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CSU's 'Project Aria' a Triumph of Artistic Collaboration Amidst Pandemic

Story by Carrie Beth Wallace

Image courtesy of Columbus State University

This week, Columbus State University will premiere a new multimedia performance project that's been filmed, edited, and produced entirely during the pandemic.

Project Aria is a collaborative performance project that features opera, dance, and animation. The project brings together faculty and students from across Columbus State University's College of the Arts who have worked in tandem - yet apart - to create a new type of virtual production this year.

Students and faculty from the Schwob School of Music (Opera), Department of Theatre (Dance), and Department of Art (Animation) worked together throughout the fall semester to create a multimedia performance project inspired by the music of opera composers across the centuries.

"We wanted to find a way to bring our students together to create a unique piece of art during the pandemic, so they could share their artistic voices together," said Joshua May, Schwob School of Music's Opera Director. "We had students collaborate in virtual zoom sessions across the semester to discuss their ideas on the opera characters, music, movement, and how to translate the essence of the story into their different mediums."

The process involved students sharing their work with one another from across campus. "I had animation students listening to opera, watching dance choreography, and contemplating how everything they were seeing could be related to animation," said Demetrius Dukes, Professor of Animation at CSU's Department of Art. "It was a wonderful experience for my students, and I loved watching how the ideas they came up with evolved into what you'll see in the final product."

Each faculty member worked with their students to foster the unique ideas brought to the table, and then every department filmed and recorded audio in their different performance spaces.

"It was truly amazing to see how well our students worked together under the challenging circumstances of the global pandemic," said May. "My colleagues and I have been so inspired by the ways our students have utilized technology to enhance their artistry. It's been incredible to watch them work together remotely and have such a successful experience."

The project also includes short opera scenes that were recorded for virtual release across the spring semester. Two of the American opera scenes that were filmed were just featured at the National Opera Association's conference last month.

"These two scenes come from Alice Parker's opera, The Family Reunion," explained May. "Alice Parker (b. 1925) is this year's recipient of the NOA 2021 Sacred in Opera Achievement Award, so we made an intentional effort to honor her with our performances this year." Each of them were filmed at Columbus' Flat Rock Park. "I wanted to connect the natural beauty of Georgia and the spirit of the opera's message which is family and community," said May. "I collaborated with my dance colleague, Amy Taylor, to create a cohesive unit of these two scenes to interweave them with storytelling through contemporary dance. It is truly a unique performance that honors the music of Ms. Parker."

The production includes the work of more than twenty students who represent three different disciplines within the College of the Arts. Months of preparation and editing went into the final product which will debut Friday, February 5 at 7:30 p.m. via Schwob School of Music's Youtube Channel. ◼︎

Watch the Premiere!

What: Project Aria

When: February 5 at 7:30 p.m.

Cost: Free!

For more information, contact Dr. Joshua May.

Digital Program Notes:

Project Aria

Students & Repertoire

“Seguidilla” from Carmen by Georges Bizet

Singer: Hannah Wikaryasz, mezzo-soprano Animators: Ian Dooley and Issa Dieguez “Semplicetto a donna credi" from Alcina by G.F. Handel Singer: Thai Johnson, tenor

Animators: Natalie Fluery and Jabrille Harrison

“Vilja, O Vilja from The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar Brenda Hamilton, soprano

Dancers and Choreography: Jack Harmon and Debrinja Watts “Sul fil d’un soffio etesio” from Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi Singer: Alison Badgett, soprano Dancer and Choreography: Joshua Walters “Care Selve” from Atalanta by Handel Singer: Shana Morman, soprano Dancer and Choreography: Ashley Peterson “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein Singer: Greysen Trippe, tenor

Dancer and Choreography: Kealan Neal-Farr “Delizie contente” from Giasone by Francesco Cavalli Singer: Jake Tabatowski-Bush, baritone

Dancer and Choreography: Amaris Jones “Giunse al fin il momento…Deh vieni non tardar” from Le Nozze di Figaro by W.A. Mozart Singer: Yunona Tabala, soprano Dancer and Choreography: Ashlyn Averett One Act and Scenes Spring Release Series: “Meine Lippen (I love you so)" from the Merry Widow by Franz Lehar Singers: Greysen Trippe and Shana Morman Stage Director: Joshua May Dancer and Choreography: Micah Courtland “Pa…pa…pa” from Die Zauberflöte by W.A. Mozart Stage Director: Joshua May Singers: Yunona Tabala, Jake Tabatowski-Bush Dancer and Choreography: Silvia Beltran A Hand of Bridge, Op. 35 by Samuel Barber Singers: Hannah Wikaryasz, Thai Johnson, Jake Tabatowski-Bush, and Yunona Tabala Stage Director: Joshua May Dancers and Choreography: Amberly Burgess and Maxwell Hopkins "Long Time Ago" and "Mother watch the little feet" from The Family Reunion by Alice Parker Singers: Alison Badgett, Brenda Jean Hamilton, Thai Johnson, Yunona Tabala, Brandon Tharp, Jake Tabatowski-Bush, Greysen Trippe Stage Director: Joshua May Choreography: Amy Mutarelli Taylor Dancers: Sydnee Coggins and Courtlyn Holt

CSU Faculty & Staff Artists Involved:

Dr. Joshua May, Director of Opera Activities, Schwob School of Music

Professor Amy Taylor, Dance, Department of Theatre

Professor Demetrius Dukes, Animation, Department of Art

Ms. Rachel Zimmerman, piano, Schwob School of Music


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