A night at the opera

Published 11:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2016

Starting tonight, Ole Miss music and theatre students will debut “Opera and Musical Theatre Scenes: Inspired by Art and Dance,” a performance serving as the culmination of a semester’s worth of work.

As the title of the production suggests, the scenes in this year’s production were inspired by the visual arts and dance.

Julia Aubrey, director of both UM Opera and the Ford Center, says the production combines the talents of students from both the music and theatre departments with all grade levels participating in the show from freshmen to graduate students.

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“I took famous paintings and used those to create the background that inspires what the honest essence of what the story’s intention is,” Aubrey said. “We focus on the voice, the song and the movement, but also behind them is a background of famous artwork. It could be Thomas Hart Benton, Norman Rockwell or Renoir.

“There’s a visual interest as well as an aural one that comes through with the singing.”

Aubrey, who has been the university’s opera director for 21 years, teaches the class and directs the show, but she equally credits her colleagues, voice coach and pianist Amanda Johnston, and choreographer René Pulliam for getting the production on its feet.

While some of the scenes are performed in French and German, Aubrey says subtitles will be available for those who don’t speak the languages.

Aubrey added that when songs are done in a different language, it provides a unique challenge for the students, but says they all stepped up to the plate.

Movement on stage can also be hard for students who are not born dancers.

“Many of my students have not had any dance training and René is excellent at taking non-dancers and making them look good,” Aubrey said. “The music students have strengths in terms of their musicianship and the theater students tend to have more strength as actors or dancers.

“The collaboration is really important to me and this is one of those instances where we’re doing that exactly.”

Scenes range from musicals like “Ragtime” and “Hairspray” to classical fare like the operas “Martha” and “Béatrice and Bénédict.”

Aubrey assures that this is a theatre program everyone will enjoy.

The production opens Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Nutt Auditorium with another performance Friday, Nov. 4, at the same time.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students.