"It's not over until the fat lady sings."
This famous saying sums up the average persons knowledge of the opera. Although this is a humorous comment, it is no coincidence that singing is the only action mentioned, as acting falls second to singing in most opera productions.
This is not the case for UT Opera Theatre. According to Scott Beasley, graduate student in the school of music, UT Opera Theatre has earned audience compliments on singing, props and, more uncommon, acting.
Beasley said that these compliments have been earned due to encouragement from UT opera director, James Marvel, as well as a determination to make up for their small budget. He said the situation has pushed the students to develop their full spectrum of being a performer.
"[James] can really inspire us and be creative," Beasley said, who will begin his third year with UT Opera Theatre in August. "It's a good life lesson working with something that is not provided. It has forced us to be better actors and singers being in the Carousel. It's very small.
"It's basically us on stage acting. There is nothing to hide behind. We are very exposed."
Theater space, costumes, props, scenery and payment are components that are considered when producing an opera.
According to Marvel, who became director two years ago, UT Opera Theatre does this on a "shoestring budget," while comparable university opera programs could quadruple their spending.
Andrew Wentzel, professor of voice, said that the university, as well as the Cultural Affairs Board, is very supportive of the Opera Theatre, but "the funds are the funds."
"UT is doing the best that they can," Wentzel said. "I know they think we're important. We have achieved their goal of being a top 25 program. It's just what the university has to offer."
Although funds from the university may be limited, students and faculty work hard to earn money from private donors.
"You don't want to give money to something that's failing and the fact that we clearly do work has encouraged private donors," Marvel said. "We are so grateful for every dollar we get because it goes into the students."
The focus on students makes UT's opera program unique, according to Marvel, who has worked in opera programs at numerous universities. He said the faculty is "among the best in the company."
"We instill in our students the importance of being good human beings and colleges to each other," Marvel said. "We treat them with respect and in turn we expect their respect. We try to give them a realistic view of the real world."
Students of the UT opera program also perform as a part of the Knoxville Opera, and many students from UT have been accepted into some of the most competitive opera programs in the US, Marvel said.
Beasley said that everyone in the opera program is supportive of each others dreams.
"We're encouraged to take risks and that can be hard to do when you don't feel safe and secure," Beasley said. "Everyone has taken risks and when you fall flat on your face it kind of gets laughed off because you're encouraged to take that risk. It makes for a better environment."
UT Opera Theatre will be performing Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" beginning Nov. 15. The Opera Theatre will also be performing "Cosi Fan Tutte," by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, beginning April 11, 2014. Tickets for performances are $5 for students and $15 for non-students, and can be purchased at the Clarence Brown box office.
Although the budget is limited, Beasley said he is confident in what the Opera Theatre can achieve.
"People are not going to walk away and say it could have been a better production with more money," Beasley said. "They're going to walk away and say, 'That was an amazing production overall.'"
For more information about UT Opera Theatre, visit www.music.utk.edu/opera.