Ouachita Baptist University’s School of Fine Arts Division of Music Opera Theatre will present Engelbert Humperdinck’s famous opera Hansel and Gretel on Nov. 15-17 at 7:30 p.m. and again on Nov. 18 at 2:30 p.m. in Jones Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 each at www.obu.edu/boxoffice, but current OBU students may receive one free ticket with their student IDs.
“This is one of the most beautiful scores ever written for an opera,” said Dr. Jon Secrest, co-director of the opera and coordinator of Ouachita’s vocal studies program. According to Secrest, Humperdinck’s rendition of the familiar Brothers Grimm fairy tale is infused with “soaring melodies and beautiful harmonies,” making Hansel and Gretel “one of the richest musical experiences in the repertoire.”
The opera promises to be visually enriching, as well. Costumes for the performance will be rented from a professional company in Schenectady, N.Y., and “beautiful theatrical backdrops” will be used to create a visual feast for the audience. “We’re going to have some explosions, too!” Secrest noted, ensuring an exciting performance.
Set in the haunted Ilsenstein forest of Germany, the opera’s cast encounters the Sandman, the little Dew Fairy and, of course, the Gingerbread Witch. “It has a nice moral,” said Dr. Glenda Secrest, co-director of the opera and professor of music at Ouachita. The repeating theme “When life’s burdens bring us grief, God the Lord will send relief” will be revisited throughout the play.
Those intrigued by the fairy tale’s storyline should not, however, be intimidated by the fact that Hansel and Gretel is an opera. “Even for those who have never been to an opera,” Jon Secrest said, “they will be able to experience an opera that isn’t beyond their reach.” The opera will be in English, easy to follow and fun to enjoy, he said.
“For a small school, seeing what the students and production team can do is impressive,” said David Stanley, stage manager and assistant musical director for the performance and instructor of music. “It’s amazing to see the talent Ouachita has.”
Cami Willis, a sophomore musical theatre and church media/production arts major from Flower Mound, Texas, serves as assistant stage manager, and Joey Licklider, JPAC manager, serves as technical director and tech/building crew head.
“It’s a team effort,” Jon Secrest added.
The entire opera is double cast, with one cast performing on Thursday and Saturday and a different line-up performing Friday and Sunday. “We just had so many talented students,” Glenda Secrest said. She added that double casting is highly unusual and that working with two completely different casts has its challenges. Despite the challenges, however, the opera’s directors wanted all the students to have the opportunity to perform in a quality operatic performance.
The performance of Hansel and Gretel on Nov. 15 and 17 will include the following lead cast members: Joel Rogier, a senior vocal performance major from Glen Carbon, Ill., as Peter; Rachel Harris, a senior musical theatre and vocal performance major from Springdale, Ark., as Gertrude; Meredith Martin, a junior music education and vocal performance major from Garland, Texas, as Hansel; Caitlin Secrest, a junior vocal performance major from Arkadelphia, Ark., as Gretel; Bethany Swiontek, a senior musical theatre major from Colorado Springs, Colo., as the Gingerbread Witch named Rosine Leckermaul (literally meaning, ‘Rosina Tastymuzzle’); Jillian Turner, a sophomore vocal performance major from Fort Worth, Texas, as the Sandman; and Rachel Williams, a freshman vocal performance major from Tyler, Texas, as the Dew Fairy.
On Nov. 16 and 18, the performance will include the following lead cast: John Tneoh, a senior vocal performance major from Sungai Petani, Malaysia, as Peter; Bekah Anthony, a senior vocal performance major from Roanoke, Texas, as Gertrude; Victoria Mantooth, a junior vocal performance major from Sherwood, Ark., as Hansel; Hannah Garner, a senior vocal performance major from Saginaw, Mich., as Gretel; DeCarl Jones, a junior musical theatre from Garland, Texas, as the Witch; Christina Moon, a sophomore church music major from Carrollton, Texas, as the Sandman; and Ashley Bundy, a junior vocal performance major from Justin, Texas, as the Dew Fairy.
On the days when the primary cast members are not performing, they will join the chorus alongside the following performers: Danielle Love, freshman musical theatre major from Little Rock, Ark.; Taylor McKinney, a freshman vocal performance major from Little Rock, Ark.; Emma Patterson, a junior music education major from Garland, Texas; Seth Russell, a freshman vocal performance major from Crossett, Ark.; Shelby Sutton, a freshman worship arts major from Little Elm, Texas; Joshua Wayne, a sophomore music education major from Elkland, Mo.; and Esther Weicht a freshman vocal performance major from Branson, Mo.
Many members of the cast serve on the crew, as well. Kaylee Nebe, a sophomore musical theatre major from Mesquite, Texas, will head the costume crew with crew members DeCarl Jones, Danielle Love, Jillian Turner and Esther Weicht. John Tneoh will serve as head of the makeup crew with crew members Bekah Anthony, Ashley Bundy, Rachel Harris, Bethany Swiontek and Rachel Williams. Joel Rogier will head the properties crew and will be assisted by Hannah Garner. Caitlin Secrest will serve as the head of the publicity crew, and other publicity crew members include Bekah Anthony, Victoria Mantooth Meredith Martin and Taylor McKinney.
The orchestra personnel will include: Elyse Senteney, a senior instrumental music education major from Plano, Texas, as first flute; Elizabeth Baker, a junior performance major from Grapevine, Texas, as second flute; LeeAnne Polk, a junior performance major from Greenville, Texas, on the piccolo; Jordan Beard, a sophomore Christian studies/Christian ministry and worship ministry major from Fort Smith, Ark., on the oboe; Megan Massey, a junior instrumental music education major Weatherford, Texas, as bassoon and bass clarinet; Crista Riggs, a senior chemistry and biology major from Edmond, Okla., as first clarinet; Sara Walker, a sophomore Christian studies/Christian missions major from Sulphur Springs, Texas, as second clarinet; Anna English, a senior English major from Coppell, Texas, as first horn; Megan Graves, a junior music major from Hot Springs, Ark., as second horn; Kelly Cortez, a sophomore biology major from McKinney, Texas, as third horn; Kelsey Bates, a senior instrumental music education major from Marion, Ark., as fourth horn; Deborah Caldwell, a senior instrumental music education major from Siloam Springs, Ark., as first trumpet; Lindsey Palmer, a freshman instrum ental music education major from Idabel, Okla., as second trumpet; Bret Steed, a junior performance major from Idabel, Okla., as first trombone; Jeremy Cooper, a sophomore Christian studies/Christian ministry major from Mesquite, Texas, as second trombone; Andrew McCraw, a senior instrumental music education major from Fort Worth, Texas, on bass trombone; Sean Nance, a senior church music major from Dallas, Texas, on the tuba; Drew Ervin, a sophomore performance major from Springdale, Ark., on the timpani; and Chris Hogan, a sophomore instrumental music education major from Bartlesville, Okla., on percussion.
John Briggs, adjunct instructor of voice, and Susan Monroe, staff accompanist, will join the orchestra personnel on keyboard in addition to their roles as coach-accompanists. Louis Menendez also serves as a coach-accompanist for the show.
Tickets may be purchased at the Jones Performing Arts Center Box Office weekdays from 1-5 p.m. and one hour before show times. Tickets may also be purchased with credit card by phone or online at www.obu.edu/boxoffice. For more information, call the box office at (870) 245-5555 during regular box office hours. Also, each current OBU student may receive one free ticket to the show by presenting his or her OBU ID at the box office.
By Rachel Gregory