Senior Dan Bittner, known for his leading roles in the school plays and musicals, recently participated in the opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors” through Resonance Works, a Pittsburgh performing arts company.
“Amahl and the Night Visitors” which was performed December 16 and 18 at the Third Presbyterian Church in Shadyside, is about a young disabled boy and his mother who encounter three kings.
Bittner was first learned about the role when a voice instructor at Carnegie Mellon mentioned the opportunity.
“Resonance Works was in need of baritones and after a voice lesson with one of the cast members I was recommended to work in the production. Within the show I was part of the opera chorus. My title was a shepherd,” Bittner said.
However, the transition from a musical, to which he is more accustomed, to an opera did have difficult aspects to it.
“It was an awesome experience though it was very different from musical theater. I learned several classical singing techniques as well as a lot of tips on how to act and sing within an opera,” Bittner said. “Opera is different from musicals because it is all singing though the music tends to be more intricate and technical. Rehearsals mainly consist of learning the music and defining the technique where as a musical consists of dance and heavy blocking as well, which is the acting and placement of scenes.”
While, Bittner enjoys any form of theater, he’s still undecided as to which form he prefers best.
“It depends on the scenario and the shows have their pluses and contain beautiful music,” Bittner said.
Even though Bittner’s first opera experience has come to an end, he continues to keep busy with the start of the musical season and his training.
“I spend at least an hour or two a day learning lines, music or developing a character. During the week for musical we have two and a half hour practices. On top of that I spend time at home reviewing my notes and lessons from rehearsal. Singing shows like “Les Miserables” takes a lot of stamina and breath control so running a few miles a day at home really helps my breath control,” Bittner, who plays Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables”, said. “It is quite difficult to keep a strong voice for these shows especially when singing a role like Jean Valjean. The music is heavy and if you approach it with improper technique you will destroy your voice.”
However, Bittner’s training is designed for much more than his part in Shaler Area’s musical.
“Training for the performing arts takes a lot. I have been taking vocal lessons for several years and taking acting classes. Working alongside new directors, vocal coaches and teachers is very fun and exciting, though it is very tiring,” Bittner said.
Pre-colleges are also a part of Bittner’s schedule.
“I went to the pre-colleges offered at Baldwin Wallace and Muskingum University over the summer. I learned acting techniques, breathing techniques, ways to approach and hit notes, and ways to interpret plays and music to make them original as well as act them out correctly,” Bittner said.
However, Bittner’s theatrical career won’t end when his time at Shaler does. Bittner has been preparing for his life after high school by getting ready for auditions for the past four years.
“The audition process is very exciting, yet stressful due to the fact you could get sick beforehand, so health is a number one priority,” Bittner said. “Memorizing and rehearsing monologues, learning songs and going through the audition motions takes time and effort, though it’s always worth it in the end.”
Bittner is currently undecided as to where he will attend school next year, but he hopes to obtain a degree in musical theater or vocal performance.
“I am auditioning for Carnegie Mellon University, Juilliard, Baldwin Wallace University, Duquesne University, Pennsylvania State University, Shenandoah University, Point Park University and I am waiting to hear back from the Curtis Institute of Music,” he said.