I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a new Meet the Makers talk with Lori Laitman and Dana Gioia, composer and librettist, respectively, of the new children’s opera The Three Feathers. This new Meet the Makers series, presented by the Center for the Arts, is an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff of Virginia Tech, as well as the community, to meet the people behind the scenes of upcoming performances and events at the Moss Arts Center. The artists are usually assisted by a moderator in answering questions about their work, and then the floor is open for questions from the audience. I have been to a few of these thus far and find them to be very informative–they give me the “inside scoop” of what goes into creating the shows I will be seeing.
During this talk, both Laitman and Gioia discussed the process of creating The Three Feathers, which had its world premiere on stage in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located in the Street and Davis Performance Hall at the Moss Arts Center. The Three Feathers was a group project between Opera Roanoke, The School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech, and the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.
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Personally, I was very excited to attend this talk with the creators. My background is in music and my passion is opera. While obtaining my undergraduate degree in music business at Radford University, I studied classical voice as my primary instrument. I have been singing and performing ever since I can remember and have performed several times with Opera Roanoke. This opportunity to learn what goes in to actually creating an opera from scratch intrigued me.
You may be asking yourself, like I was, how does one go about commissioning an opera in today’s society? We no longer live in the days of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giacomo Puccini, and Giuseppe Verdi, where operas were written so often. When asked about the commission process by moderator and Virginia Tech faculty member Richard Masters, the answer Laitman gave was simple: Facebook.
Yes, this modern children’s opera was commissioned on Facebook. In November of 2011, just three years ago, Laitman received a message on Facebook from Virginia Tech voice faculty member Ariana Wyatt asking if she would like to compose an opera for the School of Performing Arts. Of course Laitman said yes and soon asked former colleague Gioia to be her librettist. The rest, as you know, is history.
I do hope you all had a chance to see one of the performances and will be able to take advantage of some Meet the Makers programs in the future. It will definitely be worth it.
–Donna Thompson, a first year master’s of fine arts candidate in arts leadership, has been working with Jon Catherwood-Ginn, partnerships and engagement manager at the Center for the Arts, and Sarah Halvorson-Fried, graduate assistant at the Center for the Arts, in facilitating community engagement opportunities as part of her curriculum. Thompson was chosen for her participation in this event because of her passion for music and her background in classical voice, which she studied at Radford University while obtaining a bachelor’s degree in music and music business. Thompson and her colleagues have also created the blog for the School of Performing Arts, CreatiVe ConnecTions.