Opera Theater

Donald Rierson, director

Membership is by audition only and open to any JMU student. The James Madison University Opera Theater is devoted to providing developing singers with opportunities to perform in fully staged operas and operettas. JMU Opera produces one fully staged opera, one operetta, and an opera scenes gala each year. Performances take place in the multi-million dollar Forbes Center for the performing arts and have attracted esteemed guest conductors to work with students. Students involved in JMU Opera hail from prominent performing arts high schools, universities, and conservatories and are pursuing degrees in Music Performance and Education at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Past productions have included critically acclaimed performances of "The Merry Widow," "Cosi fan Tutte," "Suor Angelica," "The Medium," "Elixir of Love," “The Pirates of Penzance,” and "The Magic Flute." Students have been successful in national competitions such as NATS and have performed and studied internationally in Germany and Italy.

Opera Orchestra

Music Theatre Pit Orchestra

Fall 2018 Opera Audition Information

I am thrilled to announce our 2018-2019 season!

The fall production will be Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. Heggie has been hailed as one of the greatest living opera composers and this work is truly a masterpiece of contemporary vocal literature. We are very lucky to be able to produce it at JMU!

I encourage you to see the Susan Sarandon film, read Sister Prejean’s book, and listen to the opera on YouTube. In the spirit of Mozart and Verdi, the opera deals with a controversial social issue, and it will be our task to make such an impression on our audiences that change will be inevitable.

That being said, the work is quite demanding and we will need to give it very serious consideration. Dr. Jeremy Thompson will be joining us as coach-conductor and, because of the difficulty of the Sister Prejean and Joseph roles, would like to do some pre-casting coaching/auditioning during the last week of July and the first weeks of August. Anyone interested in auditioning for either of these roles should email Dr. Rierson a list of days/times when you would be able to be in Harrisonburg. For the most part, these coachings will be scheduled after 5 pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and at other times on Saturdays. If you are unable to come to Harrisonburg, but wish to be considered for Prejean or Joseph, you may submit a video recording via YouTube. (I include suggestions for audition material for DMW at the end of this email.)

You may also borrow a piano-vocal score from the opera by contacting Shawn Tucker at 406-600-8424. (You will be held responsible for the $75 scores, and will not be allowed to audition until your score is returned. You must pick the scores up in person at the production office in Forbes — we will be unable to mail them.)

Regular opera auditions will be held from 5-8 pm August 30 and 31 in the Forbes Center Recital Hall. An accompanist will be provided.

At that time, we will also hear any material you wish to offer for the “Evening in Paris” concert, February 15-16, 2019 or the Pirates of Penzance production, April 8 and 9, 2019. More information will be distributed in August.

Please email me at riersodg@hotmail.com with questions. (DO NOT use my JMU email address for opera correspondence.)

I am excited about this new material and hope you will join our team in making this our most dramatic, controversial, and successful season!

Don Rierson, director
JMU Opera Theater


Character Break Down of Dead Man Walking:

Sister Helen Prejean - mezzo-soprano
Joseph De Rocher, convicted murderer -baritone
Mrs. Patrick De Rocher, his mother - mezzo-soprano
Her 19-year-old son - tenor
Her 14-year-old son - treble
Sister Rose, colleague of Sister Helen - soprano
Howard Boucher, father of the murdered boy - tenor
Jade Boucher, mother of the murdered boy - soprano
Owen Hart, father of the murdered girl - baritone
Kitty Hart, mother of the murdered girl - soprano
Father Grenville, chaplain at (Angola) Louisiana State Pen. - tenor
George Benton, prison warden- baritone
A Motor Cop - baritone
First Prison Guard - baritone
Second Prison Guard - baritone
Sister Lillianne, colleague of Sister Helen -mezzo-soprano
Sister Catherine, colleague of Sister Helen - soprano-mezzo
A mother - soprano-mezzo
A Paralegal - spoken
Five inmates t-b
Mrs. Charlton - soprano-mezzo
Jimmy Charlton t-b
Anthony De Rocher, Joseph's brother -silent role
Boy, victim - silent role
Girl, victim -silent role


Suggested Audition Pieces:

Helen
- p.10 - b. 121-128
- p.42 b. 432-475
- p. 334 b. 1361-1376

Joe
- p. 112 b.1329-1348
- P. 116 b. 1385-1403
- p. 222 b. 37-60

Joe’s Mother
- p. 132 b. 1578-1621
- p. 142 b. 1719-1750

Rose
- p. 15 b. 162-178
- p. 28 b. 238-257
- p. 252 b.365-402

Fr. Grenville
- p. 64 b. 762-781
- p. 101 b.1159-1187

Warden
- p. 86 b.1015-1042
- p. 101 b. 1159-1187

Kitty
- p. 151 b. 1820-1827
- p. 154 b. 1844-1861

Jade
- p. 153 b. 1835-1861

Owen
- p. 136 b.1658-1674
- p. 336 b. 1203-1221

Howard
- p. 151 b.1826-1832
- p. 160 b. 1881-1897

Sisters
- p. 21 b. 185-195
- p. 200 b. 2259-2264

Guards
- p. 296 b. 802-823
- p. 343 b. 1268-1275

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