AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) —A French masterpiece full of murder and melodrama will close out West Texas A&M University’s opera season.

“La Navarraise” by Jules Massenet will be staged at 7:30 p.m. April 27 to 29 and 2:30 p.m. April 30 in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex Recital Hall on WT’s Canyon campus. Tickets are $10 or free for WT students, faculty and staff with a Buff Gold Card. Call 806-651-2840.

Massenet’s opera is in the “verismo” mode, a post-Romantic tradition similar to the naturalism movement in literature.

“It’s an opera in real time—short, sweet and very dramatic,” said Sarah Beckham-Turner, assistant professor of music and WT Opera director. “It’s chock full of emotions and drama.”

In the opera, Anita (played April 27 and 29 by Abigail Hite, a junior music education and instrumental performance major from Nashville, and April 28 and 30 by Chloe Ridolfo, a graduate student in vocal performance from Los Angeles) is in love with the soldier Araquil (played April 27 and 29 by Francesco DiLello, a graduate student in vocal performance from Highland Mills, New York, and April 28 and 30 by Justin Williamson, a graduate student in vocal performance from Amarillo).

Unable to pay her own dowry, she agrees to kill an enemy commander for a hefty but secret payday from Commander Garrido (Oscar Hample, a junior musical theatre major from Wasilla, Alaska).

After her lover is mortally wounded and discovers her windfall, he assumes the worst.

“The other characters choose to treat her as either a prostitute or a murderer. Society won’t let her empower herself like a man,” said director Echo Sunyata Sibley, assistant professor of theatre. “They couldn’t let her be the hero.”

Beckham-Turner said she sought out a work that would contrast starkly with “Postcard from Morocco,” the surrealist work staged by WT Opera in the fall, as well as other recent productions.

“I thought that my students would be excited to sink their teeth into this,” Beckham-Turner said. “Plus, I wanted to do something in French. It’s notoriously hard and they all struggle with it, so it’s good for them to get the experience.”

“This is the hardest opera I’ve ever done,” Ridolfo agreed. “I never play the ingenue, so it’s an eye-opening experience to play a different character type.”

Guest music director is Dr. Sara Chiesa, adjunct instructor of vocal coaching at Oklahoma City University.

Cast members also include Joshua Moreno, a sophomore music education major from Canyon, as Ramon in all performances; Kyler Hilton, a freshman music education major from Amarillo, as Bustamente on April 27 and 29 and a soldier on April 28 and 30; Conner Nall, a a senior music education major from Canyon, as Remigio in all performances; Kelton Harbison, a freshman music education major from Canyon, as Bustamente on April 28 and 30 and a soldier on April 27 and 29.

Ensemble members also include Sarah Estes, a freshman music education and vocal performance major from Turpin, Oklahoma; Erin Hinds, a junior music education and vocal performance major from Amarillo; Eduardo Guaderrama, a graduate student in music performance from Friona; and Taylor Lindley, a graduate student in vocal performance from Pampa. Fostering an appreciation of the arts is a key component of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $120 million.

About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.