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4/8/2004 American opera featured in upcoming performance at Linfield

McMINNVILLE ? The romance of American opera will be spotlighted during a performance by students in the Linfield College Opera Workshop during "Divas and Dudes" on Sunday, April 25, at 8 p.m. in Melrose Auditorium.

The evening is the culmination of the Linfield Opera Workshop, a one-credit course offered each spring to give students operatic experience. This is the 12th production of the workshop, directed by Gwen Leonard, professor of music at Linfield. She is assisted by David Howell, stage director; Jennifer Garrett, Linfield staff accompanist; and Nicole Kim, Portland pianist.

The performance will feature a complete one-act opera, "Trouble in Tahiti" by Leonard Bernstein, as well as scenes from three other operas including "The Old Maid and the Thief" by Gian Carlo Menotti, "The Ballad of Baby Doe" by Douglas Moore and "The Merry Widow" by Franz Lehar. It will run about one hour and 50 minutes.

"Each of these is a wonderful example of American opera," Leonard said. "The composers involved are giants in the American musical scene."

With story lines ranging from romanticism to realism, the musicals offer a wide variety of entertainment for all ages. The scenes will be performed by 17 Linfield students, some of whom are not music majors. The ability for students across academic disciplines to take part in the workshop is what makes the program successful, Leonard said.

One such student, David McAdams, is a senior majoring in chemistry who will perform as part of a trio in "Trouble in Tahiti," a 40-minute piece set in the 1950s. McAdams first participated in the opera workshop as a freshman, and returned this year for a creative outlet.

"I miss doing musical theater and I enjoy singing," said McAdams, who plans to attend graduate school in chemistry at Colorado University in the fall. "I also felt that it would be a good course to take while I still have time to pursue music as a hobby."

The student cast will be supplemented by professional singer Meghan (Daw) Jackson, a 1995 Linfield graduate. Jackson, a member of the Portland Opera chorus, will play the role of Augusta Tabor in "The Ballad of Baby Doe." In addition, students from the Marchant Academy of Ballet, under the direction of Lynn Marchant, will perform an ethnic dance during "The Merry Widow."

Choosing appropriate repertoire for all skill levels can be a challenge for Leonard, who attempts to cast students in believable roles.

"I have to keep in mind who my singers are and what can be done on our stage," Leonard said. "I try to look out for their development and give them something that will be valuable to them down the road in their experience as singers. And I always try to choose one excerpt that will be a party scene so we can get a chorus on stage and the singers can wear their finery."

The Linfield College Opera Workshop gives students an opportunity to combine singing and acting ability in the context of studying repertoire from the best of musical theatre. The workshop was established in 1993 when student singers collaborated with the Linfield Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Pergolesi?s "la Serva Padrona."

The performance is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Linfield Music Department at 503-883-2275.