Music

SMU Opera to perform ‘Singing Violin’

Free performance at Fort Burgwin is part of the Ima Leete Hutchinson Concert Series

By Ariana Kramer
Posted 7/22/17

The Southern Methodist University Opera will present “The Singing Violin” for its annual Ima Leete Hutchison concert as part of the SMU-in-Taos Cultural Institute.

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Music

SMU Opera to perform ‘Singing Violin’

Free performance at Fort Burgwin is part of the Ima Leete Hutchinson Concert Series

Posted

The Southern Methodist University Opera will present “The Singing Violin” for its annual Ima Leete Hutchison concert as part of the SMU-in-Taos Cultural Institute. “The Singing Violin” was composed by SMU Professor Emeritus Simon Sargon, who will be in attendance with his wife, Bonnie, at the Taos performance.

Sargon’s one-act opera will be performed by students from the award-winning Meadows School of the Arts opera theater program at SMU. The performance is planned Saturday (July 22),  8:15 p.m., in the O’Donnell Auditorium on the SMU-in-Taos Fort Burgwin campus, located approximately 10 miles south of Talpa at 6580 State Road 518. Admission to the concert is free.

Hank Hammett, SMU director of opera, will direct and produce “The Singing Violin” in Taos.

In a phone interview, Hammett said, “We thought it would be a wonderful thing for the people who attend the Cultural Institute to see a work by an SMU composer. [Sargon] has been a great gift to the university with his talent and skill.”

Sargon has served as professor of composition at SMU in Dallas, Texas, beginning in 1983. He recently retired, according to Hammett.

As a colleague, Hammett said Sargon is “fantastic, unbelievable, kind, supportive, just marvelous, giving and generous, just the loveliest man.”

Hammett noted that Sargon is a Jewish composer. “He has written some monumental works based on Jewish stories and other kinds of music for celebratory occasions. That doesn’t narrow him, but he ... is particularly revered in the Jewish community.”

According to Sargon’s website biography (simonsargon.com), he was appointed director of music at Temple Emanu-El in 1974, a position he held for 27 years. The Dallas temple is one of the largest Reform Jewish congregations in the United States. Sargon became a major contemporary figure in American Jewish liturgical music, composing two complete Friday evening services, a Sabbath morning service and numerous solo and choral works. His music is regularly performed in synagogues across the United States.

Three of Sargon’s works have been premiered by The Dallas Symphony Orchestra. His instrumental and vocal works have been performed nationally and internationally. Sargon received the Annual Award of Recognition from American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (1991-present). Additionally, he was a finalist in the National Opera Association Competition and was awarded first prize in the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition.

Prior to the Taos performance of “The Singing Violin,” Sargon will address the audience.

“Everyone will get a chance to meet him and talk to him,” Hammett said.

Of the seven students who will be performing the opera, three are recent SMU graduates, three are undergraduates and one is a performer’s diploma student. They are Jessica Emery on violin; Quintin Coleman (baritone) as Baron Frederick; Marissa Pyron (soprano) as Leila; Regina Branford (soprano) as Susannah; Shelbi Herndon (mezzo-soprano) as Katia; Joe Whitenton (tenor) as Lavuta, a young woodsman; and Lizzy D’Apice as Genevieve, the baron’s deceased Gypsy wife.

Dale Dietert is the music director for the performance, Sara Romersberger is movement director and Russell Parkman is scenic designer.

“The Singing Violin” was composed by Sargon in 1995. Its original debut was at SMU in Dallas, and it was performed there again this past school year. Those students who took part in this year’s performance will be flying out to Taos to participate in the Fort Burgwin performance of the opera.

According to Hammett, the storyline for the opera is based on an old Roma (Gypsy) tale. In the story, two older sisters are jealous of and mistreat their youngest sister. Eventually, they push her over a cliff. The sisters’ deceased mother intervenes and the plot unfolds magically with a singing violin and a happy ending for all.

“The music has a lot of individual character,” Hammett said. “There are also really lovely melodies. … There are some moments that are spectacularly tender and passionate and beautiful. … I think Simon did a wonderful job of setting this story to music.”

The SMU-in-Taos Cultural Institute provides 2 1/2 days of short courses exploring Northern New Mexico’s cultures, scientific contributions and recreational opportunities. The Ima Leete Hutchison Concert Series is funded through an endowment established in 1989 by William and Patsy Hutchison in honor of William Hutchison’s mother.

For more information, call (575) 758-8322.

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