Beginning of a new era

Beginning of a new era

Chanon Cummings

During the last weekend of November, the Grand Valley State University Opera Theatre performed “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at the Grand Rapids Ballet Company’s Peter Martin Wege Theatre.

Written for NBC TV in the 1950s, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” is a short, one-act opera that was broadcasted every Christmas.

For Dale Schriemer, artistic director of the GVSU Opera Theatre, the performance is about a long-standing tradition.

“In my childhood, I saw this every Christmas,” Schriemer said. “I wanted to keep that tradition alive and give more opportunities to students.”

With the Performing Arts Center booked to the max and no more performance times available, Schriemer decided to go outside of the university to the Ballet.

Since the performance was over Thanksgiving break, having it at the Ballet made it open to the Grand Rapids public.

“It’s easily accessible, and I got to collaborate with the Grand Rapids Junior Ballet Company so they were a part of the performance,” he said.

While preparation time for the actual performance was the same as any other, the trick was to get it all on stage with all the cast at one time, Schriemer explained.

“I (had them) rehearse the chorus by themselves, the Ballet rehearsed at the Ballet, and the university students rehearsed at the Performing Arts Center,” he said. “The key was to be organized enough to run the show and make adjustments.”

They ran through the whole show and problem-solved ahead of time, he said.

“What I loved about this performance was the amount of performances we had,” Schriemer said. “There were five performances, and my goal is to put people on stage as often as I can.”

This is the first year that there have been two main-stage opera theatre performances. Instead of one main production in February, a fall show was offered as well.

“You can practice and practice, but just like a sports team, if you’re only doing practice and never a game, you don’t play at the same level,” Schriemer said. “You have to be in the game in order to learn the experience it can teach you.”

Each performance brought growth and a new learning experience.

“It can offer broader experiences so we can do small pieces and large pieces,” Schriemer said. “It’s a lot harder to give everyone something with only one large performance.”

With the freedom to choose different kinds of pieces and the ability to be more creative, he can let students get in the game more, he said.

“This is important for the university and for the students,” Schriemer said. “To have different venues within the community is important—it’s real life.”

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