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Students, faculty come together to share ‘American Voices’

Students stepped into the Great Depression era for Loper Opera’s performance of “American Voices.” The show was performed Saturday evening and at a Sunday matinee. 

The opera production by American composers was a pastiche of scenes, meaning all the excerpts were related to a central theme.

“I love that we got to do scenes because it let us see more of what American opera has [to offer],” said Zac Ochsner, a senior performer majoring in music education. “Instead of just doing one show from one composer, we got to explore more of them.”

Students in the Opera Workshop course prepared all semester to put on the performance. 

The show included scenes from “Down in the Valley” by Kurt Weill, “Three Decembers” by Jake Heggie, “The Grapes of Wrath” by Ricky Ian Gordon, “Cold Mountain” by Jennifer Higdon and “The Tender Land” by Aaron Copland. 

“American Voices” was directed by Anne Foradori and choreographed by Noelle Bohaty. Nine students and one faculty member performed on stage, while other students worked as stage managers and sound and lighting crew. A piano was placed in front of the stage for Mirim Kim, the department’s collaborative pianist. 

This is Foradori’s 28th year at UNK, and she has directed over 30 productions. This semester, the schedule for rehearsals was based on the students’ availability.

“Some of the music was more difficult than others,” Foradori said. “They have to work hard and they have to work independently. After a little bit of note-pounding, you have to get into a practice room and do your part of it so you come back for the next rehearsal prepared.”

The UNK Men’s Chorus was also incorporated into the performance. The choir is directed by John Petzet, and he prepared the singers’ piece. Alison Gaines conducted the choir for the performances. This was the second time in Foradori’s career that a choir has been a part of the opera workshop’s production.

Projected images throughout the show also added to the performance. This is the first time a digital projection has been used, though they used printed backgrounds in the past. 

“I wanted to evoke a time, a location and a sentiment with it,” Foradori said.

The slideshow changed along with the music and set the ever-changing mood of each piece. Some photos were black and white from the era, while other images were modern and in color but still showed the message of the scene.

Though “American Voices” was a portrayal of scenes from different operas, Loper Opera will perform the full production of the revue “The World Goes ‘Round” in the spring.

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