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SHSU Opera Performance Applauded With American Prize

Oct. 14, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt, Emily Binetti

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Dido & Aeneas
A scene from SHSU's production of "Dido and Aeneas," which was performed in the spring. —Submitted photo

Sam Houston State University’s Opera presentation of “Dido and Aeneas” has been given a “curtain call” as the 2014 winner of The American Prize in Opera Performance’s college/university division.

SHSU’s production selected from applications reviewed this summer from all across the United States.

The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit competitions founded in 2009 to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings.

“This is an absolutely wonderful production with a terrific set, superb instrumental playing, beautiful singing and skillful stage direction,” said one judge’s comments.

The performance starred vocal performance majors Ardeen Pierre and Nicholas Szoeke, but the win is a shared victory among many students and faculty of the School of Music, as well as SHSU dance, theater and mass communication, according to Rebecca Renfro Grimes, opera director.

"There were members of the SHSU Chamber Orchestra, as well as string and harp soloists, who performed; a brass choir that played baroque music arranged by Henry Howey; a dance ensemble made up of six talented dance majors that was choreographed by dance graduate student Leann Huddleston; lights and projections were designed by David Deveau and Jonathan Kinsey, who is a mass com major; and sound effects were designed by School of Music technical director Joseph Patrick," Grimes said. "In addition, theater tech student Malcolm Nichols designed and built the set, and acting major Cameron Davis played the role of 'Virgil' in the opera prologue. Costumes were designed by Linda Summers, of Fincher Fabric Fantasies, as well as student Lindsey Fuson, who also sang the title role. School of Music faculty Rob Hunt and Zachary Carrettin coached the music students in baroque performance.

"Dido & Aeneas" scene"There were dozens of very talented student artists and performers who worked tremendously hard to make this show happen, and I think it would be safe to say that there was no one real 'star' of the production," she said. "It takes a village to produce opera, and we had a really spectacular village for this project."

The SHSU Opera is a 25-member collegiate performing group comprising only undergraduate singers.

The focus of the ensemble is to provide performance training for young musicians who wish to pursue opera studies after their undergraduate career, according to Grimes.

Its performance schedule includes a scenes program, a full production and a summer intensive each year.

In addition, the group represents the SHSU School of Music in various outreach events for the university.

Winners of The American Prize receive cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition based on recorded performances.

In addition to monetary rewards and written evaluations from judges, winners are profiled on The American Prize website, where links will lead to video and audio excerpts of winning performances.

In addition to The American Prize, SHSU Opera was selected as a finalist in the National Opera Association Scenes Competition in 2011, 2012 and 2013, earning second prize in the 2012 NOA Opera Production competition for their production of “Opera Incognito,” an opera scenes program that integrated film noir into the opera performance.



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