Wayland opera class schedules year-end performance

April 22, 2010

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University senior Rebecca Ballinger will give her final performance as a student on the Wayland stage this Thursday and Friday, April 29-30, as WBU students perform four one-act operas. The performance will be held in Wayland’s Harral Memorial Auditorium at 7:30 each evening.

Ballinger, a vocal performance major from Lubbock, will take on the title role in Giacomo Puccini’s  “Suor Angelica.” The opera is about a young woman of nobility who becomes pregnant. Her family forces her to give up the child and move to a convent. While there, she is visited by an aunt who she thinks will bring her news of going home. Instead the aunt tells her that she is basically being disinherited by the family, and that her child has died.

“It’s very tragic,” said Wayland Director of Vocal Studies, Opera and Musical Theatre Jeff Kensmoe.

“[Angelica] is a person who has had to come to grips with a giant change in her life,” Ballinger explained. “She has had to give up all her hopes and dreams because her family told her to. The whole story is about her finding a way to come to grips with that fact.”

Ballinger, who will attend Kansas State University where she will serve as a teaching assistant and work on her master’s degree in vocal performance, was a logical choice for the title role. In fact, she was the only choice for Kensmoe.

“I would not have tackled this opera if not for Rebecca being here,” Kensmoe said. “She has to sing very high and very loud for long periods of time. It is very taxing on the voice.”

The 50-minute opera will give way to three shorter pieces, including The Worst One Ever, written by Wayland Associate Professor of Piano Pedagogy and Composition Dr. Gary Belshaw. The piece premiered last month at the School of Music’s President’s Concert. It features three co-eds lamenting relationships with a professor, boyfriend and father. Belshaw said the inspiration for the opera came from a piano student he had who was so terrified of making a mistake that she could not play the piano.

“I thought somewhere, there is an opera in there,” Belshaw said.

The opera features a student who is waiting for her grade to be posted by the professor who is so inconsiderate for making her wait that he is obviously the worst one ever. Another co-ed wants to go somewhere with her boyfriend, but he wants to drag her somewhere she is not interested, so he is obviously the worst one ever. The third co-ed is trying to talk her father into letting her attend an overnight trip to Dallas. As she awaits the reply she is convinced that her father is obviously the worst one ever.

Belshaw, who wrote the piece last fall, said the opera has a very “Mozart” kind of ending.

“All of a sudden, everybody is hysterically happy,” he said.

Two other pieces will be featured during the performance, including “A Hand of Bridge,” a 9-minute opera featuring four people playing bridge who sing about the things going on in their lives, and “Signor DeLuso,” a French comedy of errors that must be sorted out by the maid.

“This is another of those performances that has something for everyone,” Kensmoe said. “There are guaranteed places to make you laugh and guaranteed places to make you cry.”

The performances should last about 90 minutes. Admission to the opera is free and open to the public.