After directing three operas last year, Evita, Jackie O, and Don Pasquale, David Herendeen has found himself with three awards from the National Opera Association for each one, all in different divisions.
The three shows were placed into three different divisions based on budget and population, and were judged blindly without knowledge of the director. When Jackie O won first place in Division One, Don Pasquale won second in Division Two, and Evita won third in Division Three, it was not known by the judges that Herendeen was the director of all three operas, making Herendeen the first director to ever win three simultaneous awards from the National Opera Association.
“We do a good job here, but I wanted to make sure I was doing the right job for my students and my university,” Herendeen said. “Because these judges were no friends of mine, they didn’t know who I was, so it was a purely dispassionate view by critically educated people.”
OCU has entered to compete in the National Opera Association for the last five years, and has managed to win something every time.
However, it has never occurred that one director won three awards at once, and though it was Herendeen behind the wheel of all three, each shows had a different cast, orchestra, and conducting staff, making the three awards a rare event.
“We don’t just have small group of students who can do anything, we have a large group,” said Mark Parker, dean of the schools of music and theater. “It shows the amazing depth we have at OCU that we are able to cast different people in three different productions, and then have all of them win national awards.
The awards will be presented on the final night of the National Opera Association convention in Santa Barbara in January.
One factor that is constant throughout all of the winning operas is the trend of unconventional approaches to traditional stories.
In the case of Don Pasquale, Herendeen established the setting as pre-revolutionary Cuba as opposed to its traditional setting, and directed the titular character as an award-winning rum brewer. Jackie O was also a highly-experimental performance in which the titular character was split into two characters with the plot focusing around the two reconciling with one another.
“I think the new dynamics worked really well and created some freshness in the shows,” said Austin Martin, vocal performance junior and former cast member of Don Pasquale. “And I think that probably played a strong role in those awards.”
Despite the accomplishment, Herendeen is reluctant to accept full responsibility. Instead, he points to the students and faculty who cooperated in the creation of the operas, and attributes the victory to them.
“It’s not just me,” Herendeen said. “It’s my responsibility, because I oversee the collaboration, but it’s a lot of collaboration between all the good people involved in the show.”
The Oklahoma Opera and Music Theater Company’s 65th season will continue next semester with Dark Sisters Feb. 17 – 19.