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A review: A night at the opera

04/09/2014

Last month, several students from Jacksonville State University attended The Atlanta Opera’s March 2014 production of Charles-François Gounod’s Faust, held at the Cobb Energy Center for Performing Arts in Georgia. The performance was divided into five acts, each act showcasing the strength of the human voice in dramatic, but also delicate ways.

The plot involved an older gentleman by the name of Faust who made a deal with the devil to reinstate his youth in an effort to gain the affections of his beloved Marguerite. The actors and actresses sang in French, and the performance was accompanied by English subtitles to increase the crowd’s comprehension of the plot.

Opera is the absolute height of drama; all dialogue is expressed in song, and as expected, there is a live orchestra. Involved in the orchestra was the JSU’s very own Eryn Oft of the David L. Walters Department of Music.

Along with special research projects, Oft teaches courses in music history, reed making, private lessons, chamber music and master classes for the Double Reed Studio. She was also the force behind JSU’s Double Reed Day earlier this year, where students were able to get hands-on experience with the everyday maintenance and proper playing techniques of their instruments.

Her experience with the Atlanta Opera began in January of this year. “I was called in as Auxiliary Principal Bassoon,” says Oft.

Not only were her students amazed by the facility, but she was just as satisfied with such a marvelous performance space.

“The Cobb Energy Center is beautiful,” she says. “The pit, where the orchestra is located just below and in front of the stage - allows for a brilliance of sound. I was surprised by how much I could truly 'play out'- meaning fortissimo. I had created light reeds, or feathers, as I call them, just for the occasion. But I ended up playing on heavier, darker, louder reeds because the space and the ensemble could handle it!”

Like many of her colleagues, Oft believes that students should get to see their teachers or instructors perform, and they should attend any live performance of music to strengthen their understanding of such an intricate craft.

“I think it is important for students to go to as many live performances of high quality productions as possible. It helps music students in particular to develop their ‘ear’ or listening skills. It helps them put music in a historical context and gives deeper meaning to their studies,” says Oft. “But most importantly, it can inspire, and being inspired keeps students curious, creating lifelong learning.”

The Atlanta Opera’s next production, to be held in late April and early May, is entitled The Barber of Seville, by Gioachino Rossini. For more information on the Atlanta Opera or the next production, visit http://www.atlantaopera.org/.

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