MACON – The Mercer University Opera will premiere a new work-in-progress by award-winning Townsend School of Music faculty composer Christopher Schmitz, with a libretto based on the life of a local hero and written by Maconite Suzanne Doonan.
“Scenes from Hugh Smalling,” sung by Townsend faculty and students and directed by Martha Malone, will be presented March 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Neva Langley Fickling Hall at the McCorkle Music Building on Mercer’s Macon campus.
Scenes will be conducted semi-staged, with minimal props and suggested costumes. The one-hour production will have a large cast consisting of 17 Mercer faculty and students and an orchestra with 14 musicians.
“The focus will be on the music and the acting,” said Malone, director of Mercer Opera. “Composer Chris Schmitz has given a masterful setting to Suzanne Doonan’s powerful, evocative lyrics and dialogue written specifically for the Mercer Singers.”
Doonan was producing a living history tour at Riverside Cemetery when she was approached about the project. “While researching the stories of people buried at Riverside, Hugh Smalling’s story stood out as one with operatic themes – a young man seeking adventure, true love, shipwreck and love transcending death,” she said.
Smalling’s tombstone can be found at Riverside Cemetery, engraved with “Lost when his ship was sunk…” a casualty of World War II. Smalling wrote many letters to his family of his travels in the Navy, and of found love. The opera follows these letters and portrays the passion, conflict and suspense of his life.
“Mercer faculty Martha Malone and Richard Kosowski bring a wealth of operatic experience to this project with their expert stage and musical direction,” said Schmitz. “And I am continually amazed at the talents of our students. They are truly bringing the characters of Hugh Smalling to life in front of our eyes.”
A full production of the opera will be performed at a later date.
Tickets to “Scenes from Hugh Smalling” are first-come, first-served and available at the door. General admission is $7, and admission is free for Mercer faculty, staff and students with a Mercer I.D. Following the performance, a discussion and Q&A with audience members and the cast, composer, librettist, director and conductor will take place.
About Townsend School of Music
Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music, the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, the Joan Stockstill Godsey Center for Keyboard Studies and the Townsend-McAfee Institute for Graduate Studies offer undergraduate and graduate professional music studies in a comprehensive university environment. Townsend is nationally recognized for its outstanding faculty, award-winning students, performance ensembles and state-of-the-art facilities. The McDuffie Center, a special institute within Townsend School of Music, is a highly selective program that prepares string students for success in the real world. Students study with some of America’s most renowned string musicians, receiving music instruction of conservatory quality, while earning an academically well-rounded education from a comprehensive, nationally recognized university. For more information and a complete listing of this season’s concerts please visit www.mercer.edu/music, or call (478) 301-2748.