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NOA Notes Newsletter
Vol. 38, No. 1
January/February 2015

In This Issue

From the President
From the President Elect
From the Vice-President of Conventions
From the Finance Committee

From the Vice President for Regions
From the Editor
Stephanie Blythe, the Face of NOA
And the winners are...!
2015 Convention Reviews
Call for Session Proposals 2016

Upcoming Deadlines and Events


Mar 15: Stage Director Intern apps due (see below)

May 25: Session Proposals for the 2016 joint NOA and NATS convention in Indianapolis, Indiana due (see below).

May 30: Scholarly Paper Competition
 

David HolleyFrom the President

David Holley

Director of Opera and Professor of Music
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Artistic Director, Greensboro Opera


Thank you, thank you, thank you!

What a great time we had here in Greensboro at our 60th Annual Convention.  I was thrilled to see so many friends and colleagues whom I've known for many years, to meet and make new friends and develop exciting new relationships.  Thank you for coming.

It could only have happened with a dedicated and committed executive committee, our wonderful board, a detailed and thoroughly organized Vice-President of Conventions in Ruth Dobson, and all of the committees that work throughout the year.  Special thanks to our Executive Director, Bob Hansen, who does so many things behind the scenes – I can’t wait for our 61st Annual Convention in Indianapolis in 2016. Thank you to all for your hard work.

Speaking of 2016, you’ll find the session proposal form in this newsletter ready for you to fill out and submit. We will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of NOA’s Legacy Initiative in Indianapolis, with this convention theme:
  Heritage and Hope: Celebrating Diversity in Performance and Pedagogy.

Thank you for celebrating with us. Start making your plans now!

Best to you as you embark on this new semester --
 
David
d_holley@uncg.edu

From the President Elect

Reg Pittman

Professor of Music Chair, Voice Division
School of Music, Theatre, and Dance
Kansas State University


Dear NOA Colleagues,

I had many favorite moments during our national convention: our keynote speaker’s address, the collegiate opera scenes concert, the chamber opera competition, the variety of sessions, and hearing the winners of the vocal competition during the banquet.  Also, it was such a pleasure to meet our lifetime achievement recipient, Samuel Ramey.

Congratulations to NOA President David Holley and the Greensboro Opera for the excellent production of La Fille du Régiment. This was my first opportunity to hear tenor René Barbera. He’s definitely a rising star in the opera world.

A special thank you to Ruth Dobson and her committee for preparing such an outstanding convention. Thanks to all of our dedicated and talented NOA members who keep this organization alive and well.
 
Reg
pittman@k-state.edu

From the Vice-President for Conventions

Ruth Dobson

Vice-President for Conventions
Ruth Dobson
 

Our 60th convention, recently held in Greensboro, was a rousing success, with excellent attendance at the convention and many interesting and lively sessions.  Thanks to all presenters and attendees for making it a memorable convention!  Stephanie Blythe, Warren Jones, Willie Anthony Waters, Louise Toppin and many others offered classes and sessions that brought us all closer together in our national effort to further opera and opera education.

We are already planning the 2016 convention, to be held in collaboration with the NATS Winter Workshop, January 6-10, 2016, at the Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. Our local hosts are from Indiana Wesleyan University, with committee members Lisa Dawson, Tammie Huntington, Jess Munoz, and Keith Brautigam leading the way.

The 2016 Convention will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the "Lift Every Voice" Legacy Awards. The convention theme reflects that anniversary: "Heritage and Hope: Celebrating Diversity in Performance and Pedagogy."

Sharing experiences and knowledge is a wonderful way to inspire us all. There were several sessions at the Greensboro convention that emphasized regional opera activity in all four corners of the US. As we move to the Heartland of America for our 2016 convention, we know you will want join us again.

A link to the session proposal form for the 2016 convention is included in this issue of NOTES. Please consider proposing a session for the upcoming convention. The convention committee will meet in June to determine which proposals best fit our convention theme. The session proposal forms are due by May 29, 2015, e-mailed directly to: ruthannedobson@gmail.com.

Happy new year!
Ruth
dobsonr@pdx.edu

From the Finance Committee

Carol Ann Modesitt, Treasurer

Chair, Finance Committee
Music Department
Southern Utah University

Our 2015 Conference has just come to an end.  It was a wonderful conference, demonstrating NOA’s commitment to excellence through all of the competitions, workshops, master classes, and performances which  took place in Greensboro.  And so now, it is time for me as the chair of the Finance Committee to make my annual plea for contributions to our wonderful organization.  Dues alone do not allow NOA to continue its many projects.  I hope you will find it within your heart to make a contribution to our 2015 Annual Campaign. It is my hope that 2015 will prove to be a creative, healthy, productive, and prosperous year for all of our membership.  I wish you the best for this New Year, and I urge you to make a tax deductible contribution to NOA in 2015.

