New opera, ‘The Singers Romance’ debuts at BYU

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    By MARISSA SCHOENFELD

    marissa@du2.byu.edu

    A contemporary opera composed by a Brigham Young University composition faculty member proved to be a big success over the weekend.

    Murry Boren’s “The Singer’s Romance” earned a roar of applause and a standing ovation following its premiere Saturday.

    Four singers, accompanied by a full orchestra and conducted by the composer, performed the opera before a packed audience in the Madsen Recital Hall of the Harris Fine Arts Center.

    The main purpose of the free concert was to make a full-length recording of the opera. Boren and the librettist, Glen Nelson, intend to use the recording to attract interest in producing the opera in a professional venue.

    “We’ll see if this (production) has a life beyond tonight,” Boren said following the performance.

    The company of singers and musicians rehearsed together only three times prior to Saturday’s event.

    “The fact that the performance went as well as it did with only three rehearsals really shows what world class performers we have here,” Boren said. “I feel really good about (the performance).”

    A mixture of professionals, BYU faculty members and upper-division music students lent their talents to make the premiere a success.

    Inspired by a Willa Cather short story, the three-act opera followed the toil and dramatics of a fictional world-famous opera diva, played by professional opera singer and BYU faculty member Susan Alexander.

    Trying to balance fame, wealth and the pursuit of a suspected romantic admirer, the diva insists and threatens her way through hectic schedules, demanding directors, Italian tenors and an estranged husband.

    Alexander said the antics and “shenanigans” displayed by the diva are accurate examples of the infamously hot-tempered ways of world-class divas.

    “This diva is tame compared to the real thing,” Alexander said.

    The opera’s action is centered around performances, rehearsals and the backstage bustle of the opera house. This opera-within-an-opera format allows the diva’s inner feelings to be reflected in the opera she is performing.

    The audience is left wondering whether a woman can have fame, wealth and love, too.

    “I think very few women achieve success at all those levels,” Alexander said. “You can’t divide yourself. That’s life. You have to sacrifice sometimes.”

    Boren and Nelson are a bi-coastal team. With Boren in Utah and Nelson in New York, they spent five and a half years working on the libretto via e-mails and phone calls. Once it was completed, Boren said he was able to write the music during the summer.

    This is Boren’s ninth opera.

    Brian Stucki, a junior majoring in music performance who played in the opera’s orchestra, considers himself a longtime fan of Boren’s work.

    “I’m so glad it went over so well,” Stucki said. “His music is really honest. The listener has to be involved in it. I really love his music.”