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Opera Blooms at Mason

"An opera lover's delight," comments Fairfax Station resident Jim Bennett

Opera always blooms at Mason, but for one spring evening its astounding beauty reached its peak. 

Professor Patricia Miller, the director of vocal studies at George Mason University (GMU), and Dr. Dennis Layendecker, director of the School of Music, decided to try a wonderful experiment for the "Evening of Great Opera Choruses, Arias and Ensembles” show on April 26.

Their first step was to enlist Dr. Stan Engebretson and Dr. Lisa Billingham, both directors of GMU’s elite choral groups.

When artists put their heads together, amazing results can happen. Opera Blooms at Mason! was their inspiration. The event showcased their students’ talents with works by Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Mascagni, Strauss and Puccini.

Orchestras at universities do not always have the opportunity to play in “the pit” -- in other words, to accompany singers and solo instrumentalists. For this event, the Chamber Orchestra performed under the direction of Dr. Layendecker. In addition, he conducted Professor Miller’s soloists, Dr. Engebretson’s University Singers and members of Dr. Billingham’s University Chorale.

Coordination among approximately 125 students, four conductors, 10 other professional stage managers, vocal coaches, and production managers might be somewhat problematic, but for GMU’s musicians, it was not an insurmountable challenge.

Fairfax Station resident Dr. James Bennett commented that the concert was “nothing less than an opera lover's delight.”

Bennett continued his praise. “The opera ensemble performed flawlessly and with energy and intensity. The program was opened by the overture to Strauss’ well-loved opera, Die Fledermaus, which set the stage for a marvelous evening.”

After listening to the Chamber Orchestra’s performance, the audience was then delighted by the talented vocalists.

The arias, noted Dr. Bennett, “were uniformly received with rousing applause.”

The University Singers and Chorale had a major role in the concert, providing the choruses that are vital to operas.

“No one who loves either classical music or opera should miss such affordable and convenient performances,” Bennett said.

To see a full list of upcoming GMU performances, visit their website.

Patricia Mandes May 12, 2011 at 01:10 PM
FYI--Two extraordinary young tenors, Hyo-Chang An and Juan Sim, melted the hearts of the audience when they sang Puccini’s poignant aria Nessun Dorma. You will hear from these young men in performances with nationally recognized professional opera companies in the future.
William Wilson May 12, 2011 at 01:50 PM
This informative and insightful article about opera at Mason is PRECISELY the type of reporting that appeals to residents of Fairfax Station, Clifton, and Burke who are so close to the wonderful performing arts programs at GMU. Mason's world-class faculty often give recitals that are FREE to the public; student performances held frequently throughout the academic year are either free or offered at nominal costs to defray expenses. The quality of these performances is nothing less than superb, and Patricia Mandes should be commended for publicizing this marvelous community resource.
Mary Anne Thompson May 12, 2011 at 08:17 PM
This story has opened up new vistas for me and my family. Although we live in Fairfax Station, we have until recently been largely unaware of the fantastic faculty, students, and performances at George Mason University. Patricia Mandes writes important stories that benefit our local community and enrich our lives. Please keep us informed in advance of coming attractions at Mason
Helena O'Neill May 13, 2011 at 01:36 PM
I have been trying to plan a musical day out with a lovely and talented pianist friend of mine, hoping to find a chorus because the voice is the instrument of my choice, and when I read this article I realized that there are wonderful opportunities right down the street! I don't go into the city that much and it seems that I don't have to. Thank you Trish Mandes for highlighting my alma mater and I will make GMU my destination for my next musical adventure.
Martha May 14, 2011 at 01:22 PM
Thanks again, Ms. Mandes, for alerting us to the cultural offerings available in the area!
Marcia May 14, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Having sampled the high-quality musical performances offered at "Arts By George" in past years, I am delighted to learn that the public can enjoy the richness of GMU's music program at other times during the academic year.
letty Macdonald May 16, 2011 at 12:31 AM
So sorry to have missed this fabulous performance. In the future, I will pay more attention to these wonderful offerings at GMU.
K M May 16, 2011 at 06:46 PM
great article! hope that i can take advantage of these performances in the future.

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