Published on September 7, 2023 by Anne Madison Adcock  
dragonsbreath workshop
Pictured: Students in an opera workshop for Dragon's Breath being led by composer Evan Mack, librettist Joshua McGuire and Kristin Kenning, Director of Samford Opera.

Samford School of the Arts is thrilled to announce the upcoming world premiere of its new American opera, Dragon’s Breath, a project that has been three years in the making. This production is Samford University’s second commissioned opera from the creative team of composer Evan Mack and librettist Joshua McGuire. Mack and McGuire’s first commission piece, The Ghosts of Gatsby, premiered in 2018 and achieved notable recognition, including second place in the National Opera Association Production Competition, winning the Dominic Argento Chamber Opera Competition, and being featured at the Opera America 2019 New Works Showcase in New York City.

The creative duo was welcomed back in 2020 to begin the creative process of Dragon’s Breath. The students involved in this production were given the unique opportunity to work through a brand-new commissioned piece, which allowed them the creative freedom to shape their own roles and contribute to the development of the opera.

“The best way to have an impact on our field is to commission new art, and I believe the best way to train a performing artist is to hand them material they get to shape themselves,” said Kristin Kenning, Professor and Director of Samford Opera.

Dragons breath group workshop

The invaluable experience gained from this process allowed them to utilize the skills they’ve learned as music and theatre students and apply them on stage. Collaborating with Mack and McGuire gave the students the opportunity to work alongside and learn from industry professionals. Playing a role in the production of this opera has equipped these students with real-life knowledge of the production and creative process of an opera from start to finish. The experience they gained stretches beyond the classroom, as they make a permanent mark on Samford’s history.

Dragon's Breath stands out not only for its artistic merit but also for its intention to serve children and families.  The storyline has been carefully crafted to engage young audiences with the hope the production will be embraced by numerous elementary schools, universities, and professional companies across the country. By reaching out to a wider audience, the students' work in this opera will extend far beyond the Samford community. This production not only showcases the talent and dedication of the performers but also brings connection and awareness to the arts programs and the university. The ability to influence and touch the lives of people outside the immediate community is a testament to the power of art and the impact it can have on society.

The story of Dragon's Breath captures the imagination and touches the heart through the journey of young Alan as he battles his anger (personified as a dragon). This production shares a moving message to parents and children about learning to love one another (and themselves) better, while also symbolizing the dedication and passion of the students involved. By commissioning new art and allowing performers to shape their own material, Samford School of the Arts is pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and training the next generation of performing artists. We extend our gratitude to Dr. Chandler and Jane Paris Smith for their continued sponsorship, without which Dragon's Breath would not have been possible.

Gather your family and join Samford University for an unforgettable experience from Nov. 16-19 in Harrison Theatre. Tickets are available online. Don't miss this opportunity to witness the magic of a world premiere opera!

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.