Opera workshop expands music opportunities

June 4, 2014

keckFrom four students interested in opera to a cast of about 45 actually staging Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene,” Bryan’s opera workshop has grown to be an important feature of the music department.

Mrs. Kim Keck Assistant Professor of Music Kim Keck said she asked several students if they would be interested in staging a scene from an opera for a repertoire class in the spring of 2008. “That was so well received that Mel (Dr. Mel Wilhoit, music department chair), asked us to perform a scene in the musical showcase concert at the end of the year,” she said. “That got students excited and wanting to participate.”

As a result, the opera workshop was offered as a class, and 15 students signed up. “The program is designed to expose students to different generas of opera. At first, we did a lot of Mozart operas; they are so singable, and he is entertaining and phenomenal with characters. They are doable for undergraduates,” she said.

Dr. Wilhoit said adding Mrs. Keck to the faculty has made such an expansion of the program possible. “We now have the faculty and resources to develop in this area,” he said. “We certainly have students capable and interested in performing. Kelly Miller two summers ago was in an opera program in Chicago, and Caitlin Hawkins this past summer studied in a program in Salzburg, Austria.

“It’s a logical expansion of what our students study. Most of our voice majors study some opera, but it’s very important to see it fleshed out in a full production.”

Mrs. Keck said the program is beneficial to students who wish to pursue other area of music. “Opera can prepare a student to be a better church musician, to be able to better communicate on stage. The workshop is designed to give students the opportunity to work on acting skills, vocal technique and presentation, and stage movement.”

Dr. Wilhoit added, “Opera is part of the larger world of musical theatre, in the broadest sense. It involves the total experience – drama, music, costumes, acting, technology. That is very relevant. Our culture is a visual culture; people don’t just want to hear someone singing, they want to see it dramatized.”

The cast for “Street Scene” was selected by audition, and, in addition to music majors, includes theatre majors and a number of local high school and middle school students, Mrs. Keck said.

“Street Scene” will be presented Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Rudd Auditorium at Bryan College. Admission is free.