SHSU Opera to present unconventional show

The sounds of American opera will resonate from the Gaertner Performing Arts Center Recital Hall as the Sam Houston State University Opera performs a production blending jazz, musical theater and Disney movies later this week.

SHSU Opera will perform “Made in the USA,” an unconventional program which differs from other types of musical performances, according to SHSU Opera director Rebecca Grimes.

“Opera is a musical form where the narrative is completely sung, whereas musical theater typically combines spoken theater with musical numbers,” Grimes said. “We chose this program to debunk the myth that opera is just a European art form created by 300-year-old dead guys. SHSU Opera has a reputation for presenting opera in unconventional ways, and “Made in the USA” is no exception.  If you have never experienced opera, this is a terrific show to see – it’s in English and features music that is infused with jazz and music theater influences.”

This program will feature the work of American composers Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber and Aaron Copeland, as well as work from SHSU faculty, according to Grimes.

“One of the highlights of our program is a scene from a work-in-progress musical by American Prize-winning composer and SHSU Composition professor Kyle Kindred, based on a novel by SHSU Warner Chair of Journalism and former Deputy Press Secretary Peter Roussel,” Grimes said. “This project has been a terrific opportunity for the students, as it has allowed them to work with a living composer and librettist; they get to see the creative process first-hand.”

Preparation for the program occurred throughout the semester and involved more than just singing rehearsals, according to Grimes.

“The students have been rehearsing since August in preparation for this show, typically 2-4 hours per week,” Grimes said. “We are also presenting a video montage that will introduce each work, which has been created by our technical design team, Jonathan Kinsey and Dr. Joseph Patrick.”

The production will be sung in English and contains some mature themes.

SHSU opera performs four productions each year, two scenes productions and two full productions. Scenes productions, like “Made in the USA,” feature excerpts from several shows, while full productions are an entire opera in whole.

Recently, members of SHSU Opera competed in a regional competition of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. The region, known as TEXOMA, includes five states where nearly 800 musicians compete.

Junior music major Gregory Broughton and sophomore music major Bailey Turner were selected as winners in their divisions at the TEXOMA NATS competition earlier this month.

SHSU Opera was awarded The American Prize in Opera Performance’s college/university division in 2014 and was the second place winner of the 2012 National Opera Association Production Competition.

The opera has also been a finalist in the NOA Opera Scenes Competition for the past four years and has performed at the national convention.

“The competition experience is an important part of what we do,” Grimes said. “The students compete on a regular basis.”

Next semester, the opera will perform a one-act production composed in the early 1900’s.

“We will be presenting Maurice Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortileges (The Child and the Enchantment),” Grimes said. “This one-act opera tells the story of a little boy whose naughty antics create a magic world in which he learns a valuable lesson about kindness and love.”

“Made in the USA” will run Nov. 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the GPAC Recital Hall.

Tickets for the event cost $15 for general admission and $5 for students. Groups of 20 or more can purchase discounted tickets for $12 each.

Tickets can be purchased at or 936-294-2339.

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