Yours in music,
Carol Ann
modesitt@suu.edu

From the Vice-President for Regions

Paul Houghtaling

Associate Professor of Voice
Director of Opera Theatre Director
The Druid City Opera Workshop,
University of Alabama School of Music

It was wonderful to see so many of you in Greensboro.  I hope you were as excited as I was about our convention this year. What a great event Ruth and David and the convention committee gave us.  I thought the regional networking lunch at Joseph’s restaurant worked very well.  In visiting with each region, we were able to recruit a few more regional and state governors, which was terrific.  Governors, watch for correspondence from me in the coming weeks.  The point now – for all of us – is to continue the momentum.  Let’s not allow the memories of our time together in Greensboro fade; rather, let’s build on that momentum, carry forward what we’ve learned, and move our organization steadily onward. This means awareness and branding and membership at the local and regional level as we begin our planning for Indianapolis. I’m honored to serve as your VP of Regions and I invite you to be in contact with me.  If you have ideas on how to bring the mission of NOA to your city, or state or region, please be in touch.  I see 2015 as NOA’s best year yet – because of you!
 
All the best,
Paul
phoughtaling@ua.edu    646-345-5584
 
N.B. from the editor: Congratulations to our Vice-President of Regions, Paul Houghtaling, who was awarded the 2015 Morris Lehman Mayer Faculty Award at the University of Alabama, an honor given to "one member of the teaching faculty who exemplifies the life of Morris L. Mayer: selfless and significant service and leadership for the U of A community, significant contributions to student life, and integrity."

From the Editor

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein

Assistant Professor, Setnor School of Music, Syracuse University
 

Just posted on Facebook: "As I edit and load up the next issue of NOTES, the National Opera Association newsletter (yes, I'm the editor), I am struck by the overwhelming wealth of resources and information available through this wonderful organization to opera educators and voice teachers. Of all the professional organizations I belong to, it's the NOA that gives and keeps on giving to those of is who have fallen into this amazing gig. Go to the next convention, people! January 2015, check out our website, www.noa.org."
That's all folks. NOA, thank you! Great convention, great colleagues, great learning and opportunities, once again!

Onward and upward,
Kathleen   
kathleenroland@mac.com

Stephanie Blythe

The FACE OF NOA

Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is considered to be one of the most highly respected and critically acclaimed artists of her generation. Her keynote address at the 2014 NOA conference in NYC and her presence at our 2015 conference in Greensboro, North Carolina as master class presenter and competition judge continues to enhance and inspire our members.
A champion of American song, Ms. Blythe has premiered song cycles composed for her by Alan Louis Smith and the late James Legg.  Her acclaimed show with pianist Craig Terry, We’ll Meet Again: The Songs of Kate Smith was seen on PBS and continues to be a success in live venues around the country.  She is the Artistic Director of the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, a program for emerging singers and collaborative pianists that focuses solely on American art song by living composers, held every May on the campus of her alma mater, SUNY Potsdam.  She is also a faculty member at the Tanglewood Music Center.
 Ms Blythe is thrilled to be involved with NOA, and looks forward to continued collaboration with our organization as the Face of NOA!

And the winners are...!

