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Taylor Mayne (left) Kenna McWilliams, center, and Lena Daitz (right) rehearse for a performance of Le Comte Ory by Gioachino Rossini in Athens, Ohio, on Monday, Nov. 5, 2019.

School of Music’s Voice Division to perform French Opera Scenes

The Ohio University School of Music’s Voice Division will present a performance of French Opera Scenes at Glidden Recital Hall Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The performance will feature seven scenes, including the entire first act from Cendrillon, the French operatic version of Cinderella, scenes from Carmen and scenes from Dialogues of the Carmelites, among others. 

“The seven scenes are different, some of them are comedic, some of them are really dramatic. It's all over the place,” Andrew Ryker, assistant professor of opera and voice in the OU Music School, said.

Although all of the operas being performed are of French origin, two of the seven will be English translations, Ryker, the director of the French Opera Scenes production, said. 

To Savannah Gordon, a graduate student studying voice performance, each of the scenes share the factor that they are French operas, but the scenes do not have much in common beyond that. 

“None of the themes are reminiscent of each other, which is really cool,” Gordon said. “Everything and everyone's themes are different.”

The scenes touch on a variety of topics, featuring both comedy and drama, Ryker said. They also range in time periods, with a couple that are from the Baroque Era and even one that is from the 20th century.

To Ryker, the range of style and language makes the performance appealing to a variety of audience members.

“I would say that it's probably an enjoyable time there for anybody, whether they're opera fans or not,” Ryker said.

The performance features a range of different types of students.

“There are students of every type from the university, meaning that we have freshmen all the way through third-year grad students,” Ryker said. “So, they participate in varying ways, sometimes the younger students are just in the chorus or have a small part. And then the graduate students that are really majoring are usually more involved.”

For some of the students in the performance, the French language has been a challenge to work with.

“I would say in terms of my own preparation, not only have I been looking at the translation, but also looking at and making sure that how I'm pronouncing these words is correct,” Anthony Humphrey, a graduate student studying voice performance and pedagogy, said.

The students had to go through a “French boot camp” to prepare for the performance.

“Professor Ryker had a French boot camp for a week, and taught us all about the rules of singing French and how it's different than speaking French and kind of getting us into the French mindset,” Jeralayne Ruiz, a graduate student studying voice performance and pedagogy, said.

Another challenge proved to be the time and effort it took to learn a large amount of music being performed.

“It was a lot of time up in the practice rooms in Glidden drilling out my part,” Ruiz said. “It's working with other people who are in the scenes that I was with, in addition to going to rehearsals multiple times a week and really getting it together.”

The art of opera is very similar to musical theater in that there are characters, costumes and a definitive storyline, Ryker said. 

“When people say they don't like opera, I'm always like, ‘But wait,’” Ryker said. “There's over 500 years of this opera that's been composed, and so many different styles and so many different places. It's hard to say, ‘I don't like something’ that you haven't really experienced the breadth of how much there is out there.”

Ryker said that opera is the culmination of many different types of art put together into one medium.

“There's design, there's music, there's acting, there's dancing, there's art,” Ryker said. “All sorts of things that go into this one art form.”

The variety of scenes provides something for audiences of many tastes.

“There's some really funny stuff, some really funny scenes,” Ruiz said. “There's some very beautiful themes, and then there's some really traumatic and heartbreaking ones, so I think it'll be really interesting for the audience to come see.” 


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