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Meadows Opera Theatre Presents Second “Opera Free for All” for 2013/14 Season

Director Hank Hammett Talks about the “Opera Free for All” and the Meadows Opera Theatre

By Mackenzie Ferch (B.A. in Journalism, May 2014)

With “Singing Saints and Sinners,” the SMU Meadows Opera Theatre (MOT) presented its second Opera Free For All of the season at 1 p.m. on Friday, November 1, in the Bob Hope Theatre Lobby of Owen Arts Center.  Since the event took place on the day following Halloween – All Saints’ Day – the singing actors, all members of the MOT Ensemble class, paid musical homage to the “saints” and “sinners” of the stage.  Passionate and striking, the performance showcased the talent and expertise of the opera students, and drew together elements of storytelling, stagecraft and music to produce an organic, dynamic, truly astounding whole and performance.

If you missed out and want to attend the next opera event, the Meadows Opera Theatre will be presenting a full production of Mozart’s comic opera La Finta Giardiniera (The Pretend Garden Girl) from February 6-9, 2014, in the Bob Hope Theatre.

What was the theme of “Singing Saints and Sinners”?

In past years we’ve done many Halloween-themed Opera Free For Alls that involved superstition, witches, devils, fairy tales, and various elements of the supernatural. The day following Halloween is All Saints’ Day, and that was the day of our scheduled show this year (Friday, November 1, 2013). So, I thought it made sense to build upon the theme that was already present in the day and show some characters on stage who spend their lives trying to corrupt the innocents around them, plus some “saints” who are doing everything they can to thwart the sinister plans of these “sinners.”

How were the singers who performed selected?

The singing actors are all members of the Meadows Opera Theatre (MOT) Ensemble class. MOT Ensemble class members are assigned various repertoire throughout the year that highlights both their skills and talent, pushes them out of their comfort zones and helps them grow as young artists. It’s like assignments in other classes, except in the MOT Ensemble class each student’s assignment is different from that of his or her colleagues, and all members come together in scenes, one-act operas and full productions. It’s definitely a team effort, and the students work together beautifully.

How does the Opera Free For All help in the performance education of the singers?

As far as the educational value, without the use of costumes, elaborate sets and professional theatre lighting, my students have nothing to depend on to hold the audience's interest other than what they bring themselves. They learn to catch and hold someone's attention through their own storytelling skills. They have nothing to fall back on but themselves in the world of professional auditions, and they're all going to be auditioning to get the jobs that put a career on its path. Also, since we do many scenes from a variety of works throughout the year, students have the opportunity to get their feet wet and experience a wide, diverse range of performing genres.

Why should students be interested in attending the Opera Free For All events, and what makes these performances unique?

I would tell anyone who has never experienced opera, or who doesn’t think they like opera, to give us a chance to prove them wrong! Opera is totally cool because it combines every element of stagecraft, storytelling and music into an organic whole. And, this is not your grandmother’s “opera.” There’s nothing snooty or elitist about it. With OFFA, we love taking opera and musical theatre out of a physical theatre, where people have to come to us, and bring what we do out in the open to the community. Some folks eat their lunch, some folks stop as they’re walking to another destination. It’s very informal and relaxed. The venue lets us draw people in and surprise them in a positive way.

When will the next SMU Meadows opera event take place?

Our next project is a full production of Mozart’s comic opera La Finta Giardiniera – The Pretend Garden Girl – and is scheduled to take place February 6-9, 2014, in the Bob Hope Theatre. It is an exuberant exploration of the excesses of love. The plot involves attempted murder, violence, fake identities, insanity, a couple of mad scenes where people go crazy, three love triangles and a very happy ending, all set to an 18-year old Mozart’s sparkling music of great emotional range! The physical production, created by three incredibly talented 3rd-year MFA design students, is going to be so fantastic and fun. I can't wait and I'll hope you'll join us.

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