Revived opera

By: Annie Sragner, Assistant Arts and Life Editor

The department of music has unleashed the world of opera into the Towson community.

Two faculty members, Aaron Ziegel and Carl Schmidt, are bringing a rare, 1910s-inspired opera experience to the College of Fine Arts.

“It’s a great opportunity for Towson students to come out and support their student colleagues who are involved in the making of music history, not just learning of it,” Ziegel, an assistant professor, said.

The event “Composing American Opera,” is a scholarly symposium and performance under the direction of Dr. Phillip Collister, and took place on Saturday, Feb. 21 in the Recital Hall in the Center for the Arts.

“[Schmidt and I] have areas of interest that overlap in this issue of American opera, which by and large is an under-presented field of study,” Ziegel said. “There aren’t many scholars working on this kind of thing.”

The event began with registration at 8:30 a.m. followed by remarks from the department of music chair Eileen Hayes. An academic discussion of seven total selected papers by guest speakers followed, as well as a keynote speech by Kirke Mechem and a “Music for the Stage” performance.

Following the academic part of the day, students were supposed to take to the stage to perform in the full-orchestra Randall Thompson opera, “Solomon and Balkis.” However, due to inclement weather the performance was postponed to this Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 in the Kaplan Concert Hall.

“I am collaborating with students on blowing the dust off these old scores that sat on library shelves and giving sound to what would have just been notes on the page that nobody has looked at for decades and decades, so we are bringing some of that stuff back to life,” Ziegel said.

Ziegel and Schmidt have studied deep-rooted American opera extensively to collaborate and create this unique event for the Towson community.

“It is a wonderful chance for two faculty members to share their research with students and turn it into performances,” Schmidt said.

Senior vocal performance major Ava Toppo will play the role of Balkis, the head wife of King Solomon, more commonly known as the Queen of Sheba.

“It is a funny story, it is about this king and his wife and these little butterflies that they talk to,” Toppo said. “There are four characters and two of them are insects. It is very cute and sweet and it is an interesting story.”

The production of this performance will include an orchestra made up of students, faculty and some professionals from outside of Towson University.

“This is a really exciting event because this opera has been performed very few times ever,” Toppo said. “It is really exciting that we are getting to perform it here at Towson with a full orchestra of really great players.”

Mechem also taught two masterclasses on Friday, Feb. 20, the night before the performance was scheduled to take place.


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