Published on August 25, 2022 by Ashley Smith  
Opera Viva

Voice professor Kristin Kenning was invited to be a stage director at the summer young artist program 2022 Opera Viva! in Verona, Italy. She took part in the virtual version in the summer of 2021. Several Samford students and alumni attended the program with Kenning this July.  Selected students included current senior Matthew Reber, Tessa Brown ’22, Annabelle King ’22, Shelbea Fordham ‘22 and Emily Scott ’20.

“This was an amazing experience for our students to study Italian opera IN Italy.  Both the challenge of the subject and location of training was inspiring for our students.  The three US institutions that saw the most students accepted to this program were the University of Southern California, Eastman School of Music, and SAMFORD University,” said Kenning. “It showed our students that they are nationally competitive and allowed them to collaborate with a diverse group of artists.”

Opera Viva! offers young singers, collaborative pianists, and stage directors the opportunity to experience the musical and cultural riches of Italian opera through study and performance in Verona, Italy. Students immerse themselves in a three-week comprehensive seminar offering a full range of classes and activities, culminating in public performances. Students receive private coaching, Italian language classes, attend opera performances, travel the region and perform frequently. 

Matthew Reber is a senior voice performance student and learned about the program through Kenning.  “Dr. Kenning has not only helped educate me in musical and operatic performance but has always sought out opportunities for me to perform. She introduced me to Opera Viva! as well as offered me an ensemble role with Opera Birmingham,” said Reber.

“My biggest take away from this experience was how much opportunity is out there and that I still have a lot of room to grow and explore in my musical craft,” said Reber.  This was his first time traveling outside of the United States. “One of my favorite aspects was getting fully immersed in a foreign culture with friends from home.”

“Studying Italian opera abroad allowed our students to go very deep in that one subject. Hearing the language being spoken by Italians allowed our students to become better at their own pronunciation and fluency in Italian.  I think our students walked away with experiences that will lead to greater confidence as performers and musicians in the future,” said Kenning.

The Samford vocal performance area of study offers students a wide variety of performance opportunities from annual mainstage opera productions to working in the community.  The graduate vocal performance area recently added the Opera Birmingham Studio – a two-year program allowing singers to enroll in Samford’s graduate vocal performance program while simultaneously receiving professional performance opportunities throughout Opera Birmingham’s season. Kenning is excited to encourage future students to explore Opera Viva as well.

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.