Teamwork was one of the important techniques put into play for In A Garden, which the chamber opera performed in the competition. Everything and everyone — from the singing to the directing, to the set design, to the lights — worked well together to create a solid structured offering, say members of the ensemble.
From the perspective of Kaylon Gilley, one of the three singers, the performance exhibited precision and the result of lots of hard work.
“It was a good ensemble,” he said. “We had worked with each other in choir and opera before. And the ensemble, being small, helped us to interact with each other better.”
Nathan Wight, executive director of JOT, accepted the award earlier this month at NOA’s gala banquet in Memphis, Tenn. In A Garden was presented for the public in the Performance Center in Mason Hall on campus Jan. 15 of last year, and in June, videos were sent to NOA as for entry in the competition. The entries were judged on musical accuracy, production values and concept, staging and execution of the opera, actors’ and directors’ sensitivity to music and dramatic style. The singers, Meg Griffin, Gilley and Jacob Cummings, are seasoned singers at JSU, said Teresa Stricklin, who was assistant director of In A Garden. The opera, she said, demanded a high degree of musicianship and vocal flexibility.
The story, which centers on children playing a game, is by Gertrude Stein, who was an American poet of the 20th century. The composer was Meyer Kupferman, a self-taught American composer and clarinetist. It was with this opera, which premiered in the late 1940s, that the composer first gained attention.
In the plot, two brothers and a girl, their friend, play a game that leads them to pretend death through murder and suicide. The young girl wants to be a queen. The two boys pretend to be kings and inform her that she must be married to a king in order to be a queen. In the fight with each other to win her hand, both are mortally wounded. Even though they are both dead and she is alone now, she decides that she still will be the queen. In the end, the audience is reminded that this was just a game.
It’s a dark scenario but the story has a point, Gilley explained.
“The story reminds me that children have such big and vivid imaginations,” Gilley said. “We should pay more attention to them and their games because their creativity and dreams can lead to accomplishments later on.”
JOT and University of Alabama Birmingham Opera, which was the first-place winner, were honored along with opera programs from University of North Texas, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Bob Jones University, according to Wight. UAB’s offering was Benjamin Bitten’s The Burning Fiery Furnace, which reflects the story of Daniel and the lion’s den from the Bible.
JOT presents the opera Romeo and Juliet March 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. with the Etowah Youth Orchestra in Wallace Hall on the campus of Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden. For ticket information, visit www.JacksonvilleOpera.org or call 256-543-2787 Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. JOT can be reached at 256-782-5876.