Published on October 16, 2017 by Ashley Smith  
Opera commission

Samford and the School of the Arts have commissioned a new opera, The Ghosts of Gatsby, to debut over the next two years at Samford and be presented by the Samford Opera.  The work began several years ago with the collaboration of Kristin Kenning, director of Samford Opera, librettist Joshua McGuire and composer/pianist Evan Mack.  Kenning has worked with this talented pair over the past few years, workshopping a variety of pieces, but this will be the first commissioned opera for Samford.

 “The one act opera is intentionally inspired by our Alabama roots,” says Kenning.  “We wanted to highlight a character from our history, and Zelda Fitzgerald is such an iconic symbol of the Jazz Era and a wonderful subject to explore.”

The opera focuses on three different ages of Zelda and her relationship with famed husband F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Infused with the Jazz Era mood, the opera is rich with dance and musical scoring that features the clarinet, vibraphone, drum set, piano, string quartet and double bass. 

 “The value to our students is immeasurable,” notes Kenning. “We will workshop the opera this spring with the composer and librettist on hand, while they edit and revise the opera on location.  Our students will experience the creation of an opera and will have the opportunity to define the roles they play. Unlike so many of the historical pieces we do where students are influenced by earlier interpretations, this will force them to build the character from scratch. The impact of working directly with a composer and librettist of national caliber on a new American opera will ignite our students’ studies and future aspirations.” 

 After the workshopping phase, The Ghosts of Gatsby will be performed in its entirety as a premiere on the Samford stages during the 2018-19 season.  The Samford Opera intends to share this experience with the Birmingham community and also hopes to take the production on the road. “The potential of this new opera is tremendous for both Samford and our students, and we are deeply grateful to our sponsors Dr. and Mrs. Chandler Smith for their ongoing support,” adds Kenning. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.