We had some amazing winners in a number of categories this January. Here they are:
For the Opera Production Competition:
  • 1st Place    The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti
                Produced by Messiah College
                Directed by Damian Savarino
                Conducted by Timothy Dixon
    2nd Place    Die Zauberflöte by WA Mozart
                Produced by University of Texas-Brownsville
                Directed by Nicole Asel and Daniel Hunter-Holly
    3rd Place    Speed Dating Tonight by Michael Ching
                Produced by Southern Utah University
                Directed by Carol Ann Modesitt
                Conducted by Willem van Schalkwyk
    Hon. Mention    Honorable Mention for Outstanding Performance by Children
                The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert & Sullivan
                Produced by Lucky Ten Young Talent Studio
                Directed by Alexander Prokhorov and Anna Kravets
                Conducted by Alexander Prokhorov
    Division II
    1st Place    The Legend of Orpheus (A Baroque Pastiche)
                Produced by University of Montana
                Stage Direction by Anne Basinski
                Musical Direction by David Cody
                Conducted by Luis Millan
    2nd Place    The Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan
                Produced by University of Missouri-St. Louis
                Directed by Stella Markou
    3rd Place    La Finta Semplice by WA Mozart
                Produced by University of Alabama-Birmingham
                Directed by Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk
                Conducted by Les Fillmer
    Division III
    1st Place    A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten
                Produced by Western Washington University
                Directed by Amber Sudduth Bone
                Conducted by Roger Briggs
    2nd Place    The Rape of Lucretia by Benjamin Britten
                Produced by Rutgers University
                Directed by Pamela Gilmore
                Conducted by Kynan Johns
    3rd Place    Carousel by Rodgers & Hammerstein
                Produced by Jacksonville State University
                Directed by Nathan Wight
                Conducted by Jeremy Benson
    Division IV
    1st Place    The Magic Flute by WA Mozart
                Produced by Michigan State University
                Directed by Melanie Helton
                Conducted by Kevin Noe
    2nd Place    A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten
                Produced by Purchase College-SUNY
                Directed by Jacque Trussel
                Conducted by Hugh Murphy
    3rd Place (tie)    Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten
                Produced by Miami University of Ohio
                Directed by Leland Kimball
                Conducted by Benjamin Smolder

    Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc
                Produced by Queens College-CUNY
                Directed by David Ronis
                Conducted by James John
    Division V
    1st Place    Cosi fan tutte by WA Mozart
                Produced by University of Memphis
                Directed by Copeland Woodruff
                Conducted by Mark Ensley
    2nd Place    Cold Sassy Tree by Carlisle Floyd
                Produced by University of Houston
                Directed by Buck Ross
                Conducted by Ward Holmquist
    3rd Place (tie)    The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini
                Produced by University of Houston
                Directed by Buck Ross
                Conducted by Jake Sustaita

    The Italian Straw Hat by Nino Rota
                Produced by University of Houston
                Directed by Buck Ross
                Conducted by Brian Suits
    Professional Division
    1st Place    Mozart and Salieri by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
                Produced by Commonwealth Lyric Theater
                Directed by Alexander Prokhorov
                Conducted by Zachary Schwartzman
    2nd Place    Aida by Giuseppe Verdi
                Produced by Bob Jones University
                Directed by Darren Lawson
                Conducted by Steven White
For the 2015 NOA Vocal Competition:
In the Artist Division:
  • 1st Place- Suzanne Rigden
  • 2nd Place- Mandy Brown
  • 3rd Place- Brent Turner
In the Scholarship Division:
  • 1st Place- Jack Swanson
  • 2nd Place- Zhibing (Helen) Huang
  • 3rd Place- Ethan Greene
For the Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition:
  • The Clever Artifice of Harriet and Margaret, Leanna Kirchoff, composer and librettist
For the Dissertation Competition:
  • The Student of Voice and the French Baroque Aria: Practical Applications and an Annotated Anthology
    Rebecca Renfro Grimes, DMA, University of Connecticut, 2014
For the Collegiate Opera Scenes:

        Opera Division I
  • 1st Place-Georgia State University - Atlanta, Georgia
    The Mikado, Act I, “Were You Not to Ko-Ko Plighted” Gilbert & Sullivan
  • 2nd Place- Samford University - Birmingham. Alabama
    Falstaff, Act I, “Letter Quartet” Giuseppe Verdi

    Musical Theater Division:
  • 1st Place- The University of Nevada, Las Vegas - Las Vegas, Nevada- Into the Woods, Act II, “Any Moment/Moments in the Woods” Stephen Sondheim
  • 2nd Place- Sam Houston State University - Huntsville, Texas
    Guys and Dolls , Act II, “Sky and the Crapshooters” Frank Loesser
       Opera Division II
  • 1st Place- The University of Nevada, Las Vegas - Las Vegas, Nevada- Sancta Susanna, scene from Act I Paul Hindemith
  • Wichita State University - Wichita, Kansas
    Die Fledermaus, Act I, scene iii Johann Strauss
For the Scholarly Paper Competition:
  • Robert Torre, for his paper "Cultural Translation and Arne Artaxerxes"
Congratulations to all!  And our heartfelt thanks to our judges, who gave so tirelessly of their time and expertise.

2015 Convention Reviews

And here are our member reviews of some of the fantastic sessions at the 2015 National Opera Association Convention held in Greensboro, North Carolina from January 8-11. The theme was Crossroads and Challenges: Compass Points for Creation. Our sessions and competitions explored the regional strengths of NOA members and institutions.

