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University of Mississippi

VIDEO: Opera Theatre’s Hamlet World Premiere

Adaptation is latest work by acclaimed UM alumna Nancy Van de Vate

Nancy Van de Vate listens to the cast and orchestra during the sitzprobe, or seated rehearsal, in the Ford Center.

Nancy Van de Vate listens to the cast and orchestra during the sitzprobe, or seated rehearsal, in the Ford Center.


The University of Mississippi Opera Theatre Ensemble presented the world premiere of “Hamlet: Prince of Denmark” April 18, 2015 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The opera, composed by alumna Nancy Van de Vate (MM composition ’58), adapts the classic Shakespeare play. The production features faculty, staff and students on stage and in the orchestra, and the entire cast traveled to Prague to perform May 30 with the Moravian Philharmonic.

Nancy Van de Vate

Nancy Van de Vate

Van de Vate said Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is beautifully written and the structure is very much like an opera, allowing a smooth transition from stage play to opera theatre.

But the process of composing isn’t complete until the opera comes to life, she said.

“I can put black spots on paper, but the piece doesn’t exist until it’s performed,” Van de Vate said.

Van de Vate completed her undergraduate education at Wellesley College and came to UM to earn her master’s degree in music composition. She went on to earn a Doctor of Music degree from Florida State University.

She has composed more than 115 works in many different forms and is considered one of the world’s most accomplished female composers. She resides in Vienna, having received dual citizenship for her musical achievements and contributions to the Republic of Austria.

“I’m delighted to be back in Oxford, and I’m thrilled to work with such a fine music department,” she said.

Julia Aubrey

Julia Aubrey, associate professor of music and director of opera theatre

Julia Aubrey, associate professor of music and director of opera theatre, serves as the production’s artistic and stage director.

“This is very much a University of Mississippi and community project,” Aubrey said. “We have faculty, students, guest artists and community members working on stage, in the orchestra pit and behind the scenes. To stage ‘Hamlet’ as a play can be daunting. To direct it as an opera is an exciting challenge. This production gives the university and Oxford an opportunity to experience something extraordinary.”

The performance also featured guest singers for the lead roles. Tenor Ryan MacPherson performed the role of Hamlet, UM music faculty members Jennifer and Bradley Robinson performed as Gertrude and Claudius, and guest faculty artist G. William Bugg, of Samford University, performed as the ghost/gravedigger.

“It’s an honor to be performing something as powerful and challenging as ‘Hamlet,’” MacPherson said. “I hope the audience found not only a love for contemporary music and new opera, but also an appreciation of Mrs. Van de Vate as a writer.”

“We are very pleased to have produced this project in collaboration with the Department of Music opera program,” said Norm Easterbrook, Ford Center director. “It was a very satisfying opportunity for us to utilize our resources to yield a highly rewarding experiences for our students, faculty and staff.

“We are profoundly grateful to the Ford Foundation, the Office of the Provost, College of Liberal Arts, and donors to our Ford Center Friends program for their continuing support, without which this project simply would not have come to fruition.”