The AriZoni Theatre Awards of Excellence, Arizona's awards for outstanding theater, recognized Arizona State University's excellence in theatrical productions and individual performances during its 27th annual awards ceremony Sept. 25 at the Tempe Center for the Arts.
ASU’s School of Music Lyric Opera Theatre took home seven awards for its 2016–2017 production of “The Magic Flute,” which received nominations in all 13 musical categories and won the award for best overall musical production.
Brian DeMaris, artistic director of Lyric Opera Theatre and associate professor in the School of Music, won the award for best music direction for “The Magic Flute.” This is DeMaris’ third year as artistic director for Lyric Opera Theatre and second year winning the award for best musical direction.
“The greatest strength of our opera and musical theatre program at ASU is the students,” DeMaris said. “It is so easy and wonderful to work with such impressive young talent. Not only the cast members on stage, but also the orchestra students are among the best I've worked with at any institution.”
He said many of the students, singers and instrumentalists already have lots of professional experience in Phoenix and beyond, which provides the unique opportunity for everyone to work at a professional level while still helping to train and elevate students in their skills.
“The Magic Flute” received the most nominations of any Lyric Opera Theatre production for the 2016–2017 season.
“I think the opera plays to our strengths, which are that we have a lot of superbly trained vocalists who are also terrific actors and have experience in both opera and musical theater, as ‘The Magic Flute’ is a piece that even in 1791 was a true ‘theater’ piece, not a full grand opera,” DeMaris said.
He said involving cross-disciplinary elements in the design, overseen by Alfredo Escarcega, technical director senior for Lyric Opera Theatre, is something that helped the production resonate in the 21st century.
“We were fortunate to have Zoe Crow, a student from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre who brought her expertise in media design, matched by the sound design of Derek Stevenson, a student from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering,” DeMaris said.
DeMaris said Dale Dreyfoos' stage direction balanced the worlds of fantasy-comedy and serious drama regarding the ideals of the Enlightenment and a particularly strong cast were heroic in putting the time in to this unusually long and difficult opera.
Faculty, students and alumni of ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre program received 20 nominations in all award categories and seven of those nominees received awards.
“I think this speaks to the strength of our program as a whole as well as the growth we've been working toward in our technical production process,” DeMaris said. “Our faculty and staff team in the department has been excellent in trying new things, and the students have been terrific in sharing ideas as well as working hard to help ensure that all we do is at the highest level. We have an abundance of talented students, faculty and staff, and people with ideas, energy, drive and a passion to really make our program better each day.”
DeMaris said the audience has returned in full after several years of poor ticket sales and he is excited about the future of the theater’s program.
“We had multiple sold out performances of every single production last year, which is very exciting,” he said. “People know that what's going on here is excellent and they want to be a part of it.”
Individual award winners for Lyric Opera Theatre’s “The Magic Flute” include:
• CodyRay Caho, actor in a major role in a musical
• Melanie Holm, actress in a supporting role in a musical
• Dale Dreyfoos, director of a musical
• Zoey Crow, artistic specialization in media design
• Derek Stevenson, best sound design