Hesston College Bel Canto Singers to make Wichita (Kan.) Grand Opera debut

The Hesston College Bel Canto Singers will sing in the chorus of the Wichita Grand Opera’s Tenth Anniversary Gala Concert.

The 19 students who comprise the Hesston College Bel Canto Singers will have a unique experience March 26 as they perform in the chorus of the Wichita (Kan.) Grand Opera’s Tenth Anniversary Gala Concert. The event, titled “There’s No Place Like Home,” will be at 6 p.m. in the Century II Performing Arts Center Concert Hall in Wichita.

The gala will feature world-renowned opera performers Samuel Ramey, Joyce DiDonato and Alan Held. All three have ties to Kansas and are superstars of the world’s greatest opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera (New York, N.Y.), Paris Opera and Vienna State Opera. The event will be under the direction of Maestro Steven Mercurio, who most recently directed a North American and European tour with Sting and London’s Royal Philharmonic.

“This is such a great opportunity for the students,” said Bradley Kauffman, who is in his fourth year as a Hesston College music faculty member and conductor of Bel Canto Singers. “Bel Canto performs a variety of styles of music, but opera is something new for most of us. I am excited that the students have the chance to experience a new type of singing.”

The Bel Canto Singers, who join the Wichita Grand Opera Chorus for five choruses, is the only group not associated with the opera included in the event. Hesston College students will fill out about half of the chorus.

“Three soloists of this caliber is the highlight of the season for the Wichita Grand Opera,” said Matt Schloneger, Hesston College music faculty member and voice instructor. “I am honored that they thought of Bel Canto.”

The concert will include a variety of selections from works including Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” Puccini’s “Tosca,” Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” Kerns’ “Showboat” and Leigh’s “Man of La Mancha.” The program will also include a few more popular selections.

The Bel Canto Singers for 2010-11 were selected by competitive audition during the 2009-10 academic year. They perform extensively throughout the year at campus events and churches, schools and other venues locally and across the country. The choir takes a week-long Fall Break tour every October and a two-week tour every other May following graduation.

Alumni and friends of the college are especially encouraged to attend the event. Single tickets can be purchased for $35, $58 and $85 at the Wichita Grand Opera Box Office on the third floor of the Century II Concert Hall at 225 W. Douglas, online at selectaseat.com, at any Select-A-Seat outlet inside local Dillon’s grocery stores or by calling the box office at 316-262-8054. Group rates are also available.

Located 30 miles north of Wichita, Hesston College is the two-year liberal arts college of Mennonite Church USA.