The School of Music’s artistic partnership with Seattle production company Pacific MusicWorks is breaking new ground in artistic-academic collaboration. It also is creating valuable performance and learning opportunities for the School’s voice and instrumental performance students.
A student-focused production of The Magic Flute on May 6 at the University of Washington benefits from the same stage direction, sets, translation, orchestra, and conducting as the Pacific MusicWorks professional production opening on May 8 at Meany Theater. But instead of PMW’s cast singers in the lead roles, the School’s talented voice students appear as principals.
Soprano Alexandra Picard, a doctoral candidate in Vocal Performance at UW who previously completed degrees at Harvard University and the San Francisco Conservatory, sings the role of Queen of the Night in the student cast production. She previously has performed the role with Rogue Opera in Oregon, the New Opera Festival in Rome, Italy, the Willamette Concert Opera in Oregon, Spokane Opera, and most recently, this past fall with Tacoma Opera in its Salish-inspired production.
"I've sung Queen of the Night for various different productions, and this one is truly unique," she says. "(Stage director) Dan Miller's concept is totally fascinating and new, a vaudeville-meets-Descartes experience complete with steam punk Queen of the Night and her ladies."
In her UW turn, Picard, along with her student castmates, receives coaching from PMW's Grammy winning conductor Stephen Stubbs, a recent addition to the UW faculty who is recognized internationally as a leading baroque opera specialist. She sings with the accompaniment of the Pacific MusicWorks Orchestra, a talented group of musicians in the pit sitting side by side with some of the UW's top music students.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes together as we have more rehearsals together as a cast," Picard says. "This is a very non-traditional take on Flute with an interesting plot twist at the end. Working with Stephen Stubbs has helped me delve deeper into the music and all of the wonderful nuance that Mozart intended, but that often is breezed over in larger more-traditional productions."
Proximity to the professional singers brought in by PMW to create a world-class performance also provides up-close exposure to the realities of the opera profession as well as avenues for mentorship by those with whom they perform.
“Working with Pacific MusicWorks has provided invaluable knowledge about what it’s like to work for a professional opera company,” says Dakota Miller, a second year master's student in vocal performance playing the Third Lady in the May 6 production and who last year played Ino in the student cast of PMW's presentation of Semele.
“Every professional, not just the one who I was doubling, took the time to talk to me about my voice and future plan.”
School of Music director Richard Karpen says such opportunities are valuable enhancements to the academic study and performance training that vocal performance students undergo in their degree programs at the School of Music.
"The vocal performance students who are involved with our PMW collaborations are getting an 'added value,' if you will, to their standard degree studies here," Karpen says. "In addition to their involvement with student productions, recitals, private lessons, and outreach activities in the community that are part of the voice curriculum at UW, the chance to take part in professional opera productions is a wonderful way to develop new strengths and abilities through on and off-stage experience. We are beyond pleased to be able to extend these opportunities to the talented students in our Vocal Performance program."
Admission to the May 6, 2015 Student Cast Performance of the Magic Flute, presented by UW Music and Pacific MusicWorks, is free and open to the public.
This production is made possible with the help of our devoted friends. Please consider supporting the UW School of Music Opera program, which provides students opportunities to participate in the production of great operas such as those produced through our partnership with Pacific MusicWorks. Visit our website or call 206-543-1221 to make or your gift today.