NOA Awards MSU Opera Theatre
MSU Opera Theatre garners top honors for third consecutive year.
When Melanie Helton came to campus to lead the MSU Opera Theatre 14 years ago, one of her goals was to extend the program’s visibility beyond the school stage. She has accomplished that and more, having recently garnered a first place finish in a national competition for collegiate and professional opera.
In the early fall, MSU’s 2014 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute received top honors in Division IV through the National Opera Association. The win marks the third consecutive year that an MSU opera production has been recognized by the scholarly organization, following a 2013 third place win in Division IV for A Little Night Music and a 2012 first place win in Division III for The Pirates of Penzance.
“I’d been keeping my fingers crossed,” says Helton, professor of voice and director of the MSU Opera Theatre. “The Magic Flute was a great collaboration between faculty and the students. And with so many students graduating after this production, it was wonderful to have such a successful send-off.”
Helton admits the production holds a special place in her heart, partly because she has sung The Magic Flute multiple times in her career, but mostly because of creative touches students and faculty brought to the opera. Among the twists were original costuming that resembled video game characters, an Asian-inspired set with a moving pagoda, and a modified story line with contemporary gender roles.
“We reconciled the story from a modern point of view,” says Helton. “The overall theme is that we should all go toward the light to help our fellow man. We wanted it to end with women involved, too.”
The Magic Flute was the very first piece of musical theater performed in the newly renovated Fairchild Theatre. Forty instrumentalists from the MSU Symphony Orchestra, led by Kevin Noe, director of MSU Orchestras and professor of music, provided the music for the opera and accompanied the 30 vocalists who made up the cast. Helton said, too, that a generous grant from the Worthington Family Foundation helped fund the opera, further empowering the creative and production values.
“We’re continuing to build and build on our successes,” says Helton. “It’s astonishing to see what our students can achieve.”