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South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

South Dakota State University's Independent Student-Run Newspaper Since 1885

The Collegian

30 students get rare opportunity, perform with professionals in opera

The Teatro Liricio DEuropra, the troupe based in Bulgaria, and the SDSU students perform La Boheme by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini last Friday
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The Teatro Liricio D’Europra, the troupe based in Bulgaria, and the SDSU students perform “La Boheme” by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini last Friday

Art enthusiasts last week were treated to the first-ever opera in Woodbine Productions history, and as an added bonus, 30 South Dakota State University students got to participate.  

The Teatro Liricio D’Europa, the troupe, based in Bulgaria, and the students performed “La Boheme” by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini last Friday. This gave the production students a one-of-a-kind opportunity to perform with professionals.  

Woodbine Productions has put on various events at SDSU for the past 18 years thanks to an anonymous donor who pays the costs of performances. That donor also gives scholarships to support students who are music and theater majors.  

The students who participated in the opera went to practice before a master class began on Friday, and a group of students performing in the choir shared their experience in practicing for the event.  

“It was really crazy,” Jamee Kattner said, a junior music education major and one of the SDSU students selected to perform in the opera. “I think we were really well prepared.”  

To prepare for the event, the choir students learned and practiced their lines in Italian for three weeks.  

Before the event, students attended a master class taught by the opera singers themselves. In the Performing Arts Center, the performers gave testimonials of their journey in their careers. At the end of the hour, they gave advice to the students and answered questions. 

“It’s important to remain who you are,” Hanna Brammer said, the lead soprano singer in ‘Boheme,’ “even as you’re trying to create this art and share these things with people because that’s what matters most.”  

Brammer also gave her tips and tricks to stay hydrated and keep overall physical health in check. Good health is important as performers keep up with their jam-packed schedules that consist of little sleep, traveling constantly, and working in different environments.  

“Find the things that make you feel like you,” Susanne Burgess, the other soprano in the opera said to the students. “Find a routine, like you wake up and go running, or journal, something that keeps you grounded because you’ll wake up in different cities all the time.”  

Burgess and Brammer talked about keeping mental health and physical health in check.  

Valerian Ruminski, a bass opera singer stepped in with a “contrarian view” to tell the students about his experience with singers using illness and ‘health techniques’ as an excuse to not perform.   

“I see this all the time,” Ruminski said, “I think that the proper mental perspective on health is yeah, do the best you can, but also, be like a bull. You can sing through anything and everything. Don’t make excuses not to sing.”  

Alexander Boyd, a baritone singer in the opera said, “You’re never going to feel 100%, but you have to try.”  

Then it continued into Friday night with the event. The opera showcased the professionals and the students appeared in the acts from time to time in the 3-hour production. English subtitles were projected above the performers near the ceiling to translate the lines.  

The opera itself was based on a novel and French play by Henri Murger that Puccini read and included elements of his own life. The plot of the opera centered around themes of poverty, love, heartbreak and even death. Yet, the opera still had comedic relief that made the audience laugh.  

Brammer said that “La Boheme” is significant because it tells the story of “normal people trying to eke out their existence, you know, no money, and they still find love and tragedy in all these emotions that we experience throughout our lives. Opera is special because it tells stories about real people and it might not seem like that right away, because it’s in Italian or it’s in French or in German, so it seems like it’s unrelatable, but when you dig into the words and learn the stories, it’s some of the most beautiful things to share with each other.”  

“I think it’s so cool to see, we’ve all seen that there’s theater here,” said Kattner. “There’s a lot of amazing choral experiences here, but to do a real opera is something that I think we’ll never forget and I think what this town will never forget.”  

What’s next for Woodbine Productions will welcome Broadway singer Brian Stokes Mitchell in October, Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra in February, along with the Chanticleer ensemble in April. 

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