East Carolina University’s Opera Theater will perform Engelbert Humperdick’s Hansel and Gretel tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Turnage Theater.
Director of ECU’s Opera Theater and faculty member in the department of vocal studies, Daniel Shirley, explained that the show will be a perfect performance for first-time opera goers.
“Hansel and Gretel is the perfect first opera for audience members who are unfamiliar with the art form,” Shirley said. “We are performing in English, and the opera features music which is both recognizable and approachable.”
Junior vocal music education major and the actress who will perform as Hansel, Meredith Howell, explained that this will be her first major role in one of ECU’s Opera Theater performances. She said that she is excited to be able to implement what she learns on a day to day basis and apply it to an on stage performance.
“It is so beautiful to take what I learn in the classroom during the day and put it up on stage. Between learning the role, character development and proper vocal technique, I strive to be the best that I can be,” Howell said. “This is one of the many ways that I am able to take what I am learning and apply it in such a functional and fun way.”
She also explained that she has learned so much through opera, has gone through many vocal changes and it has allowed her to test her strengths and weaknesses.
Senior vocal performance major and the actress who will play as Hansel and Gretel’s mother, Maggie Fox, has learned firsthand that opera puts a lot of strain on an individual. She said the biggest challenge leading up to the performance has been changing her vocal technique.
“A couple of years ago I started to have pain when I sang and I went to the ENT. They told me that I had pre-nodular swelling, which happens when the vocal chords swell do to overuse,” Fox said. “I had to decide to change the way I sang, and keep going no matter how difficult it seemed, that is probably the biggest hurdle I have had to overcome in my college career.”
Howell explains how much she loves and appreciates the Opera Theater and its faculty for giving her the experiences that she will remember when she goes out in the real world to implement what she has learned into her teachings as an aspiring choir teacher.
“To be a public university and have such a thriving school of music and opera program is beautiful,” Howell said. “I love that we all get the opportunity to perform many different roles and gain real life experience before we even get out into the real world.”
All performers in the show are ECU students in the school of music and have been practicing since August and were cast back in April, according to Shirely. He expressed his admiration of these students and their dedication to the performance.
“This opera has been a joy to rehearse. Each role is triple-cast, which is a testament to the great student singers we have in the ECU School of Music. The students are funny, engaged, vivacious and they sing so beautifully,” Shirely said.
The choir in the performance will also feature children from throughout eastern North Carolina. Tickets will range from $20 for general admission to $15 for seniors, faculty and staff and only $5 for students. The production will be shown on three separate dates including tomorrow, Nov. 23 and Nov. 24. Tickets can be purchased on the official Arts of the Pamlico website under Events & Exhibits.