A New Approach to Training Singer-Actors: The Michael Chekhov Technique
James Haffner’s session, “A New Approach to Singer-Actors: The Michael Chekhov Technique” was both informative and thought-provoking; indeed, Haffner introduced a  unique approach to the teaching of acting. His philosophy is based on the Michael Chekhov Technique, which advocates that movement causes one to feel, rather than feeling causes one to move. Using volunteers from the audience, Haffner introduced 11 psychological gestures, which utilize the entire body and are designed to activate imagination. These gestures, which included movements like closing, opening, lifting, embracing, and throwing, were taught to the volunteers in a continuous flow known as a kata. The volunteers then performed the kata to music, and were then asked to “pull the gesture in” so that the feeling of the movement was rooted inside the singer/actor without actually performing the gesture. Haffner and the volunteers clearly showed that gesturing with this technique in mind caused the body to literally radiate through the gesture, which in turn gave it meaning.
I found this session absolutely fascinating. It introduced many ideas that can help singer/actors get into their characters in a way that does not compromise the voice.
 Bonnie Cutsforth-Huber
Penn State Altoona

Are Your Students Working?
Pros and Cons of Performance Majors’ Curriculum
 Darren K. Woods, General Director, Fort Worth Opera
Dr. Kimm Julian, Minnesota State University-Mankato
Amy Johnson, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
 Our industry is changing. Is the curriculum keeping pace? Are we in touch with our students’ marketplace? Three professional singers and educators offer their perspective: Dr. Julian speaks to the challenges of a state university, Amy Johnson about the conservatory, and Darren Woods from the viewpoint of an artistic director.
Amy Johnson began the session with offering statistics concerning the low number of job opportunities that are available for singers, compared to the large number of singers searching for jobs.
Kimm Julian also offered statistics concerning the large number of music education students searching for employment, compared to the low number of positions available.
Darren Woods spoke to his experience with auditioning singers and working with these singers in a professional setting. He emphasized the need for singers to further develop their communication of text, body involvement and movement, and demonstrating the drama of the aria. Also discussed was the marketplace for singers.
Outstanding comments were also offered by session attendees and presenters Stephanie Blythe, Metropolitan Opera mezzo soprano and the “Face of NOA”; Copeland Woodruff, Professor of Music and Director of Opera Studies at Lawrence University; Carlene Graham, Professor and Director of the Crane Opera Ensemble at SUNY Potsdam, and several others who contributed to the insightful conversation that resulted in an excellent session.
 Reginald Pittman
President-elect

“Bel Canto Master Class” with Warren Jones
Brilliance and laughter were the order of the day during Warren Jones’ Saturday afternoon master class in bel canto repertoire.  Working with three student singers presenting repertoire by Donizetti and Bellini, America’s best known collaborative pianist delighted the audience with his incisive musical insights.  Jones addressed each piece of music from musical, vocal/technical, and dramatic angles.  To baritone Constantine Novotny, who sang “Come paride vezzoso,” Jones emphasized the importance of lining up Italian vowels in order to produce the “constant outpouring of sound” that is characteristic of Italian singing.  To soprano Adrienne Leggett, who sang “Chacun le sait,” Jones encouraged a slightly slower tempo to allow Leggett’s high-flying voice to resonate better in the lower register and suggested that the opening cadenza might be portrayed as a “yodel” calling the soldiers to battle.  Jones perhaps achieved his most marked results with the final singer, soprano Abigail Cote, who, after sitting for over an hour in the ballroom, presented an understandably shaky “Casta diva.”  Jones persistently worked on Cote’s rhythmic pulse and reined in her somewhat quavery vibrato until her performance was really quite credible by the end of the session.
Throughout the session, Jones disarmed the audience with the down-to-earth sense of humor for which he has become known.  Not to disappoint the pianists in the room, he gave excellent pointers on imitating orchestral colors on the piano to accompanists Bridget Hille, Colin McDearman, and Gustavo Castro.  A most enlightening and entertaining presentation!
Louise Lofquist,
Pepperdine University
 

Beyond Pirates, Pinafore and Mikado:
Gilbert and Sullivan’s lesser known comic operas
Attendees at the Greensboro convention had the wonderful opportunity to observe a lecture recital given by Dawn M. Harris. featuring arias and scenes from some of Gilbert and Sullivan’s lesser known comic operas.  Ms. Harris is a Gilbert and Sullivan specialist, having performed in and directed virtually every one of their collaborations.  She is currently on the faculty of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
After establishing the historical context of the composer and librettist and relaying her own background with their works, Ms. Harris proceeded to concentrate on four of their lesser known works while highlighting scenes featuring women.  For each opera, she imparted a synopsis along with musical excerpts performed by herself and students.  The operas presented in this way were Patience, Iolanthe, Princess Ida, and Ruddigore.  Since most of the attendees programs experience a shortage of men from time to time, this was welcome information indeed and those in attendance were most appreciative.
Kenneth Wood
Virginian Commonwealth University

