This weekend’s Homecoming festivities feature a reunion that will make you want to sing. On Friday at 7:30 p.m. and again on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., Wingate Opera will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a special performance in the Batte Center.
In 2008, the program started with a spring performance of “Hansel and Gretel,” which the program revisited in the fall of 2016. This week, about 40 alums will return to perform a variety of scenes from operas the program has produced over the years.
The alumni performances will constitute the tail end of a double bill, with current students starting things off with the second act of “The Marriage of Figaro.” Both performances will be held in the Batte Center’s McGee Theatre and will close with a rousing all-cast (current students and alumni) rendition of Brindisi (The Drinking Song) from the opera “La Traviata.”
Dr. Jessie Wright Martin got a great response from alumni for this weekend’s show. Perhaps the best indication of the success of the program can be found in the names who won’t be here.
2014 graduate Ethan Greene regretfully declined. He’s appearing in a performance of “Little Women” for Annapolis Opera in Maryland this weekend, and he apologized to Martin for missing the reunion. “I said, ‘Ethan, that’s exactly why we started the opera program: so people like you could have a career,” says Martin, professor of voice and director of Wingate Opera.
Martin arrived on campus in 2007 to teach voice and was also asked to start an opera program. She promptly e-mailed all music majors to see who was interested in attending a series of exploratory opera workshops and was surprised when she got 25 replies.
The program has only grown since then. “Other schools that are bigger than us fight to get maybe 10 people in their opera program,” she says. “Regularly, I have 25 to 35, and I’ve had as many as 45 people in the program.”
Martin doesn’t turn anyone away, though of course not everyone gets a starring role. Each fall Wingate Opera puts on a major production – alternating between opera and light opera. Over the years, Wingate Opera has performed Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” Johann Strauss’s “Die Fledermaus,” Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” and others. In the spring Martin puts on a production of “opera scenes.”
The result is better prepared students, Martin says. At larger schools, most of the plum roles go to graduate students, but at Wingate sometimes freshmen even get starring roles. “Over the years, some students get to sing a principle role their entire time here,” Martin says. “If they’re going to go off to graduate school, they’re going to have a lot more experience performing.”
Many of them will be back to show off their skills this weekend.
Tickets are $15 for the general public. Faculty and staff members get a $5 discount. Contact Martin for more information.
Find out more about what makes Wingate Opera so special.