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Exchange students from Ireland make music with UConn Opera

by Beth Krane - January 23, 2006

UConn Opera is starting the spring semester hosting a group of visiting international musicians. Whirlwind preparations are under way for a joint performance at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Jan. 28.

The visit, part of UConn Opera’s first formal international exchange program, began Jan. 21, when seven student opera singers and three faculty members from Opera Studio Ireland arrived on campus. Opera Studio Ireland is part of the Conservatory of Music and Drama at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

The exchange includes a week of joint rehearsals and master classes taught by both UConn and DIT faculty, and culminates with the “A Night at the Opera” performance on Jan. 28. While in Storrs, the DIT students are staying in dormitories with students in UConn Opera.

The international exchange was initiated by William Halpin, a visiting professor at DIT who is pursuing his doctorate in conducting at UConn while on sabbatical from DIT, and was supported at UConn by Kenneth Fuchs, professor and head of the music department; Sylvia McClain, associate professor and head of vocal studies; and Constance Rock, an assistant professor of voice.

“To work together on a project with people from a similar institution in another country has an incredible power to motivate and to allow both students and faculty to learn, grow, and reinforce their teaching and learning abilities on an ongoing basis,” says Halpin, who conducted Hansel and Gretel with the UConn Opera at the Jorgensen in November.

Rock says: “Our students will benefit from the exposure to singers with like interests but different cultural backgrounds. They also will benefit from the master classes with new instructors as well as their instructors here at UConn.”

“A Night at the Opera,” which begins at 8 p.m., will present scenes from some of the most popular operas including Bizet’s Carmen; J. Strauss’ Die Fledermaus; three Mozart operas, including Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, and Cosi fan tutte; three works by Verdi, including A Masked Ball, La Traviata, and Rigoletto; and Rossini’s Cinderella and The Barber of Seville.

Rock says UConn Opera and Opera Studio Ireland will perform scenes from popular operas rather than stage a full opera because of time constraints and because it is considered more acceptable to perform scenes in concert dress than it is to perform a full opera without costumes and sets.

Even tackling scenes instead of a full opera, however, it will be a busy week for students and faculty, she says.

“It will certainly be a challenge,” she adds, “but it also will be an enriching experience and I hope it will be really fun for everyone involved.”

“A Night at the Opera” will take place in the Cabaret setting in the Jorgensen’s lower lobby. Regular tickets cost $15, senior tickets $13, and student tickets $10. Dessert, coffee, and tea are included, and proceeds will benefit UConn Opera.

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