Theatre Department to perform Opera for first time since 2002

Amanda Heflin, Staff Writer

The music department will be hosting the first opera since 2002 this February.

In 2002, the Texas A&M University-Commerce Theatre department performed Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” marking the last time an opera was put into production at the university.

“It’s kind of a revival of ‘The Magic Flute’ and getting opera back into Commerce,” Dr. Jennifer Glidden said. Dr. Glidden has recently completed her doctorate at the University of North Texas in musical arts in vocal performance. Her dissertation was about the need for collaboration of the theater and music departments on a collegiate level.

She chose “The Magic Flute” because “it is done in English a lot in America,” Glidden said. “It has great characters and I find it more accessible than some others to bring in opera on to the community. Children can relate to it and adults. There’s a fantasy element and a magical element. The characters are so likable. Mozart is always a good one to use as a teaching tool for our students.  If you can sing Mozart you can sing almost anything. He’s a great dramatist in that regard; it requires the students to dig a little deeper than just the surface, and we had the cast to do this one.”

Unlike in  last year’s “Kiss Me Kate,” where Glidden was in charge of only the music, she is now in charge of every aspect from the music to the lighting.

“It’s stressful and time-consuming, wearing all of those hats,” she said. “I have really talented students that have risen to the occasion. I have been really blessed in that regard and Dr. Hooper is wonderful at getting the orchestra prepared.”

With the orchestra, “A lot of the wind instruments are coming from the school itself,” Glidden said. “A lot of the students are getting the opportunity to play an opera which they don’t always get to at an undergraduate level. So I know they’re very excited. Just because we don’t have a strings department, we are hiring those in. So those will be professional players. But most of the orchestra are coming from our students and faculty.”

With just one rehearsal with the full orchestra before the first show, having a professional Queen of the Night will help the students rise to the occasion.

“I knew going into it that that was the role we were going to need to hire because it is such a demanding role,” Glidden said. “It can fatigue a young singer even with piano. So doing four nights in a role with orchestra, I decided I didn’t want to put a young singer in that position and risk them hurting themselves or damaging their voice. It’s a role that singers will pursue in late 20s early 30s not early 20s. It’s a hard role especially with orchestra.”

Jennifer Odom Ciobanu, Glidden’s colleague from UNT, will be singing the Queen of the Night role. She instructs at the University of Texas at Arlington.

There were 35 cast members chosen, including music majors, minors and even non music-majors. There were also 15 crew members picked.

The students learned all of the music for the production in a class last fall. The class helped with “getting to know each other and building that trust.” Glidden said. “Because it really is a trust issue when it comes to staging things and living on stage; you have to trust your colleagues. With opera, it’s elongated the thought and it’s elongated in music. Honing that skill and feeling comfortable being awkward for a longer period of time is a benefit from trust.”

The leads include senior Mathew Morales as Tamino, senior Daniella Pacheco as Pamina, and senior Daniel Molina as Papageno.  Junior Catherine Hinkley will be the understudy to Jennifer Odom Ciobanu for the Queen of the Night. Catherine will perform the two 45-50 minute children performances with piano, and junior James Melton as Sarastro.

For future stage productions “The sky is the limit,” Dr. Glidden said. “As we start to build the string program, I think we will do more and more operas. But I also don’t want to go too big. There are some operas that you just don’t do with young voices, and as we build a Master’s program, that will change the game. I just hope we can continue doing some act each year.”

Public performances start Feb. 5-7 at 7:30 p.m. as well as a matinee performance Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in the music building at $5 for students $10 for seniors and $15 for adults.