Workshop Offers Unique Opportunities

by Nadia Smith

When you think of opera, you probably think of dramatic femmes fatales or helmet-clad Viking women. And while it would hardly be an opera without drama and danger or elaborate costumes, there’s much more to the art form than that. Students will be exploring the ins and outs of opera next semester in Opera Workshop, a class where students will perform selected scenes from opera and musical theater.

“The last time they did Opera Workshop was my freshman year, and I’ve been bugging them ever since to do it,” said senior Jordan White. “They tried to get it together my sophomore or junior year, I think, but just not enough people were interested or could register, so it didn’t happen.”

Dr. Gary Anderson, director of the music program, confirmed there was not enough student interest in the past to have a class. He pointed out that music majors and minors are already involved in ensembles and taking vocal lessons in addition to their other activities so it can be difficult to find time for an elective class. However, he said the pressure to offer the class again really came from the students. Students have been asking over the years and especially last spring. Finally this year the class will be offered.

“The class is not required of anyone and yet they sign up,” said Anderson.

Anderson described the workshop as a cooperative class.

“You find out who is in the class and then choose opera scenes and musical pieces,” Anderson said. “The learning materials are based on (the students). Most classes are just the opposite — ‘We’re going to do this, now let’s find singers who can do it.’ ”

Dr. Seth Killen will be teaching the class next semester. He said the class will be a “fun but challenging” experience.

“It will challenge students to act and sing from a very genuine place. They’ll get to know themselves a lot better through the process as they learn to portray another character on stage,” Killen said.

Killen said he hopes it will be a class with a strong community and a lot of camaraderie as the students pull together to put on a good show.

When it comes to decisions about the degree of costuming and staging, Killen wants the class to be student-led. He said that he is willing “to go as far creatively as they are” but that it really all depends on the students. The class will require full participation, with singing and performance from each participant.

“It will be a class with a lot of exploring,” Killen said.

The class will cover a lot of different subjects related to being on stage in opera, such as stage combat (how to punch without hurting anyone, how to fall down without hurting yourself) and stage makeup techniques.

According to Killen, in the past the workshop class would alternate each year between opera and Broadway. This year the class will include opera pieces but also incorporate some musical theater.

Anderson said some students would prefer to only have opera, others would rather only do musical theater.

“It’s pedagogically sound to do both,” Anderson said.

White is especially excited about the opera portion of the class.

“TOB (Transy on Broadway) and the drama department have been doing musical theater pretty consistently with shows like ‘Carousel’ my freshman year and ‘School House Rock’ and ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ and even ‘The Bakkhai,’ but nothing that really compares to the degree of musicianship and vocal training and stamina that opera requires.”

“Broadway and musical theater are really popular forms of shows and things that audiences (especially audiences here at Transy) see so much more frequently than opera, and I’m really excited to introduce them to (opera),” said White.

If you’re ready for something different you can plan to attend the class’s performance, which is tentatively set for Apri1 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Carrick Theater.


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