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Opera Theatre Wins Award from National Opera Association

Production of Aaron Copland's "The Tender Land" Receives Second Prize for Best Production

The SMU Meadows Opera Theatre’s 2009 production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land has received Second Prize in the National Opera Association’s annual competition for Best Production. Meadows won the award in Category V (the highest category for small professional companies, conservatories and universities) at the NOA national convention January 9 in Atlanta, where scenes from the production were shown.  This is the first year the Meadows Opera Theatre has entered the prestigious competition.

The production, directed by Hank Hammett, director of opera, and conducted by Paul Phillips, director of orchestral activities, featured a large ensemble cast of SMU undergraduate, graduate, and artist certificate students, with scenic and costume design by Thomas Charles LeGalley (M.F.A. ’09) and lighting design by Emily Bean (M.F.A. ’09).  Phillips conducted the 13-member Meadows Opera Ensemble in Murry Sidlin’s chamber version of the score.   Pamela Elrod, director of choral activities, was chorus master for the production, with Danny Buraczeski, associate professor of dance, as choreographer.  The entire production was conceived, designed and built at the Meadows School of the Arts. 

Each year, the NOA selects winners in five categories, based on the scope of the program. The competition, the only one of its kind, is “blind peer reviewed” by a panel of top opera professionals.  The entry videos are viewed without the judges knowing which schools submitted them. Each production is evaluated for the quality of singing, musical accuracy and style, dramatic integrity, directorial concept, quality of acting and production values. 

Judges’ comments included “This was a better production vocally than a professional performance I attended,” “Interesting multi-racial concept,” and “Excellent singing, very professional!” First Prize in the competition was awarded to Temple University’s production of Puccini’s La bohéme and Third Prize went to the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati’s production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

“This is a an extraordinary honor for our opera program and it highlights the excellence of our gifted young singing actors and orchestra musicians as well as the superlative training and performance opportunities we are able to give our students, “ said Hammett.  “This recognition is also a testament to the exceptional interdisciplinary collaboration we have here at Meadows between music, theatre and dance.”

The NOA is an international organization, founded in 1955 under the auspices of the National Music Council.  The association seeks to promote a greater appreciation of opera and music theatre, to enhance pedagogy and performing activities, and to increase performance opportunities by supporting projects that improve the scope and quality of opera.  Members in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia participate in a wide array of activities in support of this mission.

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