Opera Imagined...Myths and Morality

The Shepherd University Opera Studio presents Opera Imagined...Myths and Morality, a program of opera scenes whose characters are drawn from Greek mythology, fairy tales, political satirists, and the Apocrypha of the Bible, on Friday, October 4th and Saturday, October 5th at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 6th at 3:00 p.m. in the Frank Arts Center Theater. This scenes production will be sung predominantly in Italian, with supertitles in English projected at the performances.

The evening unfolds with a large scene from Gluck's Orpheus and Euridice, which explores the torment Orpheus experiences when he leads Euridice back from the Underworld on the condition that he must not look at her, or he will lose her forever. The program also includes a scene from Susannah, written by American composer Carlisle Floyd. This opera is a modern retelling of the story from the Apocryphal book of Daniel in which lecherous voyeurs falsely accused Susanna of promiscuity. Scenes from Mozart's operas like the countess's aria "Porgi amor" from Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) and Cosi fan tutte will feature Shepherd University's brightest, most promising singers.

These young vocalists have been engaged in studying works from the canon of classical opera since August, but musical preparation began in May. Dr. Robert Tudor, Shepherd University Director of Vocal Activities and Music Department Chair, directed the scenes with musical direction by Barbara Irvine. About the process, Dr. Tudor said, "When we begin rehearsal, I start with these questions: 'Why are you on the stage? What happened before you entered? What do you want?' It's my passion to help them discover the answers and more importantly, how to communicate that to the audience credibly."

Many of the scenes presented employ the Italian bel canto singing techniques, which include technical execution of rapid scalar passages with virtuosity. Since this past spring, many of the students have been preparing scenes from Rossini's operas L'Italiana In Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers), La Cenerentola (Cinderella), and Il Barbieri di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville). For the upperclassmen, this was a welcome challenge. Baritone Andrew Seaman sings in each of the scenes, and of his aria "Come un ape" (translated "Like a bee") from La Cenerentola, he said, "I had no idea how hard this was going to be at first...it's so unbelievably fast! I have loved learning it immensely."

Dr. Robert Tudor's multifaceted career has included work as a professional singer, educator, and non-profit executive, including leadership positions at The Florida International Festival, The Association of Boarding Schools, American Classic Voyages, Levine School of Music, and serving as Chair of the Division of Music at Jacksonville University from 2006 to 2012. As Director of Opera and Music Theatre, he served as musical director for JU productions of Company, Oklahoma!, Ragtime, and Chess, and stage director for Dido and Aeneas, Chess, The Apple Tree, The Gondoliers, and created innovative opera and music theatre workshop productions annually. As a singer, he has performed opera, musical theatre, cabaret, and concert works throughout the United States, and has been praised by The Washington Post for his "powerful singing voice," and "notable acting skills." Tudor is a regular guest artist with the Montana Early Music Festival, and artist and instructor at the annual Helena Choral Festival in Helena, Montana. In 2009, he joined celebrated soprano Rosa Lamoreaux, pianist Betty Bullock, and bassist David Jernigan for the first in a series of national concert engagements featuring classics from Broadway. He received his Doctorate in Musical Arts in Voice Performance from the University of Maryland, College Park; his Master of Music from the University of Miami, and Bachelor of Music from Stetson University. Awards include a 2003 Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, 2004 Artist of the Year from Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia, and 2009 Institutional Award for Excellence from Jacksonville University.

Shepherd University Music adjunct, Barbara Irvine, has been a freelance theatre and classical musician for over 30 years. She has been involved in more than 125 musical theatre productions in the United States and Europe, and has given solo classical piano recitals on both continents. Among the luminaries Barbara worked with during her 15 years in New York City, are composers Cy Coleman, John Kander, Galt MacDermot, Yoko Ono, Mary Rodgers, Harvey Schmidt, David Shire, Charles Strouse, Robert Waldman, and Earl Wilson, Jr.; orchestrators David Cullen and Michael Starobin; and stars Polly Bergen, Sarah Brightman, Patrick Cassidy, Maxwell Caulfield, Michael Crawford, Helen Gallagher, Denise Lor, Rebecca Luker, Julie Wilson, and many more. Irvine earned her B.M. degree in applied piano from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and did graduate work in music at The University of Texas at Austin. She has studied piano with the great pedagogue Leonard Shure, and with Danielle Martin, Eunice Norton, Bradford Gowen, Marc Silverman, William R. Walters, and Julia Belle Westphal. Ms. Irvine wrote the Introduction and Commentary for Alfred's Singers' Library of Musical Theatre, Volume 1, a series of Broadway songbooks which include audition tips and other useful information for all voices, and are available at music stores and Amazon.com. She is the founder of The Other Side of Broadway, a concert project devoted to the presentation and preservation of the classical music of theatre composers.

Opera Imagined...Myths and Morality is $10 for general admission, $5 for faculty/staff, Shepherd alumni, senior citizens, and students 18 and under, and free for Shepherd students and Friends of Music MAC Cardholders. Admission and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis and advance reservations are not taken. The box office opens one hour before curtain. For more information call 304-876-5555.