Jordan Riggs, a sophomore at Pittsburg State University, will play the part of Bill Bobstay in the university’s production of “H.M.S. Pinafore,” an opera by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, on Feb. 15 and 17.
Riggs grew up in the Peabody area and graduated from Hillsboro High School in 2011. He is studying music education with an emphasis on vocal music.
His vocal coach at college, Patrick Howle, is also the director of the opera and urged Riggs to audition at the end of classes in spring 2012.
“He said that I should audition for the opera because he felt certain I would enjoy the experience and that I had the voice for it,” Riggs said.
Riggs had been involved in several musicals in high school, including playing the part of Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast” his senior year. Although musicals and operas aren’t quite the same, Riggs said his high school experience has helped him with the opera.
“The director has complimented me a couple times on my stage presence, professionalism, and ‘dance skills,’” Riggs said. “Definitely have Mrs. (Lynn) Just and Mr. (Terry) Bebermeyer to thank for that.”
Because opera has very little, if any, spoken dialogue, Riggs has had to get used to singing for extended periods.
“It is a definite workout for my voice, and the style takes some getting used to, but it’s considered the hardest/finest form of singing, so I’m really enjoying the challenge,” he said.
Riggs said the music in “H.M.S. Pinafore” can be wordy and fast, making enunciation difficult. His part has many cue lines in the first act, putting extra pressure on him. Rehearsals feel a lot like the ones for musicals in high school, including the camaraderie developed among cast and crew members, he said.
His experience with the opera so far has been good enough that he hopes to continue with opera in the future, as long as it doesn’t conflict with his school work.
“Rehearsals are going great,” Riggs said. “We had a slight scare coming back from winter break, but everyone has redoubled their efforts and we’re rapidly picking up speed.”
Rehearsals will move to the stage of the university’s Memorial Auditorium soon, and Riggs is eager to see the set.
Riggs’ vocal part in “H.M.S. Pinafore” is officially a bass, but most of the music is in the baritone range, he said.
“Because it’s a Gilbert and Sullivan production, it’s not the stereotypical ‘opera’ sound,” he said.
Performances of “H.M.S. Pinafore” will be 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 and 3 p.m. Feb. 17, both at Memorial Auditorium in Pittsburg. Tickets are $10 for adults or $5 for senior citizens and students under age 17; Pittsburg State University students can get in free with student ID. The Southeast Kansas Symphony will accompany both performances.