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Weekender Main: Ohio University Opera Theater provides unique opera experience

Ohio University’s Opera Program is presenting its first show of the year, "From Page to Stage," on Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m. The show will be free to attend at the Scripps Amphitheater on Saturday and at the Glidden Recital Hall on Sunday. 

For those unable to attend in person, the performance will be streamed online and can be found on the School of Music’s website and their social media accounts. The show consists of 13 scenes, with the longest being between seven and eight minutes.

Daniel Stein is an assistant professor of instruction of classical and musical theater voice at OU. In addition to this, he recently became the coordinator of the opera theater program.

“I’ve been a part of collegiate vocal music programs for a long time, but never in charge of the opera program,” he said. “It was a new experience for me, but I really enjoy that we are performing in non-traditional theatrical spaces.”

This performance has been in progress for six weeks with undergraduate and graduate students working as both performers and directors, providing a unique educational experience. 

“We do an opera scenes program every fall that we try to kind of give us a little bit of experience,” Stein said.

Benjamin South, a first-year graduate student studying voice performance and pedagogy, will be both directing and performing in the show this weekend.

“Working in the arts, you kind of get used to doing many things at once because you can’t really just do one to make money, you have to do many things at once,” he said. “It splits your mind just a little bit, splits your focus just a little bit, but you get accustomed to it once you’ve been doing it for a while.”

South completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama but finds the graduate program at OU to be much more rigorous.

“Not only am I taking classes, but (I’m) teaching and then also performing,” he said. “The workload is a lot heavier, but it’s really productive and it’s really rewarding.”

Although this program is a lot of work, it seems to pay off according to Stein.

“Seeing them put all of that process to work and make more informed decisions and really bring these characters to life and not just be themselves for a little bit is a lot of fun,” he said.

While this performance exists to entertain the audience, it’s also focused on being a learning experience for the cast and directors.

“Part of my job as the director of the opera program is to help them develop their skills of how to be on stage, how to interact with other characters and how to develop the characters themselves,” Stein said.

As both an opera performance and an educational experience, there have been a few learning curves — especially with the show being performed both outdoors and indoors. Stein said the staging had to be adaptable for any performance space.

Doug Grimm, another first-year graduate student studying vocal performance and pedagogy, has been performing since 2007, but this will be his first performance with OU’s Opera Theater.

“Outside is definitely different, especially because we’re not miced, opera is never miced,” he said. “If we’re singing outside you have to be full-on the whole time.”

Another thing that the performance wishes to accomplish is to provide the audience with a real understanding of what opera means.

“Everybody thinks of opera as something that is only for the elite, and it’s really something that I want to bring as many people (as possible) to see that it’s not necessarily (like) that anymore,” Stein said.

For South, the upcoming show provides a more unique experience than other performing arts.

“I think it’s always important to experience the arts, but I think especially (this performance) gives a diversified performance because there’s musical theater, there’s opera and there’s different languages,” he said.

As for Grimm, opera is more about the effect that it has on the audience.

“The audience leaves there saying, ‘I feel rejuvenated, I feel energized, I feel like I can see the world differently,’ and if they haven’t felt that at the end of it, then we’re not doing our jobs,” Grimm said.

Grimm also believes that live performance provides a different experience than just looking at a screen.

“It would be so much easier for us to sit down and watch a Netflix special instead of going to see the opera, but the opera connects with us in a way that looking at our screens doesn’t,” he said. “It’s definitely something not to miss.”


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