As I reflected on my first years out of graduate school with an M.M. in Piano Pedagogy and Performance from SMU, I wanted to leave some of the tidbits of wisdom I wish were given more importance in my academic career. Thriving as an artist is possible if you have the right mindset, expectations and goals. A degree is simply a piece of paper. It’s the experience, the challenges of the journey and the people you meet along the way that really lead you to your success.
Some of my most meaningful relationships came out of SMU and I am forever thankful for my time as a Mustang.
No one can resist the spell of the glamorous, alluring enchantress Alcina.
She has conjured a magical island paradise where she lures unsuspecting, vulnerable men who are blinded by illusion, desire and pleasure. Amid a tangle of romantic conflicts, seductions and captivating deceptions, George Frederic Händel explores the fascinating and powerful complexities of how human beings suffer in love in this magnificent Baroque masterpiece. On February 8, SMU Meadows will sing it in Italian with English projected titles.
The opera runs through February 11 at the Bob Hope Theatre. Tickets and the program are available on our SMU Meadows events calendar. Photographer Kim Leeson attended the dress rehearsal and has returned with stunning photos in advance of the show.
Professor Hank Hammett is the Director of Opera at Meadows School of the Arts. Having received his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music at the University of Texas at Austin as well as having studied at Music Academy of the West, Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies, and New York’s MTB Studio; he is no stranger to the entertainment industry. He has performed both on and off broadway, in television, film, and of course opera.
Professor Hammett has worked at the The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, The Glimmerglass Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, L’Opéra de Montréal, Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona) and De Nederlandse Opera (Amsterdam) just to name a few. His recognitions include First Prize in the Liederkranz Competition in New York and the Grand Prix in the Concours International d’Oratorio et de Lied in France. In addition to the stage, Hammett has acted as an artistic director, stage director, music director, vocal coach, and also maintained a privately owned studio. More recently, Professor Hank directed Meadows Arts’ opera “Elixir of Love.”
What brought you to SMU?
In 2003 we moved from New York City to Austin. One day at the beginning of the summer, I got a phone call from our good friend Virginia Dupuy asking if I’d be interested in filling in for one year for the vocal coach position, which had suddenly been vacated.
Although I had never thought about working in academia, I took the interim job, and commuted for that year from Austin to Dallas. One thing lead to another, and Dale and I both ended up joining the faculty on a permanent basis and moving to Dallas in 2005. Three years into my time at Meadows, our opera director left suddenly. I was asked to be the Director of Opera. I’m a big believer in taking risks and walking through the doors that open right in front of you–even if you’re scared to death!
You have performed all around the world, where is your favorite place to perform?
The best opera companies, at least in my experience, are the ones where you feel like you’re a part of a wonderful, fun-loving, supportive group of friends and family: The Met, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Barcelona are a few of them. I love any working environment where people are caring, thoughtful, have a great sense of humor and are kind to everyone.
How has your extensive performance career influenced your directing and teaching career?
I learned that there isn’t any one approach to singing or one approach to acting that brings any given result or success. Everyone has a different path, a unique way of processing and of working and that this is something to embrace and celebrate! I learned the joys of collaborating with other artists to get a product that will surely be so much more beautiful and fantastic that anything any of us could create on our own. I learned the importance of balancing the artistic with the practical and just getting down to the bottom line of what I need to do to make something work.
Do you have a personal favorite performance you have worked on and why?
I can’t pick out just one, but my favorite performances are those given by our students. They continue to amaze me, particularly with the remarkable level of commitment, imagination, specificity and organic storytelling that they bring to the stage. The singing actors from the Division of Music, and the incredibly gifted young designers from the Division of Theatre are awesome and inspiring!
What should a student signing up for one of your classes anticipate?
Our Meadows Opera Theatre motto is Be bold, be fearless, be joyful, be yourself! This continues to be my ongoing challenge to each of my students. And, above all, to be caring, encouraging, respectful and immensely kind to each other and very thankful for each other. We’re awfully fortunate.
This semester has been nothing short of groundbreaking. Early in March, the Dallas Theater Center and SMU Meadows’ Ignite Arts Dallas, in association with the AT&T Performing Arts Center, presented a musical theatre production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It was a participatory theatre project unlike anything the city has ever seen.
Just a few of the events of the events to follow include the Meadows Chamber Music Recital, The Meadows Opera’s The Elixir of Love, Regina Taylor’s Magnolia, the Temerlin Advertising and Division of Journalism “Collaboration Room,” and the August Wilson Monologue Competition.
Here are just a few of our favorite photos from the fantastic semester so far:
Cancel your Valentine’s Day plans: We have an opera for you.
This February weekend at SMU, the Meadows Opera Theatre will present a vivid performance of Elixir of Love at the Bob Hope Theatre. There’s love-potion, a snake-oil salesman, irresistible melodies and sparkling wit. This is the Valentine’s Day date you’re looking for in Dallas. The Meadows Opera Orchestra will be along for the ride, as conducted by Paul Phillips.