Collaboration brings opera to Spivey Hall

By Joel Hall


In their first-ever collaboration, the Clayton State Opera and the Southern Crescent Symphony Orchestra plan to bring opera classics to a southside audience.

During "A Night at the Opera," Christel Vinot, a cellist, composer and spring 2008 graduate of Clayton State, will also premiere her piece "Luminous Star," a commissioned work written specifically for the orchestra.

The event will take place Friday at 7:30 p.m., at Spivey Hall, and feature 10 vocalists composed of Clayton State Opera students and faculty, as well as the 60-member Southern Crescent Symphony Orchestra.

The performance will include excerpts from several well-known operatic works, including "The Barber of Seville," "Die Fledermaus," "Cosi fan tutte," and "Hansel and Gretel."

Richard Bell, conductor of the orchestra, said the concert will allow to the group to expand its repertoire and give audiences a chance to see works rarely performed in the Southern Crescent area.

"This is the first opera concert we have done," Bell said. "We try to do a variety of concerts every year to challenge the members of the orchestra and for our audience as well. When you work with singers, you are working with more dramatic music. It takes a little more time to put a dramatic work together than a simple concert work.

"It's good training for the orchestra to be able to work with guest singers and soloists," he said. "We get to see composers that we wouldn't usually get to see in our standard repertoire."

Composers featured in the opera performance will include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Strauss, Gioachino Rossini and Engelbert Humperdinck. Most of the selections are opera buffa, or comic opera, and include tales of drunken jailers, a love interest disguised as a music teacher, and two officers tricking their wives into thinking they've been called off to war to test their fidelity.

Kurt Zeller, director of opera and vocal studies at Clayton State University, said many of the melodies will be familiar to audiences, and the plots will be humorous even to those who are unacquainted with opera.

"I think what we were looking for is something where people could have a good time," Zeller said. "All of the pieces are comedies. 'The Barber [of Seville]' is really the funniest thing. 'Die Fledermaus' ending is more of the romantic Strauss that you would expect. The aria for 'Hansel and Gretel' is a little over the top."

In addition, Vinot, who recently received her bachelor's degree in music composition from Clayton State, will have her orchestral work, "Luminous Star," performed by the Southern Crescent Symphony Orchestra. Zeller said this will be the first time an audience has heard the piece.

"It's very rare for such a young composer to get a commission right out of college, so we are very proud of her," said Zeller.

Zeller said that two years ago, the Atlanta Opera moved its performances from downtown Atlanta to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, and since then, opera has been out of reach for many people in the Southern Crescent. He said Friday's performance will allow those in the south side to become more aquatinted with the art form, but also give Clayton State opera students the rare chance to perform with a full orchestra.

"Ever since the Atlanta Opera moved way up to the northern suburbs, it's been that much harder for people on the south side to get that opera experience," said Zeller. "All of the artists that they will hear live here. It's not just an exotic import.

"For the student, I hope it will broaden their experience," he said. "Singers spend most of their career working with pianists, and it's a whole different ball game working with an orchestra. Any chance they get to do that is beneficial to the students."

Tickets to the concert are $12 and are available at the Spivey Hall box office. For more information, call (678) 466-4200 or visit www.spiveyhall.org.