April 17, 2015 | by Ashton Dawes
Courtesy of The Daily Mississippian
The Ford Center will host the world premiere of a new opera written by University of Mississippi alumna Nancy Van de Vate Saturday night.
“Hamlet” has only been adapted as an opera once before in the mid-to-late 19th century by French composer Ambroise Thomas, but now thanks to composer Nancy Van de Vate, the Shakespearian tragedy will grace the operatic stage anew.
“This is a chance to see (Hamlet) actually set to music in an opera where you have this wonderful, expressive device of the music helping support this already tremendous play,” said Julia Aubrey, director of the opera program and associate professor of music. “We call it ‘the perfect play becomes the perfect opera.’”
The story of the play as it was written by Shakespeare has not been altered, but merely enhanced through the composition of Van de Vate.
Ford Center Marketing Director Kate Meacham said Van de Vate is “an incredibly prolific composer of all types of music.”
“She’s very well-known in the upper world in Europe,” Meacham said.
Van de Vate and Aubrey together decided to bring the premiere of “Hamlet” to UM, Meacham said.
The opera is new to the stage, and this is an “incredible opportunity” for both the university and the students who will be singing in the production.
UM opera students traditionally perform either an opera or a few scenes from operas every year. “Hamlet,” however, is a full-scale production not strictly limited to opera students. The cast includes two university faculty members and students Jacquelyn Skoog, Kyle Davis and Andrew Ross. Guest artists from Samford University and New York City will also join the production as well as fight choreographer Christopher Schager from Northeast University. Norman Easterbrook, director of the Ford Center, is production manager and a large orchestra will also accompany the singers on stage.
Everything has been custom-designed for the performers in the adaptation.
“We have an incredible set,” Aubrey said. “All of the costumes have been made specifically for the performance.”
This Saturday’s premiere marks more than just the debut of “Hamlet” at UM, however. In May, the performers, orchestra and crew will all be traveling to Prague for the European premiere of Van de Vate’s adaption of “Hamlet.”
The cast and crew will be taking along all of their costumes and props as they travel abroad to showcase both the opera and the university’s opera program. “Hamlet” will be performed with the Czech Moravian Philharmonic under the conductor Petr Vronsky.
“Hamlet” will premiere at 7:30 p.m. on April 18 in the Ford Center. Tickets are $30 for general admissions seating for the public. For students, the tickets are $10 with a student ID. Tickets can be purchased online at fordcenter.org or at the UM box office in the Student Union. The student discount is unavailable online. Due to length and content, it is advised that patrons be of middle school age or older to attend.