News release
Public Information Office   SLU 10880   Hammond, LA 70402   phone: 985-549-2341   fax: 985-549-2061 Spring 2004 news releases Public Information home News archive

Contact: Christina Chapple
Date: 3/8/05
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DIDO AND BELINDA – Southeastern Louisiana University music majors Wendy Kinchen of Ponchatoula, left, as the handmaiden Belinda and Amanda Tarver of Prairieville, right, as Dido, the widowed queen of Carthage, will make their final appearance as Southeastern students in the university’s March 16-19 production of Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas.” Curtain time at the Pottle Music Building Auditorium is 7:30 p.m.

EXPERT INSTRUCTION -- Artist in residence Larry Gray, right, director of the Southeastern Opera-Music Theatre Workshop’s March 16-19 production of “Dido and Aeneas,” gives instruction during a rehearsal to Amanda Tarver, left, and Wendy Kinchen, center. 

      HAMMOND – Amanda Tarver and Wendy Kinchen are admittedly sentimental about “Dido and Aeneas.” 
      Henry Purcell’s magnificent miniature of an opera, which Southeastern Louisiana University’s Opera-Music Theatre Workshop will stage March 16-19 at the Pottle Music Building Auditorium, marks the graduating seniors’ swan song as Southeastern music students.
     “I look at certain people during a rehearsal and I say, ‘Gosh, I’m going to miss you next year,’” said Kinchen, a graduating senior from Ponchatoula who appears as Belinda, handmaiden to the widowed Carthaginian queen, Dido, played by Tarver.
      “Sometimes, it’s a smart aleck kind of comment,” Kinchen added, laughing, “but it’s really true. I’m going to miss Chuck (Effler, director of the workshop), my teachers, just the atmosphere that we have at Southeastern. Because it’s not the same at other schools.”
     As they prepare for their final curtain with graduation looming in May, their sentimental sentiments are understandable. Both Tarver and Kinchen have their sights set on graduate school and their ambitions zeroed in on professional music careers. They agree that they will leave Southeastern not just with fond memories, but with a deep appreciation of the training they’ve received. 
     “I kind of fell into Southeastern,” said Tarver, a mezzo soprano from Prairieville. She said she was not even contemplating majoring in music until her choir teacher steered her to Southeastern and to voice professor Scharmal Schrock. 
     “The stage bug bit me and I couldn’t leave it alone,” said Tarver, who has appeared in a number of Opera-Music Theatre Workshop shows, from her first role as Rose in “The Secret Garden” to her favorite, Desiree, in last spring’s “A Little Night Music.” 
     “If I had gone to another school, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had here,” Tarver said. “It’s like I was meant to come here. Am I going to miss Southeastern? God, yes!”
     When Tarver recently auditioned for the graduate music program at Roosevelt University in Chicago, where she will attend graduate school in the fall, “They applauded me,” she said, with quiet pride. “The teachers told me, ‘We really want to meet your teacher. We want to meet the people who made you who you are.’” 
     “Amanda is one of the most talented students I have ever had,” said Schrock, a veteran member of the Southeastern music faculty and former Opera-Music Theatre Workshop director. “She has a stunning voice. I can’t wait to see what happens to her next. She can have a fabulous career because she is really, really good.”
     “Amanda and Wendy,” she added, “are both just wonderfully gifted girls. They are ready to go out and join the world and practice the craft they have learned.”
      Even with talent, the young women face a long road to professional success, said Effler. “It takes a long time to build a career, partly because you can’t over-sing yourself when you’re in your 20s,” he said. “You just have to wait to start singing major roles in big houses.” 
      Meanwhile, Tarver and Kinchen, who studies with Southeastern voice faculty member Stephen Rushing, are finding their final roles satisfactorily challenging.
     “I’ve never played a queen before, so this is new for me,” laughed Tarver. “This is the first year that I’ve played the heroine. I’ve always been the sidekick, the comic relief.” 
     “I’ve usually been some kind of funny girl. This time I’m the helper of the tragic heroine,” said Kinchen, who has had parts in shows such as “The Medium,” “She Loves Me” and “The Tender Land.” Double-cast as Belinda, she will sing the role at the March 16 and 18 performances. 
      “Dido and Aeneas” was Purcell’s only opera and the first to be written in English. It runs less than an hour and is loosely based on Virgil’s epic poem, “The Aeneid.” The libretto tells the story of Dido and Aeneas, a prince of Troy before the city’s fall to the Greeks.
     “Aeneas wanders the oceans for seven years until he lands on the shores of Carthage. He and Dido fall deeply in love, but Dido, who had sworn fidelity to her late husband’s memory, initially resists her feelings,” recounted Effler. “When she finally admits her love, a false messenger sent by a Sorceress appears to Aeneas and commands that he leave Carthage immediately. Dido, inconsolable, tells Aeneas that she cannot live if he goes. After singing one of the most beautiful laments in operatic literature, ‘When I am laid in earth,’” she dies. A haunting final chorus beckoning Cupids to drop rose petals on her tomb ends the opera.
       “When ‘Dido and Aeneas’ was written everyone knew the story,” Effler said. “Audiences in 1689 were raised on the classics. The music is spectacular and that’s why we’re doing it.”
      “If you want to see what opera is all about, come see it,” said Kinchen. 
       “Dido and Aeneas,” which is directed by Southeastern artist in residence Larry Gray, also features Jessica Davis, who shares Kinchen’s role of Belinda; Kristin Glass of Walker and Sarah Osterberger of Baton Rouge as the Second Woman; Kay Schepker of Hammond as the Sorceress; Cassie Arnold of Ponchatoula and Maria Burkett of Chalmette as the First Witch; Christina Babin of Prairieville and Betty Turner of Hammond as the Second Witch; and Brian Martinez Jr. of Montz and Brandon Wear of Slidell as the Sailor. Dancers are Lyric Cox of  Abita Springs, Andrea Zummo of Loranger and Kristin Barber of  Belle Chase.
      Effler will conduct the opera and serve as vocal coach. Joining him on the production staff are set designer Steve Schepker, costume designer Richard Walsh, lighting designer Ellen Sovkoplas, and choreographer Dana Brewer-Plazinic.
      Curtain time for “Dido and Aeneas” is 7:30 p.m. Tickets, available at the door, are $10, adults, and $7, senior citizens, Southeastern faculty, staff and alumni, and non-Southeastern students. Southeastern students will be admitted free with their university I.D.
      For additional information, contact Effler at 985-549-2249 or