Opera Theatre Music Workshop grabs the spotlight of the spring semester


Courtesy of Southeastern Sings

Along with their performances, the Southeastern Opera Theatre partakes in competitions as well. Shown here are two students performing for last year’s National Opera Association Robert Hansen Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition.

After a successful fall semester, the Opera Theatre Music Workshop has two productions in the works for Spring 2023. 

The Opera Theatre Music Workshop has two productions per year. Every fall, the workshop produces a Broadway theater piece and an opera in the spring. This spring, there will be two small opera productions instead of one large one. 

Broadway shows are reserved for the fall semester specifically for undergraduate students who are new to the program. Performers focus on their movements, gestures, delivery and other aspects related to acting. Meanwhile, the spring operas are for students who are more experienced in using their voices to perform.

In Fall 2022, the workshop produced the Broadway version of “Little Women.” 

Charles “Chuck” Effler, director of the Opera Theatre Music Workshop, explained the hardships of the show. Effler said he believes the audience loved the show, but the cast did encounter problems. The music was harder to learn, set design was difficult because of constant location and costume changes throughout the show.

“It came out really well, but it was so hard technically to put it together and make it work,” Effler said. 

Students who participate in the productions face their own problems when trying to find a balance between rehearsals, schoolwork and personal activities. Emily Songy, a current junior education major, participates in the creation of workshop productions. 

Good time management and finding small bits of time to go over lines and blocking are essential. Overall, it is no easy task but definitely doable,” said Songy. 

Another conflict is the low number of students in the voice and music department. Effler chooses the production based on the number of students available. 

“The program is about the educational value of each show for the students that I have at hand,” Effler explained. 

The main aspect of learning comes from the music. Additionally, students gain knowledge by exploring characters and genres of the productions: drama, tragedy or comedy. 

Songy recalled her friend, Camille Talbot, helping her learn to sing with an orchestra and ensuring costume changes went smoothly. 

As students get older and have more experience, they get bigger roles in musicals and perform in operas. Students use skills acquired from the musicals and learn classical vocal techniques for operas. 

For Spring 2023 the workshop is producing “Evangeline” and “Prayers From the Ark,” both pieces by Gwyneth Walker. 

“Evangeline” is considered a chamber opera, but “Prayer From the Ark” is not. A chamber opera is a designation for operas written to be performed with a chamber ensemble rather than a full orchestra. Both contain piano instead of orchestra and are an hour or less.

“Prayers From the Ark” references Noah’s Ark and is told from the perspective of the animals aboard. “Evangeline” is a tragic romance opera centering on the expulsion of Cajuns.

From Effler’s point of view, operas are easier to produce than Broadway musicals. 

“These don’t require elaborate set lights or costumes,” Effler explained. “We plan to perform them at a local church.” 

Effler noted the fall’s success does not determine the spring’s success. 

He said, “One has nothing to do with the other. Different taste, different turnout.” 

Although auditions have been held, the Opera Theatre Music Workshop is open to all students. 

“Joining the Opera and Musical Workshop was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” said Songy. “The cast of Little Women welcomed me with open arms and made this one of the positive experiences I’ve ever had.” 

Students can find more information by visiting the Opera Theatre Music Workshop website.