“Before the festival begins, I am responsible for helping cast the young artists into the shows,” Chafin said. “On a daily basis this summer, I have been making sure all 32 international young artists and pianists are receiving coaching and lessons so they are prepared for the various shows.”

Chafin’s strong ties have led to opportunities for WVU students to get involved with PFO.

“With its close proximity to Morgantown, PFO offers a laid-back, but professional and challenging experience for both students and professionals,” Chafin said. “It’s a great place for WVU students to receive hands-on training.”

One of those students is Anthony Gray, a music performance master’s student focusing on piano. According to Chafin, Gray has quickly become a favorite of the PFO faculty, not only working on classical repertoire, but as a cabaret pianist, playing for students in concert after opera performances.

“Working with PFO this summer was an incredible experience,” Gray said. “The program really challenged me, but also developed and prepared me for my future as a musician.”

Chafin’s fellow WVU faculty also spent the summer working with PFO. Hope Koehler, associate professor of voice, has given masterclasses to the festival’s company, while Andrew Kohn, professor of string bass and music theory, is part of the orchestra for Intermezzo.

“One of the unique qualities we have at PFO is a festival rotation of many productions, where the artists are challenged by a diverse repertoire,” Chafin said. “It’s challenging, but extremely valuable not only to our students but to our faculty to have the opportunity to be part of such an outstanding company in our own backyard.”