Opera theatre students place second in national competition

A spellbinding production of the fairytale-inspired musical “Into the Woods” by University of the Pacific’s Opera Theatre program earned second place in the National Opera Association’s annual production competition—the third time Pacific has placed in the top three for its division in the past six years.

Nearly 90 entries were submitted, which are divided by undergraduate and graduate levels, production size and budget. Pacific tied for second with Queens College in New York in Division III.

“We put so much work into this show, and to see it get recognized was amazing,” said Jordan Yang ’24, a voice performance major who played the role of Cinderella. “The professors and students are so passionate about what we do, and I think that love for the craft goes a long way into how well a production does.”

Twenty-three students performed under the direction of Professor of Opera James Haffner and Associate Professor of Voice Eric Dudley along with Assistant Music Director Carl Pantle and Production Manager James Gonzales. Watch behind the scenes video of the spring production.

“I’m proud of our students for stepping up and giving us their best,” Haffner said, pointing to the Act Two performance of the song “Your Fault” as one of the show’s highlights.

“You have to choreograph it down to the note and the staging is very intricate,” Haffner said. “It took us exactly seven minutes to stage it because the students knew the music and scene inside and out. I was able to achieve a level of collaboration with the students where we truly were 50/50. As a teacher, it’s exceptionally rewarding.”

As part of an immersive new professional practice initiative, students in the Music Industry Studies and Music Management programs recorded the performance, which was used as the entry submission to the National Opera Association.

“They filmed with five cameras, and we had high-quality audio recording as well,” said Associate Professor of Practice Bruce Chrisp, who worked with students on the production. “They went to several rehearsals and practiced recording those, and then we recorded all four of the performances.”

After selecting which performance to submit, students did extensive work editing audio and video together, selecting shots and color correcting the video. “It’s like on-the-job training,” Chrisp said. “It gives them real-world experience.”

Pacific Opera Theatre is preparing for its spring production, “Alcina” by George Handel. The opera, about a sorceress who lives on an enchanted island, will be performed March 21-24, 2024, at Faye Spanos Concert Hall. 

Alumnus excels in National Opera Association competition

Pacific alumna Taylor Carnes ’19 also achieved success in this year’s competition. Carnes was the stage director for “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the University of North Texas which won first place in Division VII. Carnes worked on the production as her final project for a certificate program at the university.

“The show was absolutely phenomenal,” said Haffner, who saw the production while teaching a workshop in the area. “It was very well directed, the design choices that she and the team made were brilliant for the space.”

Haffner worked closely with Carnes when she was a student at Pacific. 

“Professor Hafner is the best mentor I could possibly ask for. And he continues to mentor me. I talk to him about once a month,” Carnes said. “I feel really honored to be on the same list (opera association competition winners) as somebody who I admire and has taught me so much.”

Carnes now works with companies as a freelancer. Most recently she finished a production of “Barber of Seville” with the LA Opera where she was the assistant director.