Lamont adds a second production and an international star to upcoming opera season
August 11, 2011
By: Greg Glasgow
The Lamont School of Music kicks off its inaugural fall opera not with a bang, but with a low rumble as famed bass Hao Jiang Tian (MA ’87) returns to DU to perform in select productions of Charles Gounod’s Faust, running Nov. 3–6 at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts.
Tian, a regular at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, was the first Chinese bass to perform in South America and in Italy and has performed with such opera heavyweights as Placido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, Seiji Ozawa and the late Luciano Pavarotti.
“Tian is having a nice international career as a bass soloist, so it’s a great honor to have him come back to his alma mater to sing in Faust,” says DU professor and opera director Kenneth Cox.
Even bigger news to Cox is the fact that DU has added a fall opera to complement its annual spring offering. This year’s spring opera is The Marriage of Figaro, running April 19–22.
When he would talk with former Lamont director Joe Docksey about what the opera program would need to get to the next level, Cox says, his response was always the same: a second opera production.
“It will help us compete with schools like USC, Michigan and Northwestern, who are schools that we regularly compete with for prospective students,” Cox says. “Now that we’re doing two, we’ll have the same number of performance opportunities available to the better singers that the other schools do. And that’s a big deal. If you think about it, it’s really an internship because you get firsthand experience in doing an opera role. At Lamont, I structure the rehearsal process and the performing to be very much the same as what they would experience at a regional professional opera company.”
Cox says staging two productions a year also will boost the DU program’s visibility among opera fans in Colorado. In addition to Tian, Cox is bringing in recent Lamont grad Tommy Kittle (BM ’09) and Andy Lunsford — the “accidental tenor” who discovered his talent for opera after his Denver-based granite countertop business went bankrupt — to perform in Faust. (Lunsford now studies opera at Indiana University.)
Cox conducted auditions before classes ended in the spring so that the students who were cast in the show could get up to speed on the four-act opera over the summer. Written by Gounod in the mid-1800s, Faust is based on Goethe’s famous story about a scholar who makes a deal with the devil.
“If you were to have a rating of the most popular grand operas that we have — a large-scale opera with big music, big arias, big orchestra — Faust is certainly one of the top grand operas,” Cox says. “We did La Boheme, we did Carmen, but this is on par or even a little bit bigger than those shows in terms of the scope of the sound and chorus and size of voices. It’ll be a challenge, but I think we’re up to it.”
The Lamont Opera’s production of Faust runs Nov. 3–6. Tickets — $11–$30 — go on sale Aug. 15 through the Newman Center box office, www.newmantix.com. Hao Jiang Tian will appear in the Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 productions only. Visit www.du.edu/lamont for more information.