Converse College premiere of “Troiades” pushes boundaries of traditional opera

A Converse College School of the Arts collaboration is pushing the limits of traditional opera through the use of innovative technologies.

TroiadesConverse musicology and composition professor Dr. David Berry, an accomplished composer, and co-creator Dr. Ronald Boudreaux, former director of Converse Opera Theatre, will premiere their opera-oratorio “Troiades” at Converse Jan. 23-25, 2015. For info and tickets, visit culture.converse.edu.

Scenery for the production is created with projection mapping, and performers are accompanied by digital orchestration. “These are fairly new and somewhat controversial concepts in the world of opera, but these technologies open up new possibilities for use of space and selection of venue,” said Berry. “In many ways, Troiades is like a laboratory for Converse to explore some approaches that are not being done elsewhere in our state or region.”

The setting has a graphic novel (comic book) style. While the term “projection mapping” is not widely recognized by the general public, it will be familiar from its use in such events as the Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi, and for Carrie Underwood’s costume on stage at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Graphics for the opera’s set and action scenes were created by Converse freshman art major Hannah Stewart, who attended the Governor’s School for the Arts in Greenville, S.C. prior to coming to Converse. Stewart adapted set designs created by Converse interior design students as a class project.

Combined, these technologies push the boundaries of traditional opera and expand the limitations typically dictated by a venue. “Daniel Recital Hall is an intimate setting for an opera, and that would not be possible without the use of these technologies,” said Berry. “This is about exploring new ways to make art and impact the experience of our audiences.”

The story of “Troiades” is told through the viewpoint of women who lived through the Trojan War. The female perspective is rarely captured in accounts of early historical times, and Berry was drawn to that angle as a way to honor Converse’s mission as a women’s college. He blends historical accuracy of the Bronze Age with 21st century twists, like the graphic novel design and a contemporary narrator who provides commentary on the action. “Everything that is happening to the Trojans in this story is happening in our world right now – it is mirrored by today’s news headlines,” said Berry. “That is why the mix between the Bronze Age and 21st century was an important focus for me.”

Several notable Converse music alumni will perform alongside students, and the production is directed by Elizabeth Margolius, a 1990 Converse alumna and professional director from Chicago.

The production demonstrates how colleges can expand into new arts areas to meet the needs of today’s students – a priority for the Converse School of the Arts. “It provides students with a broader range of experiences as they prepare to explore career paths and make their mark as artists,” said Berry.


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