College of Visual and Performing Arts

JMU Opera Features Big Voices and Sound


November 7, 2019 - Fifty-two performers from the JMU School of Music will have the opportunity to showcase their voices when they perform Faust, featuring the JMU Opera Theater, in the Mainstage Theatre of the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University. The production takes place Friday and Saturday, November 8 and 9 @ 8 pm and Sunday, November 10 @ 2 pm.

This French lyric opera with a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré is based on Goethe’s Faust, Part One, one of the most important works of literature in the early-mid 1800s, says faculty director Dr. Don Rierson. Charles Gounod’s searing and sumptuous score propels Goethe’s tale of redemption and damnation into a dizzying dance with the devil that is impossible to forget.

In this captivating tragedy set in the 1840s, a deal with the devil goes awry. The aging Faust makes a pact with Méphistophélès to exchange his soul for Earth’s mortal pleasures. With his youth restored, Faust woos the lovely Marguerite, but his troubles are far from over. Seduced by riches and power, Faust soon realizes his salvation is tragically bound to others, including those he loves most.

This popular opera is significant because it addresses the existential question of the relationship between religion and intellectual study, according to Rierson.

From Marguerite’s celebrated “Jewel Song” to the beloved “Soldiers’ Chorus,” Faust features toe-tapping waltz and march tunes sung by a talented cast including tenor faculty member Dr. Jamison Walker, doctoral student and professional singer Susan Gouthro, music director and professional mezzo-soprano Cynthia Wohlschlager, and graduate student baritone Michael Richardson. Rounding out the production is an opera orchestra of 30 undergraduate music students.

The JMU Opera Theater provides main stage and workshop opportunities for performance majors enrolled in B.M., M.M. and D.M.A. programs at the university. The program has attracted outstanding graduates and undergraduates from prominent national and international arts high schools, universities and conservatories.

In recent years, JMU Opera Theater has presented critically acclaimed productions of La Bohème, The Barber of Seville and The Magic Flute. In Spring 2009, they presented Jeremy Beck and Patricia Marx’s Review at the National Arts Club in Manhattan under the tutelage of the Center for Contemporary Opera. The singers perform regularly in international venues in Germany, Italy, Wales and England, and have been quite successful in university Concerto-Aria, National Association of Teachers of Singing and other national competitions. Rierson received the prestigious Alumni Legacy Award from the JMU Emeriti Association in 2012. JMU annually hosts the first round of the Classical Singer competition and maintains an active and enthusiastic Opera Guild.

Tickets are $22-$23. For tickets, visit or call the Forbes Center Box Office at (540) 568-7000.

Published: Thursday, November 7, 2019

Last Updated: Thursday, November 7, 2019

Back to Top

Related Articles