“You have attended the world premiere of an opera.” With those words, Dr. Nathan Wight of the Jacksonville State University’s Department of Music closed the recent performance by the Jacksonville Opera Theatre (JOT). On September 13, 2014, JSU’s JOT performed a never-before-seen opera written by Bruce Trinkley, a composer and professor of music at Pennsylvania State University, and his partner Jason Charnesky, a lyricist.
The opera, called ‘Christmas for King Midas,’ was only about an hour long and included only six characters. Despite how short the performance was though, a large lesson was packed into the time it took up. Dr.Wight said of the show, “We originally were aiming towards middle school and high school but after the score was finished we decided on our side that maybe we should focus on elementary and middle school and leave high school out of it.” It was written primarily for middle and elementary students, to be performed during the week before the winter holidays when no real classroom work is done. The show aims to teach children that the ‘I want more” attitude that is so prevalent in the general public’s mind is not the way to think. Most know the story of King Midas, whose touch could turn anything to gold, and the loss of his wife and child to his golden touch sent Midas into a deep pit of despair. The opera uses the story to help teach five unruly kids, who are simply ready to be out of school for Christmas, that more is not always better. Trinkley said of how the opera began, “Nathan asked if we would be interested in doing a show for schools at Christmas,” and this show was born. The score began being written around mid-April and the cast got the scripts in mid-August. Trinkley said that, total, about 4 months of work has gone into the show. “I had the good fortune to be at an artist colony in southern California it was on a mountain top and I was there in late March and April.” He continues, “We did the piano score and then for the last three weeks we’ve done the orchestra.” Speaking of the music, the show featured a small live orchestra that had both students and teachers as its members. Dr. Jeremy Benson, a professor in the music department at JSU and who conducted for the performance said, “It’s always a great opportunity for the students to play in an orchestral setting. We had students and faculty playing tonight.” Benson continues, “We had 2 rehearsals then the dress rehearsal and then the performance so the expectations for the students to come prepared was really high and they met that expectation.” With so little time to prepare for the performance, both the orchestra members and the operatic actors had to be completely prepared before-hand and that preparedness came through in the very first staging of ‘Christmas for King Midas.’ Christiana Tyler Arts & Entertainment Editor