Douglas Moore:
Unearthing the Lesser Known Vocal and Operatic Work
The National Opera Association was honored to present composer and conductor Michael Ching and poet and intellectual property rights advocate Miranda Beeson in a session from the Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera, entitled, “Douglas Moore: Unearthing the Lesser Known Vocal and Operatic Works” on Thursday afternoon, January 7th.  The session was full of music and information concerning Douglas Moore’s music and the protection of intellectual property rights for composers and librettists.
Mr. Ching began the session with an explanation of why they proposed the session. While known to opera professionals as the composer of one of the standards of the American opera canon, The Ballad of Baby Doe, perhaps less is known about his other seven operas, or his output of art song. The session was meant to introduce some of these works to those who may not know of them.
A series of performances of some of Moore’s works followed, effectively sung by young singers from host school UNC Greensboro, as well as from UNC Chapel Hill, thanks to Dr. Louise Toppin. UNC Chapel Hill Professor Gene Galvin was gracious enough to lend his lovely voice as a last minute substitution for an ill singer. Music from Moore’s operas “The Dove Song” and “The Devil and Daniel Webster” was presented, as well as some of his art song works.  The singing concluded with a duet and then the final ensemble from Moore’s highly effective 1966 opera “Carry Nation.”  Personal experience has acquainted me with this last opera, having sung both an aria and duet from this show.  Hearing the music from other parts of the show left me wishing they could have included the duet between Charles and Carry that begins the second act, a duet I know to be quite dramatically engaging.
The second portion of the session was offered by Ms. Beeson, daughter of composer Jack Beeson. As executor and preserver of her father’s estate, she shared a wealth of knowledge about preserving copyrights, and finding rights for music, particularly American music, when those rights can be difficult to find.  As one example, it was surprising to learn that it is not uncommon for a publisher to not know that they own the rights to a given work!  Tools were given for the recovery of such a work, and urging from both presenters for opera professionals, academics, and composers alike, to be vigilant and obstinate about any search for or protection of music. In all, it was an entertaining and informative Session by Mr. Ching and Ms. Beeson.
Samuel Mungo
Director of Opera Studies
Texas State University

DYI Baroque Pastiche
Presented by Anne Basinski and David Cody
David and Anne presented a session on their presentation of the Orpheus myth, titled The Legend of Orpheus.  It took them a year of exhaustive research on the various settings of the Orpheus myth, first deciding on their plot, then following through with research and choices of music.  Several different composers’ music were used, including that of Purcell, Handel, Monteverdi, Praetorius, Cavalli, Boyce, and Gluck.  Anne wrote the words to the musical arias, duets, and ensembles.  Together they decided that the opera they were creating should be within the confines of the Baroque period, using the harpsichord only, without other Baroque instruments.  Anne and David chose their set pieces wisely, choosing to end the piece on a happy note. With this method, one could create an opera tailored to specific students, but one also could create text.  Some of their communication tools were Google and Spotify!  They were also able to enlist the help of one of their dance colleagues for choreography.  I found this approach to be quite interesting, and I admire the amount of work and research that went into this project. So often people are intimidated by Baroque opera.  A pastiche is a creative and scholarly way to connect students and audiences to Baroque opera, and to utilize the voice types available in one’s school program.
Carol Modesitt
Professor of Music Director, Southern Utah University Opera Theatre

“Looking for not-so-overdone arias for auditions or recitals?  Consider this!”
 At the recent Greensboro convention, attendees were fortunate to witness a lecture recital featuring arias from the African diaspora, led by Louise Toppin.  Ms. Toppin continues to enjoy a rich performing career, while also serving as the director of Videmus, a non-profit arts organization “committed to educational and collaborative projects on the repertoire of African American, women and under-represented composers” (www.videmus.org.) She also serves as chair of the music department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She was also a recipient of this year’s NOA Legacy Award.
Though there is a large body of composers from the African diaspora who have composed operas, Ms. Toppin chose to concentrate on seven composers whose works are currently in publication.  After giving a brief history of each composer, she and her guests performed representative arias from their works.  The composers featured were Chevalier de Saint Georges, Jose Mauricio Nunes-Garcia, William Grant Still, Mark Fax, Leslie Adams, Adolphus Hailstork, and Undine Smith Moore.  Ms. Toppin also featured an unpublished work by Nkeiru Okoye.  Given the diversity of the pieces performed, it is obvious that a wealth of repertoire exists that is deserving of performance and students and teachers would be well advised to explore this area.  For further information, they should visit www.videmus.org.
Kenneth Wood
Virginian Commonwealth University
 
