News Column

Past, present to offer something

July 11, 2014

By Lana Sweeten-Shults, Times Record News, Wichita Falls, Texas

July 11--Intense

You'll get more than a little night music drifting on the North Texas breezes in mid-July.

If the Opera Breve Vocal Intensive has anything to do with it -- and it does -- you'll also get a little "Don Giovanni" and "Little Women" and "Carousel," too, along with an evening of contemporary musical theater performances and opera scenes. The performances will span from Tuesday to July 20 at Akin Auditorium on the Midwestern State University campus.

That's six days of fine arts performances, so opera and musical theater lovers: Hold on to your horn-rimmed hats.

This is the fourth year OBVI has descended on the Midwestern State University campus, a longtime dream realized by Lenora Eve, artistic director of New York-based Opera Breve. The former Wichitan always had wanted to return home and bring with her the best opera and musical theater vocalists to train regional performers and help them get started in the business of Broadway or the opera stages or whatever performance venues they want to tackle.

Darla Diltz, also a Wichita Falls hometown girl and the executive director of Opera Breve, arrived on the MSU campus at the end of June to lead the three-week-long vocal intensive.

"I have a monster spreadsheet. It's color-coded," she said with a laugh of scheduling the 50-60 students (and about two dozen faculty members) who have arrived at the MSU campus for a three-week stay to broaden their performance skills under the helm of some impressive pedagogues.

"We have one (singer) from the Caribbean, one local MSU guy, Tanaka (Madyara), he's from Africa, I think. But at least 20 are from all over the country. A lot are from Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma.

One of our faculty, Brian Osborne, is from Oklahoma City University."

They are studying with the likes of Dr. Stephen Austin, chair of vocal studies at the University of North Texas.

"He's one of the leading pedagogues in voice science," said Diltz, and has taught seminars on vocal health at OBVI before.

"And this year we have Carroll Freeman. I finally talked him into it," Diltz said of Freeman, who is professor of opera studies at Georgia State University. He began performing professionally as a child with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic and was named Classical Singer magazine's 2010 opera director of the year.

Diltz said besides bringing in renowned teachers, OBVI couldn't happen without help from the Wichita Falls arts community.

"For example, Lisa Jackson at the Wichita Theatre is doing costumes. Their costume shop is ridiculous. She bails us out. Also, we have borrowed costumes from Georgia State University."

Also helping out with choreography are Mike and Erin Sherry, known for their work at Backdoor Theatre, Rachel Kapelski, who leads the Wichita Falls Community Orchestra, and Wichita Theatre props/set master Mickey Jordan, to name a few.

The students have been putting in long days to prepare for almost a week of performances.

"They're all getting a lot. We're really going from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.," Diltz said.

The OBVI performance schedule will include the famed Mozart opera "Don Giovanni," based on the legend of Don Juan, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 7:30 p.m.July 18.

Ruth Brooks and Marlayna Maynard are double cast and playing the role of Donna Anna.

Maynard, who is from West Virginia but is working on a doctorate in Memphis, said "This is the first opportunity I've had to do this role."

Meanwhile, Brooks, who is from Atlanta and received her master's degree in voice performance from Florida State University, has played Donna Anna before. "But this director and conductor are both fantastic. They're pushing me to a whole new level."

Maynard added, "Every time you do a production, you find something different."

"Every director has a different vision," Brooks said.

The performance schedule also includes "Little Women," to be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m.July 19.

"It's modern. It's gorgeous, with tight harmonies. Musically, it's really difficult," Diltz said.

For musical theater buffs, "Carousel" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 3 p.m.July 20.

"I think it will be a big draw. Musical theater is HUGE here," Diltz said. She wanted to include something on the schedule that's more old-school and will include a vocal style that is more classical in nature.

OBVI also will present a modern musical theater showcase and opera scenes at 7:30 p.m.July 19.

So expect a little night music and a whole lot more.


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Source: Wichita Falls Times Record News (TX)

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