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Trip of a lifetime: OSU senior studies opera in Italy

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Members of Pokeapella perform during OSU Showcase at the Student Union Theatre in Stillwater on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019.

Vocal performance senior Benjamin Pitts spent part of his summer studying and performing opera in Verona, Italy.

Pitts performed with Opera Viva, an intensive opera workshop. It is jam packed with Italian language classes, courses in recitative and aria, and Italian opera culture. 

“[Opera Viva] is a three week, young artist opera program that takes place in Verona, Italy," Pitts said. "Basically we had to prepare a sacred aria beforehand for one of the concerts, a quartet from Idomeneo by Mozart, and a duet from Falstaff by Verdi. We also had a musical theater masterclass.”

An aspiring professional opera singer, Pitts decided to audition for Opera Viva not only for the vast experience, but to stand out among other young singers as he approaches the last year of his bachelors program. Young artist programs like these propel prospective singers into the opera lifestyle and prepare them for their career. 

“Part of my incentive was to one get more experience, and I also knew that there were going to be professors and faculty from colleges around,” Pitt said. “My incentive was to get my foot in the door with some of those graduate programs.” 

The students of Opera Viva performed in scenes from various operas, focusing heavily on Verdi, who is recognized by the music community as one of the most popular Italian composers. The students were also able to observe full operas performed in venues around the city.

“During the program in Verona, there’s a big arena like a colosseum that was built in the year 10 that they then turned into an amphitheater. I got to see 4 different operas there.”

Pitts is due to graduate in December 2020. He plans to pursue a graduate program in vocal performance after.

During his stint in Verona, Pitts was able to connect to professors from universities around America. These instructors aided him in honing skills that helped him develop as a young singer. 

“One of my favorite parts was just being able to work with the voice teachers,” Pitts said. “My greatest experience in a lesson so far has been with Katherine Ciezenski.” 

Pitts has been involved in various ensembles on campus, including OSU Opera, Concert Chorale, University Singers, Jazz Choir, and Pokeapella. He is extremely active in the music school, and has performed in various productions such as "Pirates of Penzance" and "Oklahoma!".

“Being a performance major, I’ve really fallen in love with opera and wanted to get the chance to do one of the summer opera programs,” Pitts said. 

Opera Viva was an extraordinary opportunity for Pitts and his fellow pupils to expand their musical horizons. Not only does is broaden their repertoire, but gives them the chance to study opera in its country of origin.