NOA PRE-CONCERT LECTURE
Secret Subsidies and Government Propaganda:
Behind the Scenes at the World Premiere of La Fille du Regiment
Basil Considine, Walden University
Dr. Considine noted, in his opening remarks to the crowd who had gathered prior to the Greensboro Opera production of La Fille du Regiment, that the 1840 world premiere of Donizetti’s charming opera comique was almost a no-show!  For most of the twenty-five years since the deposition of Napoleon, the current monarchy strictly forbade references to “Bonapartism” and military topics in theater and stage works.  The government tried for years to diminish the Bonaparte sentiment with strict rules of censorship.  Basil Considine remarked that the French financial outlook of 1839 was in the midst of a severe downturn.  The commission awarded to Donizetti for his new opera was done so in the hope of reviving Parisian theater and providing an economic boost to Paris.  Towards that end, the new Opera Comique theatre was under construction, with the Ministry of the Interior providing much needed funding for both the opera production and construction costs.  The 1250 seats were already sold out in anticipation of the world premiere.  Equally as important, the librettists of La Fille du Regiment were able to bypass the government censors and work directly with the Ministry of the Interior.  Donizetti himself, usually a copious writer concerning his opera labors, wrote very little about the process of the production.  Considine tells us that the composer received some 10,000 francs for his efforts, perhaps completing the opera in less than two months.  Anti-Bonaparte sentiment played a major role in the perception of the opera, particularly regarding the major focus of the military regiment on stage and the “throw-back” uniforms worn in the production.  Despite a difficult opening night and early negative press, La Fille du Regiment became one of the great successes in the French opera comique genre.  The spoken recitatives used in the French production were set musically as the opera moved to Italy, America, and England. 
Robert Aubrey
Professor and conductor, University of Mississippi
 
Opera Choruses: More than Texture
Archetypes, Scene Construction, and their Role
Creating Emotional and Musical Pillars within a Production
 Saturday morning, January 10, Wellborn E. Young, the head of the Choral Program at U.N.C. Greensboro and the chorus master of the production we had just enjoyed the previous evening, presented an informative and thoughtfully constructed presentation about the evolving function of the chorus through opera history.  Professor Young explained that his research on this subject was primarily led by musicologist Ryan Minor.  Of particular value in Dr. Young’s presentation was his insightful observations through his own work preparing opera choruses, including Le Fille du Regiment. Historically, the lecture began in the Baroque era, distinguishing between the French spectacle style and opera in Italy calling for a different role for the chorus.  The functional types of opera chorus that Dr. Young described were the tableau chorus, in which no story progression took place, and the reaction chorus, which was more natural and integrated into the drama.  I learned about the entertaining divertissements in French opera, that originally was inserted in between acts of the opera for the general public’s amusement, eventually becoming more popular than the opera itself.  Audio and video examples illuminated Dr. Young’s points. Also of interest was the concluding ensemble of Le Nozze di Figaro,  where Mozart, clearly an innovator musically and theatrically, integrated the chorus so well that no longer did the chorus become a type  but was something totally new that defied classification.  He observed that by the 19th century, the role of the opera chorus was fully developed and more integrated into the opera’s action.    Bravo to Dr. Young for his scholarly research and salient points, which placed the spotlight on an important component of opera, the chorus, which is not always realized for its evolution in opera history.
Mark Ross Clark
Director of Opera and Musical Theater at the University of Louisiana- Monroe
 
