Arts & Culture

Faust’s theatrical damnation revives fervor for opera

Among all the underground rap artists and alternative rock concerts circulating the Eugene music scene, many often overlook a local classical outlet: the Eugene Opera.

While some may find it difficult to muffle a yawn at just the thought of seeing an opera, the Eugene Opera’s new show “Faust” will bring all sorts of theatrics and drama to the stage at the Hult Center this weekend.

General Director of the Eugene Opera Mark Beudert has worked with several University professors and students over the past few years. The production of Faust will feature unique period sets with contrasting conceptual stage setting.

“We have the world premiere of the reconstruction of a ‘lost’ aria not heard since 1859,” Beudert said. “The audience will learn that opera will knock your socks off. Faust is the most powerful opera we’ve done in a long time, and our performance will be great.”

The show will depict the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil in order to obtain the woman of his dreams. The cast of Faust features several performers from throughout the country, as well as a few University students.

Doctoral student in vocal performance and musical arts Bereniece Jones has been singing opera for more than 25 years. After auditioning in New York to be in the Eugene Opera in 1996, Jones moved to Eugene to get her master’s degree at the University.

In Faust, Jones will play one of seven solo roles as the neighbor Martha, which is traditionally sung by a mezzo-soprano.

“It’s a bit of a stretch for me,” she said. “I am a soprano with a higher range than the lower voiced mezzo-soprano, so I have had to prepare carefully.”

Katie Dally, who coordinates public relations for the Eugene Opera, said the play is not exclusively for opera know-it-alls.

“It’s not a stereotypical, difficult-to-follow opera — it’s full of scandal, deception, heartbreak and damnation, and is a very accessible story for the first-time opera-goer.”

The Hult Center also offers a promotion for college students called “$10 Student Rush Tix,” where students can purchase a discounted ticket or any remaining seats one hour before showtime.

University senior Kaliyah Wood will be a chorus member for Faust in her fourth show with the Eugene Opera. After singing operatic arias in high school, Wood decided to major in voice and has since been pursuing a career with professional companies.

“Faust is my first experience with French Grand Opera. Up until now, I have done much lighter opera. This is the most tragic story, the longest and biggest-staged opera chorus I have ever sung in,” Wood said.

In addition to the two University students who will be in the cast and chorus, several students from the University of Notre Dame will be flying in to be part of the chorus.

“The cast of Faust offers an array of performers that have been featured on stage with the Chicago Lyric Opera, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Australia and others,” Dally said.

As a well-known art form that combines fine arts and performance skills, opera can only benefit students, Jones said.

“Students can deeply affect the future of opera,” Jones said. “If the students could take the opportunity to learn about opera, use their skills to revamp the art and share it with everyone they knew, opera would never be the same. The greatest thing is that people are ready for the explosion of newness to happen to opera.”

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