By ALLISON HORNE - comp:000049183ad5:000000023d:5016 new
Susan Dennis (Submitted photo)

Hear them sing

WHAT: “Savoir Flaire” features opera scenes and musical theater favorites

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 21

WHERE: Sears Gallery at Elgin Academy, 350 Park St., Elgin

INFO: $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors; 847-695-5014 or mail check payable to Elgin Opera to 
350 Park St., Room 207, 
Elgin, IL 60120;,

Keeping the classical vocal arts alive and well is key to Elgin Opera, which will present a French-infused homage to the language of love, blending excerpts from the opera "Lakmé" with songs from "Les Miserables" and "South Pacific." Artistic Director Susan Dennis of Bartlett, who teaches voice at Elmhurst College, leads the troupe. In addition to performances, the company trains singers from across the region.

The organization was founded as Opera Professional Entertainers Repertoire Association (O.P.E.R.A.) in 2001. Dennis, who first became involved when she auditioned for the role of Adele in "Die Fledermaus," decided to take it one step further, and began working with founder Solange Sior. The name became Elgin Opera, as it underwent the change to a nonprofit.

When Sior, a noted soprano, turned her emphasis to her performance career, Dennis took the reins of artistic director.

For the coming presentation of “Savoir Flaire,” Dennis serves as musical director, and will sing the title role in "Lakmé," an opera by Delibes about a Hindu princess. The concert will feature the opera's second act.

Dennis also will serve as pianist for the musical theater selections.

“There’s a lot of … people involved, (who will) have the solos,” Dennis says.

In building the concert program, members of Elgin Opera's performing and training ensembles were asked to sing, as well as the winners of its vocal competition held last year.

Dennis also chose to involve local Channing Elementary School students. The children have been learning French after school to be able to take part in “Savoir Flaire.”

“We teach the children (so) they can be doing some songs,” Dennis says. “We’re going to have all the kids participate, so they have an experience and have the opportunity to do a little musical sort of thing.”

They will join in on three French folk songs and during the highlights from "South Pacific."

Dennis is not only a professional singer herself, but shares her passion for the vocal arts with aspiring students. She teaches vocal lessons and musical theater workshops at Elmhurst and Harper colleges.

“I really enjoy teaching students vocal technique, and the aspects of good singing technique, so when they learn their repertoire, they have a good foundation,” Dennis says, adding she's excited about the coming concert.

“This is our big show of the year; it’s incorporating both elements — musical theater and opera," she says. "We want to expose people to this higher level of vocal music.”