Opera For Youth:  Create-an-Opera Project
Gordon Ostrowski, Manhattan School of Music
A wise presenter, Gordon started the session with a physical warm-up for the audience.  What better way to introduce us to his “immersive opera experience for elementary, middle or secondary school students” than with a wake-up exercise for his early morning session?  Gordon proved he has the energy to work with young people and has done so with this project for six years.
After an explanation of what this project* entails, Gordon followed his presentation with a video of his Q & A with the two seventh-grade social studies teachers from New York’s I.S. 289, Mark Todd and Yelena Bordichevsky.  These teachers set high standards for their students and the results are extraordinary.  The 13 and 14-year olds are encouraged to take risks, choosing a theme that allows them to express an opinion about life topics such as bullying or gay marriage and how to deal with these issues.  The project “gives the students a voice” and “they own the project” since they create and administer all aspects of the production by applying for the 13 jobs as stage manager, librettist, etc. to develop the opera.
Watching a portion of the video (that could not be recorded since it featured the children), I was impressed by the articulate and responsible comments provided by these young opera creators.  Their discoveries during this process helped them understand the complex idea that people in control often use fear to marginalize others. The project empowers and transforms their entire person, eliciting responses from 8th graders who reminisce, “Seventh grade was a good year!” because of the Create-an-Opera Project.  This is not just a creative exercise, but also one that contributes to college and career readiness.
The two teachers laughed when asked about a budget.  There isn’t one; the project has been totally financed by parents for the past ten years.  All this is accomplished in only three weeks with the students meeting from 8:30 – 11:00 every day.  The only downside mentioned by the teachers is that the general curriculum suffers from time to time. In my opinion, the life lessons learned in the Create-an-Opera Project can teach the students to relate historical events to modern situations making the study of social studies entirely pertinent.
Inspired by the logistics and outcome of the project, one of the questions from the audience was, “Is there a How-To guide?” to which Gordon assured us he would write during his retirement. I want to pre-order my copy now. In the meantime, order the CD from the convention and be inspired.
Bravo, Gordon!
 Julia Aubrey
Director of Opera Theatre,
Associate Professor of Voice,
Assistant Chair, Dept. of Music
University of MississippiU
 
*The entire class creates and performs an original opera: creating a libretto, writing original music, casting singers and orchestra, designing sets, costumes, and makeup, plus stage management, house management, public relations, and documentation. Gordon comes in at the end and stages the work.

Opera in the Trenches
with Nathan Wight and Bruce Trinkley
In 2003, when Nathan Wight joined the music faculty of Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama, a small community outside Anniston almost equidistant between Birmingham and Atlanta, there had not been an opera program for many years. So Nathan went to his dean and announced that he wanted to start one. His dean was supportive and asked how much money he would need. Nathan confessed that as a singer with no production experience he had no answer. So the Dean said,"Well, don't spend more than $200." As surprising as that is, more surprising is the fact that Nathan's first production for his new opera program came in under budget. Now it is not unusual for the administration to spend $20,000 on one of his productions.
This session focused on one of Nathan's many successful projects. Touring programs in the local schools has always been an important aspect of Nathan's opera program at Jacksonville State. As a result he is in regular contact with area teachers. Through that dialogue, he learned that the last week of school before Christmas break was always a rough time for student and teacher alike. Exams were completed and new studies were difficult to begin due to the brevity of time.  Nathan's solution, "What a great time to tour my operas into the local schools. But what should I present?” Enter Bruce Trinkley.
Together, Nathan and Bruce decided that an opera about Christmas but not a religious piece, (or, as Bruce quipped, "an Amahl sequel") would be great. In collaboration with Jason Charnesky, Bruce's creative partner for many years, an opera for college voices, set in a contemporary high school classroom and roughly based on the ancient story of "Midas and the Golden Touch" would accomplish their goals. The result is a very effective opera for student performers and student audiences which can be performed in the classroom with piano, or in a traditional proscenium space with sets. Nathan was very pleased with the creative and collaborative process that produced this piece and highly recommends this kind of project for your program.
G. William Bugg

STEPHANIE BLYTHE MASTERCLASS
The FACE OF NOA, Stephanie Blythe, gave a dynamic masterclass to an appreciative audience. Ms. Blythe worked with three young singers and, with each, emphasized the importance of intimately understanding the text and making an authentic connection to the audience. Drawing on her wealth of experience, combined with a great sense of humor and passion for music-making, Stephanie demonstrated, with aplomb, the importance of specificity and sincerity when performing in any genre.
Carleen Graham,
Professor of Opera, Crane School of Music
SUNY Potsdam

