The classic opera "Hansel and Gretel" will be produced on the Chamber Hall stage at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. Two shows for local children will take place Friday, Dec. 6.
Students bring ‘Hansel and Gretel’ to stage and schools
December 4, 2013Tweet
For Thomas Goodheart, it is imperative that today’s youth be exposed to opera. So Goodheart’s vocal students are not only performing in a production of the classic opera “Hansel and Gretel,” but they have been conducting workshops at local schools to prepare children for the show.
“If we want an opera audience for the future we have to teach children at an early age,” said Goodheart, an assistant professor of voice. “That means going out into the schools, being hands-on and showing them what opera has to offer. I think it is important to get out into the community and work with young people.”
The holiday-season adaption of “Hansel and Gretel” will be showcased to local school children at 10 a.m. and noon Friday, Dec. 6, in the AC-Chamber Hall. Two performances will be available for the public: 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, in the AC-Chamber Hall. Tickets are $10, general public; $7, faculty/staff/seniors; and $5, students. The production is accompanied by duo pianists Margaret Reitz and John Isenberg under the baton of Timothy Perry, conductor.
This semester, Goodheart and his students have conducted workshops for 700 students at a dozen local schools ranging in age from pre-kindergartners at Campus Pre-School to high-school students in Norwich. Instead of listening to performances, children are learning about conducting, working with props, and singing various parts from the show.
“When they come here, they can think: ‘That looks like my picture’ or ‘I sang that song’ or ‘There’s the conductor. He is conducting in 4/4,’” Goodheart said. “It’s an active involvement with the students.”
Caitlin Gotimer, a junior from Malverne who plays the mother in “Hansel and Gretel,” has enjoyed the student workshops.
“It’s been a cool experience,” she said. “I’ve worked with two different age groups. You get to teach kids a lot more than they know, and they have a lot of fun with it.”
Goodheart cited Tri-Cities Opera—the University’s partner in the master of music program – as an example of an organization that has helped opera reach new audiences throughout its 65-year history.
While visiting school children and teaching them about opera has been enjoyable, there is something even more special about performing “Hansel and Gretel” for them, said graduate student Meroë Khalia Adeeb of Accokeek, Md., who plays Gretel.
“Performing for children is completely different than performing for adults,” said Adeeb, who is in her first year of the master of music program. “Kids react instantly. You get an immediate response when they like something. It’s exciting that they cheer and boo for some characters. It is rewarding to perform for them.”
The Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” – about a brother and sister threatened by a witch who lives in a house made of candies and cake—was adapted to opera in the late 19th century by Engelbert Humperdinck. The Binghamton University show will be a one-act adaptation sung in English.
“It’s great opera and it’s sophisticated music,” Goodheart said. “The way we’ve structured the production tells the entire story in 1 act as opposed to the original 3 acts.
This is the fourth year that Goodheart has produced a holiday opera, as students first performed “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” But Goodheart wanted a show with more roles, particularly for women.
“’Hansel and Gretel’ seemed like the obvious answer,” he said. “It’s a holiday show, it would attract an audience, and it allowed us to make the best use of the singers we have.”
Those singers now feature eight master’s students and 11 undergraduate voice majors ranging in age from 17-28. The singers are all students of Goodheart and Associate Professor Mary Burgess. Combining experienced graduate students with a growing number of undergraduate students in a supportive environment has been central to the goals of the class performances.
“It’s been helpful to work with the graduate students because they have so much knowledge and experience,” said Christina Santa Maria, a junior from Brooklyn who plays Hansel. “For example, I pay attention to how Meroë has put acting and singing together and how she is concerned about her vocal health.”
The students are even benefitting from the work of Binghamton University alumni, as David Toulson ’97 returned to campus for five weeks to direct “Hansel and Gretel.” Toulson has spent the last decade directing operas across the country for companies such as the Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera and Asheville Lyric Opera.
“He’s the person responsible for putting this production together,” Goodheart said. “He is a terrific young director working his way up in the opera world.”
The “Hansel and Gretel” performances will be the culmination of the work done this semester in the Stage Techniques for the Singing Actor class.