Murray students take opera on the road to Union and Graves counties

Members of the cast and crew for the University’s music department’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute arrived on campus at 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 26 to make sure they had time to load the sets and costumes and drive to Union County for a performance. The music department teamed up with help from MSU’s K12CONNECT program to provide a unique operatic experience for free to Union County students.

Chris Mitchell, voice professor and director of the show, has been working with students for months to prepare the opera.

Mitchell said his goal as both a music educator and an opera lover is to quash negative stereotypes surrounding the art form. Much of it, he says, comes from the fact that opera is not a big part of contemporary pop culture.

“I’m thrilled to be able to bring opera and the music of Mozart to these young audiences in an interactive, accessible, fun manner,” Mitchell said. “This hopefully teaches them through first-hand experience that this music is fun and dramatic and expressive. Live performance is still the most vital way to bring people into an art form.”

The adaptation of the full opera lasted just 45 minutes and even included performance opportunities for children in the audience.

Hosted in Union County High School’s auditorium, five cast members and three crew members arrived, constructed sets, rehearsed and performed for a few hundred students. The children came from the three elementary schools in Union County as well as performing arts students from the high school.

The K12CONNECT program funded the traveling performances. President Randy Dunn’s vision with the K12CONNECT program fits in perfectly with the opera. Murray State took a performance off campus to enrich the cross-curricular education of students within its 18-county coverage region. By knowing the needs of the regional districts, the K12CONNECT program can identify where to take opportunities like this traveling opera.

The opera tackles issues of honesty, integrity, friendship, love and much more. Michael Martin, a senior music major from St. Louis, Mo., played Papageno in one of show’s two casts. Papageno is an eccentrically dressed bird catcher who usually chooses the easy way out of tough situations. As the show progresses, Papageno learns lying and running from problems will always catch up with him.

Martin was part of a performance that traveled to Graves County High School a few weeks prior. He said lessons from traveling performances range from logistical negotiations, vocal technique and audience interaction.

 Staff report.