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Intermediate/Advanced Opera Techniques is a two credit elective course offered each spring at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At its genesis, the course was primarily an opera scenes workshop, focused solely on the preparation and performance of an opera scene in a final concert. It is a cross-listed course meaning that students from the first year through advanced graduate study may enroll. Students may or may not have any experience on the music theater stage, nor have they had training in how to prepare a new role from casting to completed performance.
This course is an elective in the School of Music, but relates directly to the performance expectations anticipated in the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance degrees. This course serves as a preparatory – but not prerequisite – experience for students aspiring to principal roles in the main stage opera season. Course objectives include understanding the basic process for researching an operatic role; exploring and applying techniques for helping an operatic character come to life; demonstrating professional behavior in preparation, rehearsal and performance situations; and performing at least one scene from the opera repertoire for a live audience.
Reflection on previous offerings of the course revealed that the traditionally academic elements of the course were helpful in establishing a more fully developed character for many of the students. However, the research aspect of the course did not seem to translate as well to the staged performances as I had hoped. Students were intellectually engaged during the written aspect of the course, but the research did not seem to manifest in the final performances. For the benchmark study in the Spring 2013, I opted to include elements of social media and pop culture in addition to the more traditional character research methods. I hypothesized that by meeting students “at their level,” or in a medium with which they were already comfortable, they would more easily connect with characters from different cultures, eras and social backgrounds. In 2014, I opted to create an Inquiry Portfolio to study the particular effect of social media and pop culture on the character development in this course.