Opera theatre program empowers students

Louisville senior Ellen Emerson, left, performs in the piece ‘Die judge Nonne’ during the student directed scenes on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center.

Elisabeth Moore

Music rang through the halls of the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center late Tuesday evening. Singing in Recital Hall room 189, 12 students put their opera knowledge to the test as they performed in front of an audience of students, staff and parents.

Opera Theatre is a one credit hour course offered by the WKU music department that allows students from all areas of study to study opera and how it is performed. Opera Theatre meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, though they have more frequent rehearsals as performances grew nearer.

“Technically, we are singing art songs which differ from arias [solos from operas] since they are stand alone songs written for a solo singer rather than part of a larger work,” Megan Seitz, a senior from Louisville double majoring in Spanish and English with a minor in music and student in the Opera Theatre class, said. “However, the same vocal technique and classical training are used for art songs and arias.”

During this semester of Opera Theatre, students were given the chance to put together their show. For Tuesday’s performance, each student choreographed and directed a scene and performed a song accompanied by pianist Kenneth Stein.

“Actually, I came because my boyfriend had to come for a class, but then a friend of mine from high school ended up being in it, so it was really cool seeing her in action,” Louisville sophomore Betsy Rushing said. “It was a total surprise.”

Within the first act of the show, students performed scenes to their chosen art song. Campbellsville junior Troy Wethington described the scenes like those from silent movies. Each student was allowed to incorporate as many students as they needed in their performance as long as they were participating in it as well.

During the second act of the show, the students sang whatever art song they chose to perform during the first act, sung in English, Italian or German.

“For the performance, we spend all semester doing exercise techniques and really making sure our movements are solid and with everything that we have been learning this semester, we pretty much a couple of weeks ago just put it all together,” Wethington said.

Liza Kelly, assistant professor of music at WKU, is the professor in charge of the Opera Theatre.

“Students never really get the chance to be at the helm of things, especially in an undergrad environment,” Kelly said. “They usually get told how to do everything, even in the academic classroom. So, I thought it would be empowering for them to be able to take the skills and exercises we learned in class, and they get to pilot the ship, essentially.”

The performance was free to those who attended, but any audience member could donate to a jar Kelly carried around, which would help fund the WKU Opera Outreach Program. Every other year, the Opera Theatre Ensemble uses the program to help design and perform an opera education program that tours to multiple schools in South Central Kentucky, giving students an opportunity to learn about the components of opera.

The Opera Theatre will be performing their last show on Friday, in FAC Recital Hall room 189 at 7:30 p.m.

Reporter Elisabeth Moore can be reached at 270-745-6288 and elisabeth.[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emoore938.