Opera returns to Nicholls with Mozart’s Don Giovanni


Photo by: Desmond Hunter

Roland Bennett, a senior voice major, and Ivanna Brooks, a senior vocal performance major, sing opera during their performance of Don Giovanni Tuesday, Apr. 21, at Mary M. Danos Theater.

Opera lovers are in for a treat tonight, as students and faculty members present the first opera performance held at Nicholls State University in over 20 years.

Nicholls State University Opera workshop students, faculty, alumni and high school students in Lafourche Parish will present Don Giovanni.

Don Giovanni is one of many works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most prolific and influential composers of the Classical era. The original opera contained music composed by Mozart and Italian libretto, text used in musical work, by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Based on a fictional seducer and libertine Don Juan, the show premiered Oct. 29, 1787. Don Giovanni is normally classified as a comic, but also blends melodrama and supernatural parts.

Leading up to the show, participants practiced the many aspects of the play, such as learning different vocal tones that transit into the music’s flow and motion. Prior to the opera, students only rehearsed and performed scenes from various composers unlike Don Giovanni, which will be a full two-and-a-half-hour production. Students participating in the masque are excited about the production and hope operas will be performed more often on campus.

“In Spring 2013, we started working on four or five operas, but only scenes from those particular operas,” senior vocal performance major Marissa Brown said. “We took those plays and chose the one we figured we would have the most fun with.”

The opera consists of several different charterers, each with characteristics that help shape the 17th century Spanish town setting. Another reason the cast decided to put on Don Giovanni was because of how cast members related to each character.

“We have a nice blend of cast members and luckily enough, each character in this opera fits the person playing that character and their voice, so the play was almost perfect to put on,” Brown said.

For most participants, tonight’s show will be their first full opera performance. Roland Bennett, senior voice major, expresses how grateful the opportunity is to be a part of tonight’s opera.
“Most of us have previously done scenes from operas, but this will be the first full Opera under Dr. Francis we’ve done with full costume and a full set,” Bennett said. “We don’t have a graduate program here and some universities only allow grad students to be in Opera productions. The others and myself are just really fortunate to be in the first opera here in over 20 years while still being in undergraduate studies.”

The opera is also a chance for students to try something new. Benita Dzhurkova, native of Bulgaria and senior violin major, thinks the opera will be a great success.

“This will be my first time performing in an opera,” Dzhurkova said. “I grew up watching and liking operas back home in my country. It’s pretty fun to be a part of.”

The performance will be held in the Mary M. Danos Theater, located in Talbot Hall. Valerie Francis, assistant professor of music, is the executive artistic director for the opera. Alongside Francis is Casey Haynes who is assistant artistic director, conductor and pianist for the show.