THE SECRET OF LUCA
Composition, Collaboration and Creativity: The University as New Opera Workshop
presented by Anthony Radford, Evan Mack, and Joshua McGuire
 Inspired by Christopher Mattaliano’s keynote speech at the 2013 NOA convention, Dr. Anthony Radford, of Fresno State University, set about to find and produce a brand new work.  The result was a presentation of Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire’s opera, The Secret of Luca, in 2014.  In this session, Radford, Mack and McGuire described the collaborative process in this cross-regional venture (Radford was in California, Mack in New York, and McGuire in Tennessee) – its challenges, as well as the distinct opportunities it presented.  All around, they were very positive about the experience.  For performers, there is nothing like working alongside composers and librettists on a work in the making.  Feedback back and forth fostered real collaboration.  In a number of instances, Mack and McGuire responded to specific vocal or dramatic needs of the students by making alterations to the score and libretto.  Students got an opportunity to truly create something new, from the bottom up – to literally go “from page to stage.”  They also felt a certain amount of pressure to be at their best, since the composer and librettist were present for the last two weeks of rehearsal – in Radford’s opinion, a very positive kind of pressure, educationally speaking.  The payoff was huge, as evidenced in an impassioned performance of two scenes from the opera by Constantine Pappas and Tiffanie Trujillo, students at Fresno State, which served as the culmination of a very satisfying and informative session. 
 David Ronis,
Visiting Professor
Director of Opera at University of Wisconsin-Madison
 
 
Winner of the 2014 National Opera Association Scholarly Paper award
At the convention in Greensboro this past January, Robert Torre gave a fascinating talk on his paper “Cultural Translation and Arne’s Artaxerxes.” Torre is interested in the changes made in opera libretti as they made there way across Europe through many hands, landing in different theaters with different moral and cultural agendas. In particular, he examines the changes to, and the reception of, Thomas Arne's Artaxerxes, which heard its premiere in London in 1764.  Torre used a power point presentation and a recording of Arne's opera in his presentation.  Questions were taken and centered around the possible avenues of study for this interesting topic. Congratulations to Robert Torre, winner of the 2014 National Opera Association Scholarly Paper award!
 
Anthony Radford
Associate Professor of Voice, Opera
Voice Area Coordinator, Director of the Fresno State Opera Theatre
California State University, Fresno

 
SACRED IN OPERA INITIATIVE
Symbols and Sources in the Music of Bonhoeffer
 The “Sacred in Opera” initiative at the most recent annual convention of the National Opera Association in Greensboro featured two 21st century operas in a 90-minute session on Saturday morning. The first presentation by Dr. Ann Gebuhr, composer of the 2001 opera, Bonhoeffer, focused on the sources and symbols in her opera. This work tells the story of a Lutheran pastor during the Hitler administration in Nazi Germany of the 1930s and 40s, wrestling with what he ought to do in the face of such pernicious and seemingly unstoppable evil. Dr. Gebuhr began by giving pertinent aspects of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story for those less familiar with the details, a story she and her librettist, Robert Hatten of Penn State, researched in great depth in their attempt to “demythologize” this amazing but nonetheless human character. The latter part of her presentation allowed us to hear and see excerpts from one of the performances of the work, demonstrating with acuity how her creative mind discovered a musical language appropriate to the tension-filled narrative. Most interesting in these examples were artful combinations of her own meaning-laden musical motives with pre-existent musical material drawn from such sources as a Brahms intermezzo, a Schubert Lied, a Bach cantata, and a militaristic Horst Wessel tune.
The second opera featured in the session was Simeon, a new sacred Christmas opera co-presented by Darren Lawson, dean of the School of Fine Arts at Bob Jones University and stage director for the opera’s premier, as well as the librettist of the work, David Burke. They gave some history of the genesis of this one-act opera composed by their former dean at BJU in his retirement, Dr. Dwight Gustafson (1930-2014), and then played several audio-visual excerpts from its 2006 premier to give us a musical and theatrical taste. The story is an imaginative expansion of the skeletal account in Matthew’s gospel of the aged Simeon blessing the Christ-child.  Central to the work is the symbol of light, represented at first by a single candle in Simeon’s workshop and growing by the end to the all-encompassing “light to lighten the Gentiles” of Simeon’s Nunc dimittis. In its casting, its themes, and its approachable musical language, Simeon brings to mind Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, and, for those looking for an alternative seasonal production, it definitely warrants further exploration.
 Michelle Crouch
Augustana College

Call For Session Proposals


 THE NATIONAL OPERA ASSOCIATION 61st ANNUAL NATIONAL CONVENTION and THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS OF SINGING WINTER WORKSHOP
"Heritage and Hope: Celebrating Diversity in Performance and Pedagogy"
Honoring the 20th Anniversary of the "Lift Every Voice" Legacy Awards
The Conrad Hotel, Indianapolis
January 6-10, 2016
 
Please submit the proposal form & signed Guidelines by e-mail to:
Ruth Dobson, NOA Vice-President for Conventions: ruthannedobson@gmail.com
Deadline for submission of session proposals: May 29, 2015
 
Proposal Form available here:
http://noa.org/uploads/2016ConvProposal.docx
Copyright © 2015 National Opera Association, All rights reserved.


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