posted February 18, 2003

Opera Hits a High Note in Musical Showcase

Hope College's department of music has long enjoyed a great national, reputation for choral work, but a new area of growth will hit the high notes during the 15th Annual Hope College Musical Showcase, to be held Monday, March 3, at 8 p.m. at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids.

Three different opera pieces will be part of the evening's program. The program will include a song from Ludwig van Beethoven's "Fidelio," a scene from Douglas Moore's "The Ballad of Baby Doe" and a song from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Cosi fan Tutti." The selections have been prepared through both the college's Opera Workshop and individual lessons with Hope faculty members.

"Opera today is also a highly dramatic art form. Modern audiences are not going to be interested just in good singing--they want to see the character, the emotions, everything," said Margaret Kennedy-Dygas, a professor at Hope College who coordinates the voice program and directs the Opera Workshop. "Training a singer to perform anything in opera involves training the whole person--the vocal technique, and also the actor, the mover, the emoting person."

As a result, Kennedy-Dygas works with the singer/actors to intensify and extend emotions and attitudes that happen normally in a second or two, since opera often plays those emotions out with the music. The benefit of all the effort is that a great deal of depth is added through the music.

"The listener really experiences the character's feelings in a deeper way, through a good operatic setting," Kennedy-Dygas said.

That's where the college's Opera Workshop comes in. While the choral tradition is already part of Hope's program, the college is now providing an intensive opera workshop-training situation.

"Singers who are already enrolled in voice study may participate in Opera Workshop for training in the use of the hands, body, voice and emotions in the context of excerpts from full-length operas," Kennedy-Dygas said.

Alyson Payne of Three Oaks is a senior who has been studying voice during all four of her years at Hope College. She will be singing an aria from Beethoven's "Fidelio" and will be portraying Augusta Tabor from "The Ballad of Baby Doe."

"I like the challenge that opera offers, both dramatically and musically," Payne said. "And I like that I get to pretend that I'm different people, and I don't get in trouble for it."

Payne has been preparing her "Fidelio" aria through individual study with Professor Linda Dykstra, and for her role in "The Ballad of Baby Doe" through Opera Workshop. Juniors Sara Luneack of Alma and Abby Whitenight of Ludington have prepared for the "Cosi fan Tutti" duet through study with Dykstra and Professor Stuart Sharp.

Luneack, like Payne, is also performing in the Opera Workshop presentation. The other students performing through Opera Workshop are sophomore Abbie Matthews of Fort Wayne, Ind.; junior Carmen Rabbitt of Muskegon; sophomore Rachel Trautwein of Wheaton, Ill.; and sophomore pianist Joe Turbessi of Nunica.

Kennedy-Dygas noted the increased attention to opera is finding only support among the faculty.

"All the voice faculty at Hope believe that the deepened qualities of opera can be used even in classical concert solos, to increase the impact of the resources at the singer's disposal," she said. "There is a trickle-down effect of operatic training into any solo that a voice student might present."

Tickets for Musical Showcase are $10 each, and may be ordered through the Office of Public Relations at Hope College. The office, open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, is located on the second floor of the DeWitt Center and may be called at (616) 395-7860.

Tickets may also be purchased over the counter at the Grand Center Ticket Office, which is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition, tickets may be ordered by phone through Ticketmaster by calling (616) 456-3333. A service fee is added to the cost of each ticket purchased this way.