UNCSA students make beautiful music and return triumphant

by Mark Burger

A pair of students from the AJ Fletcher Opera Institute at the UNC School of the Arts came home winners following the NC District Auditions of the Metopolitan Opera National Council (MONC) earlier this month.

Jodi Burns (soprano) and Marvin Kehler (tenor) were two of the four equal winners at the Met auditions, which were held at Queens University in Charlotte. Burns, a second-year graduate student hailing from Columbus, Ohio, sang “V’adoro pupile” from Handel’s Giulio Cesare and “Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Kehler, also a secondyear graduate student (hailing from Pasadena, Calif.), sang “Dies Bildniss ist bezaubernd schon” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote and “Salut! Demeure Chaste et Pure” from Gounod’s Faust. Both are students of UNC School of the Arts faculty artist Marilyn Taylor, and each was awarded a $1,500 prize. Both Burns and Kehler will now compete against other winners from the Southeast Regional Finals (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) in the Southeast Regional Finals, which will be held Jan. 25 in Atlanta. One winner will then be selected to represent the region in the National Semi-Finals in New York City on Feb. 15. The Grand Finals Concert will then be held at the Metropolitan Opera on Feb. 22. Last year, UNCSA’s Rene Barbera won at the district level and went on to win the national competition, so Burns and Kehler have their work cut out for them! A third UNCSA student, soprano Jarae Payton, also competed in the NC district contest.

For the third consecutive year, the North Carolina District Award was presented anonymously in honor the UNC School of the Arts voice faculty. The National Council Auditions were established in 1954 as a program to discover promising young opera singers and assist in the development of their professional careers. Among the notables who have received National Council awards are Renee Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Jessye Norman, Ben Heppner, Deborah Voigt and many others. Now, of course, you can add Burns and Kehler to that list.


Speaking of singing, if you think you’ve got what it takes to belt out an ’80s ballad or a rock song, you might consider auditioning for Theatre Alliance’s upcoming production of Back in the ’80s. Auditions will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31 at Theatre Alliance (1047 Northwest Blvd., Winston-Salem). Those interested are asked to bring a prepared song (preferably a pop tune) from that glorious decade known as the 1980s. An accompanist will be provided, but feel free to sing along with a karaoke CD (a CD player is available). Also, be prepared to learn movement combinations as well as an ability to do cold readings from the show’s script. The producers are seeking men and women (ages 16-60) to participate in this campy, light-hearted musical romp. Rehearsals are usually held 7–10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Back in the ’80s is scheduled to open April 3 and run through April 26. Theatre Alliance’s next production is the critically acclaimed musical drama Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story, which opens Feb. 13 (just in time for Valentine’s Day)! For more information about Theatre Alliance’s auditions or schedule, call 336.723.7777 or see www. •••

We’ve talked opera. We’ve talked rock ‘n’ roll. How about classical music? The Orchestra of St. Luke’s, widely regarded as the nation’s foremost chamber orchestra, will be presenting two very special events at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill next week. Next Wednesday, Jan. 28, the Orchestra will perform a full orchestral program titled In the Grace of the World, a concert of music from a wide variety of renowned international composers, including Charles Ives and Alan Hovhaness (of the US), Toru Takemitsu (of Japan), Arvo Part and Peteris Vasks (of Eastern Europe). Then, on Thursday, Jan. 29, the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble will perform Clash Tango, a collection of works by Latin composers from the 20 th and 21 st centuries who were influenced by the music and dance of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Peru. Founded as the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble at a Greenwich Village church in 1974, the group then established the Orchestra of St. Luke’s five years later — and it’s been going strong ever since, with four Grammy Award-winning albums to its credit. Both concerts will take place in Memorial Hall, located on campus. Tickets range in price from $30 to $65, depending on date of show and seating location. Reservations are suggested. For more information, call 919.843.3333 or check out

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