Music department prepares for ‘Opera Scenes’

On Sept. 21-22 in Lambert Recital Hall, Maryville College music majors were provided with an opportunity to audition for various opera scenes to be performed next February. All students that auditioned were cast in roles of various sizes. Opera singer and MC alumna Delores Ziegler will perform with selected students, as well as MC alumna, vocal coach and accompanist Melanie Kohn Day.

Ziegler is the professor of vocal performance at the University of Maryland School of Music, where she directs the opera chorus at the university. Day is assistant professor at Virginia Common Wealth University Opera, instructor for “History of the Art Song,” teacher of vocal master classes and a private applied instructor in vocal coaching. Day was the founder, pianist and coordinator of the Lyric Arts Ensemble, a professional vocal quartet that performed for two seasons in residence at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Both will return in the college January to coach Maryville College music majors in “Opera Scenes.”

Ziegler first spoke about the idea with MC’s coordinator of choral music, Stacey Wilner.

“It was after her commencement speech at last year’s graduation that Delores and I spoke,” Wilner said. “She told me that her theory teacher, Victor Schoen, had his students over to listen to the Metropolitan broadcast of opera. She said it inspired her to participate in an ‘Opera Scenes’ program when she was a student.”

“Because of her positive experience with the ‘Opera Scenes’ programs, she continued to sing and is now famous for her opera,” Wilner said. Wilner said Ziegler realized the need for the program at MC, and volunteered her services to provide students with an opportunity similar to the opportunity she was given in school.

Fifteen students auditioned for “Opera Scenes” in front of the music department’s faculty and staff. Alumna Jennifer Olander, who worked in 2011 as an instructor of piano at MC, helped with the auditions. She will return again to assist MC’s adjunct instructor of voice, Alicia Massie-Legg, in preparing the students that were cast for Ziegler and Day’s return to MC in January.

Ziegler and Day will be spending the month of January on campus as resident artists to work individually with the students’ mastery of assigned operatic scenes. Ziegler and Day will also assisting with the technical aspects of the production.

“Students will not only perform their pieces in full costume and makeup,” Wilner said. “They will be helping with the stagecraft in order to gain a better experience of the real exertion that takes place behind opera.”

Once the show was cast, students were assigned specific and unrelated scenes from varied operas or classic musical theater. They will have the remainder of fall term to prepare for the return of Ziegler and Day in January, when rehearsals begin.

“The challenge was finding the scenes that matched their talent and individual abilities,” Wilner said. In addition to learning his own repertoire for “Opera Scenes” this semester, junior MC music major Seth Tinsley volunteered to vocally coach other students with their pieces, as well.

“Opera is something that people and music are so influenced by,” Tinsley said. “We rarely give it credit, even though it is such a relatable art form.”

“Hopefully, through this program we can stimulate a want and need for opera here,” he said. “I just hope that people at MC are willing to accept their liberal arts education, and experience their classmates trying to share this magnificent art with them.”

The overall intention of the music department’s staff and students is to provide both the MC student body and the community a taste of operatic culture through the performance of “Opera Scenes.”

“It is only when we are pushed past our comfort zones that our unknown strengths are realized and brought to full potential,” said Wilner. “Hopefully, these scenes will be a potentially life-changing experience that we can continue to provide for students in the future.”

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