Opera takes second at nationals, presents newest production

Sam Houston State University’s Opera will present their first production of the semester Friday with an atypical show.

“The Child and the Enchantment” presents a unique blend of music and dance through the telling of a modern fairytale.

The story follows a little boy who refuses to do his homework and throws a tantrum. In consequence, various objects in his room come to life and reprimand him for his naughty ways.

The fairytale, originally written by Maurice Ravel as a ballet, was later composed as an opera. This presents a great opportunity for students throughout the dance and music programs to collaberate, according to opera director and assistant professor Rebecca Grimes.

“This is the perfect vehicle to showcase the talents of both our opera students and our dance students,” Grimes said in a statement. “Ravel composed the opera in a series of scenes, almost suite-like. I was thrilled when Dana Nicolay agreed to choreograph the show.”

Eighteen dancers, who provide most of the action, and 24 singers, who provide the music, will come together to complete the performances. Sophomore music major Bailey Turner said this makes for an exotic production.

“This production isn’t anything like the ‘typical’ opera that you might expect,” Turner said. “The music is weird. The costumes and set are whimsical and out of this world. Don’t expect the usual fluff and overdramatized acting and singing…This is taking opera and turning it into an art form that you don’t get to see very often.”

Turner said preparation for the show has taken place over a few weeks and has required a team effort from those involved.

“Preparation usually lasts about two-three weeks at most,” Turner said. “We are usually given the music and expected to have it memorized and ready to perform by the first rehearsal day – just as you would expect in a professional opera setting. We have a few musical rehearsals, but after that, we start staging and ‘teching’ and then the house opens. We are always expected to be on our ‘A-game’ throughout the preparation process so that we all can contribute our 100 percent to the show. We are a team just as much as any collegiate basketball, baseball or football team you’ll ever come across. We all do our part, and it pays off.”

Turner said opera programs at a collegiate level are few and far between, and the opportunity to study opera as an undergraduate is a benefit of the school of music.

“SHSU Opera is really a rarity,” Turner said. “There are very few programs throughout the country that offer so many pre-professional experiences – gigs, full-roles, master classes [and] business connections – in your undergraduate studies. Most students don’t get this type of an ‘operatic education’ until they are well on in to their graduate or doctoral studies.”

Recently, SHSU Opera competed in the National Opera Association Collegiate Music Theater Scenes Competition, receiving second place. The group also received the 2014 American Prize for Collegiate Opera Production.

Turner said performing at the NOA competition helped him see what his future career may hold.

“My experience at NOA was truly life changing,” Turner said. “Getting to work with and observe master classes from some of, if not the premier singers, conductors and composers of our generation was something that I will cherish forever. Having these pre-professional experiences before stepping out into the professional world of Opera helps me wrap my head around the career I’m pursuing in a way that I couldn’t have had had I not gone to NOA. Also, experiencing other students that share my same drive and determination really opened my eyes to the fact that I’m not the only one putting in 15 hour days and always going the extra mile. It was quite a humbling experience for me.”

“The Child and the Enchantment” shows tomorrow and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Gaertner Performing Arts Center Dance Theatre.

Tickets cost $15 for general admission and $5 for SHSU students. Tickets can be purchased at the GPAC Box Office at 936-294-2339.

Prior to Saturday’s performance, a special event will be held for younger opera fans in the GPAC Recital Hall. Members of the show’s cast will partake in a pre-concert presentation that will include story reading, musical selections from the opera’s repertoire and a craft project corresponding the story of “The Child and the Enchantment.”

The pre-concert activities are free and open to children of all ages.

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