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Student Experiences: Oresteia of Aeschylus

Editor’s note: To commemorate 100 years of collaboration, UMS and the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance will celebrate with a massive orchestral and choral work, Darius Milhaud’s Oresteia of Aeschylus on April 4. Below, U-M students share their experiences of the rehearsal process. Also, we’ve interviewed some of the key players in the project.


Anna Piotrowski is a Junior in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, and is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Violin Performance with a minor in Performing Arts Management. She worked as a marketing intern for UMS in Fall 2012 and is now currently working in the Ticket Office. Anna is a member of the University Symphony Orchestra and is involved in the upcoming Milhaud project. She also enjoys being a member of Arts Enterprise, which is a collaborative music and business student group on campus. As a Type One Diabetic, she is also on the Executive Board of Students for Diabetes Awareness. Anna is from Traverse City, MI, and enjoys volunteering for the Traverse City State Theatre and the Traverse Symphony Orchestra when at home. Jump to Anna’s coverage.

Rhemé Sloan is a junior Voice Performance Major in the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance. He is also a Marketing Intern for UMS, as well as the President of the UMS Student Committee. He says, “I live for the performing arts. They challenge me to think outside of my own world and explore the beauty in all things.” Jump to Rhemé’s coverage.

Rhemé Sloan’s coverage

April 2 – Full Rehearsal

March 31  – Piano Dress Rehearsal with Soloists

On Sunday evening in Hill Auditorium the UMS Choral Union joined the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance choirs as we ran through all three operas with the soloists. As we get deeper into this music, I am discovering how powerful it is. One of my favorite moments in the Trilogy is in Scene 5 of Les Choéphores, ‘Exhortation’, where the Speaker is accompanied by a choir that moans and wails percussively as she calls upon Zeus to protect Oreste as he avenges his father’s death. There is an archaic quality to this movement that captures the pleading of the characters and the urgency of the circumstance. You can almost see the chorus of actors kneeling on the ground weeping and crying out to Zeus as if their lives depended on it.

On Monday, we start rehearsals with the orchestra and percussion ensemble. I look forward to seeing how this new layer rounds out this forceful and robust piece of music.

Photos from combined rehearsal of U-M University Choir, Chamber Choir, and Orpheus Singers on Monday, March 25

Anna Piotrowski’s coverage

April 2 – Full Rehearsal

This project has definitely been unlike anything I have been a part of before. I hadn’t realized the sheer length and magnitude of this work until we played all three operas consecutively in a run-through last week. That was exhausting, to say the least! One of the biggest challenges of this work is the orchestration. We have to play much quieter than the marked dynamics much of the time, while still creating a beautiful, french sound (the orchestra was originally intended to be in a pit). Although we’ve been working on this for many months, getting to put it together with the chorus and soloists this week has been exciting. With each rehearsal we are able to explore the music on a deeper level, which helps with my comprehension of the work as a whole. Since I don’t know French and won’t be able to read the supertitles, it’s impossible to know what is happening at every moment that I am playing. But, the soloists are singing in such a way that tells a very clear story, no matter the language. Although this story is set to atonal/polytonal music that not many people are familiar with, the themes of this story are universal. I believe that the audience will really enjoy this extraordinary concert experience on Thursday night!

The end of Les Eumenides Act II:

From March 28 Rehearsal

Percussion solo section in Les Choéphores:

Warming up:

Other student coverage

Performance video produced by U-M student Catherine Borland: