Kent State Opera Presents Opera Scenes in November
The Kent State University Opera Scenes annual fall production will feature a premier of an original opera produced by a student. The Opera Scenes production consists of two opera scenes and the one-act performed by students on Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 18 at 3 p.m. in the Wright-Curtis Theater in the Center for the Performing Arts. This year’s scenes are centered on the theme Marriage: Inside Out and depict telling moments in the lives of various marriages.
The scenes program includes a world premiere of a one-act opera by Scott Little, a senior instrumental music education major, as well as Act III of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and scenes from Berlioz's Beatrice and Benedict.
Mr. Little says his passion for music goes beyond the classroom. He enjoys, performing, composing, arranging and recording music and has worked on this piece for more than two years.
“As long as I can keep making music, I'll be happy,” Mr. Little says.
“Composing the work was very difficult for me, because it's been rare that I've had to tell a story directly with my music,” Mr. Little says. “Being involved in this project pushed me to not only write a large amount of music, but also to write music that tells a cohesive story, and then to produce that music in a professional manner.”
The opera Mr. Little wrote is based on a short story called The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, who lived from 1850-1904.
Mr. Little familiarized himself with the students and the staff in his college in order to complete the opera.
“The Kent State music faculty have impressed me with how supportive they are of me doing extra projects to expand my skill set,” Mr. Little says. “I've been supported in taking extra lessons/classes in multiple areas that are not required for my major, including composition, piano and singing.”
Mr. Little says he did not do this without help. He worked with Tim Tibbitts, a Cleveland author, who contacted him through a Kent State music faculty member. Mr. Tibbitts hasn't had musical training, but he loves opera and wanted to be involved in the creation of one.
“Tim Tibbitts wrote the words that are sung in the opera – these words are called a libretto,” Mr. Little says. “I set those words to music and wrote all other music in the opera. Tim is the librettist, and I'm the composer.”
Mr. Tibbitts dreamed up the idea of doing an opera based on Chopin's short story, and he started the project by contacting Mr. Little.
“Our version expands the short story to give more backstory and to flesh out the character's emotional journeys,” Mr. Little says. “I love the layers of the story, how much irony is present and the main theme of fighting for independence. I think the short story is still very relevant and powerful today.”
Marla Berg, director of Kent State’s opera program and associate professor of voice, is particularly pleased with this year’s opera scenes program and Mr. Little’s piece specifically.
“He is an oboist and a music education major,” Ms. Berg says. “He wrote an opera, and we are helping produce it. All of this is done by students. The opera program involves a variety of majors. The opera scenes cast is open to anyone by audition.”
“Professor Marla Berg became aware of the opera and heard that it was being created in a professional manner,” Mr. Little says. “As director of the opera program, she decided to program our whole work as part of the fall 2018 scenes production. She and Dr. Jay White have taken charge of the production, and they have worked very hard with students to bring it to life – it's amazing to see their expertise in action!
“I don't think I would have been afforded this experience had I gone to another university,” he continues.
This year, Ms. Berg was the brains behind the staging and the opera scenes theme: marriage. She oversees the cast, which performs in all three scenes.
“The total cast involves 27 singers, and then there is a lighting designer, the set designer and all of the people behind the scenes, so it’s probably 35 to 40 people involved,” Ms. Berg says.
“We do two big productions a year,” Ms. Berg says. “In the fall, we do an opera scenes program, and in the spring we do a full opera with orchestra. My philosophy with the scenes program is that the students involved get experience as singers and actors, but they also get to experience a variety of repertoire.”
Ms. Berg says she is always looking for ways to help students achieve their goals.
If you have never seen an opera before, Ms. Berg thinks this might be a great time to experience the art form.
“It’s a story,” Ms. Berg says. “Opera is really storytelling, acting and singing. My hope is to make opera a lasting art form, it really has changed.”
For tickets, call 330-672-ARTS or visit www.kent.edu/music/buy-tickets.