Opera Workshop to present world premiere of ‘Evangeline’

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
by: Tonya Lowentritt

HAMMOND– Southeastern Louisiana University's Opera/Music Theatre Workshop will present the world premiere of "Evangeline" by esteemed American composer Gwyneth Walker on Thursday, April 2, at 2 p.m. in Pottle Music Annex Recital Hall.

The free performance, said Director of Opera Workshop Charles Effler, is based on the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and will last under an hour. The music is all newly composed; the words are those of the Longfellow poem as adapted by Walker.

"Dr. Walker was in Baton Rouge for a composer's residency in March 2014 and visited the town of St. Martinville, La. While there she saw the famous Evangeline Oak and was introduced to the legend," Effler said. "It captivated her imagination immediately."

Effler attended a concert of Walker's music that culminated her residency, and after the concert asked her if she would compose a short chamber opera. Effler had met Walker the previous day when she visited Southeastern to hear the choirs and students perform some of her music.

"She was very impressed with the students and told me of her interest in the Evangeline story," Effler said. "Through emails over the next several days, she said that she might be able to start work on it sometime in 2015. About mid-summer that had changed to 'I plan on having the opera finished by January 2015.' By early fall the due date was pushed up even further to Halloween."

In the end, it was mid-October when Effler received an email with the finished score attached.

Opera Workshop welcomes back guest stage director Rachel M. Harris for this production. Harris has directed several Opera Workshop productions including "La Périchole," "Fairy Tales: Hansel & Gretel and Cendrillon," "The Pirates of Penzance," "Street Scene," "Die Fledermaus," and "The Marriage of Figaro." She also directed Opera Workshop's recent concert of opera scenes and arias, "Opera by the Slice."

The student cast is Kalee Broussard, "Narrator" (Destrehan), Analynn Sober, "Evangeline" (Lake Charles), Mindy Guidroz, "Benedicta" (Houma), Jonathan Dupre, "Gabriel" (Luling) and Brent Goodrich, "Father Felician" (Sulphur). Effler will serve as the vocal coach and pianist for the performance.

The performance is sponsored by Opera Workshop, the Southeastern Lyceum Arts and Lectures Committee and private donations.

There is no admission charge.

For more information about the Opera/Music Theatre Workshop contact Effler at ceffler@southeastern.edu.

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