UGA Opera Ensemble to premier on Nov. 20 under new director Frederick Burchinal

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music will present the premier concert of the UGA Opera Ensemble under its new director, Frederick Burchinal, on Monday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m. in Hodgson Concert Hall located at 230 River Road. The concert is free and open to the public.

While the UGA Opera Ensemble is not new to the Hodgson School, the group has been taken to a new level of professionalism with the hiring of two professors from the Metropolitan Opera this year. Renowned baritone Frederick Burchinal and vocal coach-accompanist George Darden joined the faculty of the Hodgson School with the charge of building a first-rate opera program. Burchinal is the first recipient of the Wyatt and Margaret Anderson Professorship for the Arts.

A continuous presence at the Metropolitan Opera since his debut as Macbeth in 1988, Burchinal’s performances at the Metropolitan Opera include the title roles in Macbeth, Simon Boccanegra, Nabucco, and Rigoletto, Iago in Otello, Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana, Tonio in Pagliacci, Amonasro in Aida, Gerard in Andrea Chenier, Golaud in Pelleas et Melisande, and Baron Scarpia in Tosca. For the 2005-06 season, Burchinal performed with Placido Domingo singing the role of the Grand Pretre in Samson et Dalila in the opening night gala conducted by James Levine. Burchinal also sang performances of Rigoletto, conducted by Domingo, and Tosca, conducted by James Conlon. Burchinal has sung in the international opera houses of Paris, London, Berlin, Dresden, Frankfurt, Cologne, Duesseldorf, Zurich, Palermo, San Paulo, Santiago, Seville, Caracas, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Seoul plus more than 60 opera companies across the United States. At UGA, he will act as professor of voice and director of opera. Burchinal will continue his operatic engagements with the Metropolitan Opera and with theaters and orchestras

Darden’s hiring was an unexpected bonus and further enhances the program. His role at the Met included final preparation for every singer before he or she took the stage, including polishing phrasing, fine-tuning language pronunciation, and solidifying interpretation. For 20 years, he worked with almost every singer in the business, including Rene Fleming, Placido Domingo and Kathleen Battle among others. His presence at the Hodgson School offers a level of professionalism and training that few other opera programs afford.

“George brings many, many aspects of professional life that only he can offer,” says Burchinal of his colleague. “As a superb pianist and musician, he brings a dedication to musical excellence that is greatly needed at the student level. Plus, he has an accumulated knowledge of a lifetime of playing for and coaching the very best singers in the world and working with them worldwide.”

The first half of the program for Nov. 20 will feature staged scenes from several operas, including La Traviata, Cosi Fan Tutte, Romeo et Juliette and Rigoletto (with Burchinal as Rigoletto). Since Burchinal still performs at the Met, the concert will offer the Athens-area community an opportunity to hear the Met at Hodgson Hall. The second half of the program will be a tribute to Broadway featuring selections from Stephen Sondheim, Gilbert and Sullivan and Rogers and Hammerstein.

A photo of Frederick Burchinal as well as the concert program is available by contacting Julie Caldwell at 706/542-0042 or jpowell@uga.edu.