The University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team has won 12 National Championships and 21 Southeastern Conference Championships. These championships, however, are not the only records held by the University. UA also holds the record for the first television broadcast of a full-length opera.
In 1955, UA helped launch the partnership that became Alabama Public Television (APT), the nation's first public television network. The University produced a significant amount of the fledgling network's programming, including instruction by UA professors and live broadcasts of concerts from campus. The November, 1955 broadcast of Giacomo Pucinni's opera, "La Boheme" placed UA in the record books with the nation's first televised opera. In the words of Birmingham News reviewer Lily May Caldwell, the production was "a noble experiment, a stride forward for our Alabama Educational Television, and a rich promise of things-to-come."
The University has continued to produce programming for APT and for PBS, including frequent documentaries and a national how-to series, "Martha's Sewing Room," but a new outlet for programs was opened when the University acquired two commercial TV stations, WVUA7 and WUOA23. WVUA7 serves the Tuscaloosa area and WUOA23 is carried by Direct TV and Dish Network across the Birmingham area.
To celebrate the golden anniversary of UA's involvement in the creation of quality television programming, a concert performance of "La Boheme" was staged by the School of Music in November, 2005. Highlights of the concert were broadcast when WVUA/WUOA presented, "La Boheme at UA - A Golden Anniversary" on Thursday, November 16th, 2006.
"La Boheme" is about young lovers who live a bohemian lifestyle in 1830s Paris. Three members of the 1955 cast are interviewed in the program along with four members of the 2005 cast. Also included are eight of the principal arias, sung in Italian, which tell the story of romance between Rodolfo and Mimi, and between Marcello and Musetta.
In 1955, the role of Mimi was sung by Patricia Huddelston Martin who had just won the title of Miss Alabama. For the 2005 production, the role of Mimi was sung by Crystal Harris, a doctoral student in the department of music. The role of Rodolfo was sung in 1955 by Ron Freeman who has enjoyed a long career in music, and Roderick George, assistant professor of music at the University of Montevallo was recruited to sing the role of Rodolfo in the 2005 production.
The role of Musetta was sung by Katy Mitchell, an undergraduate student in the department of music and the role of Marcello was sung by James Taylor, former UA assistant professor of voice, who also served as concert master for the 2005 production.
The performance featured UA's Huxford Symphony Orchestra directed by professor Carlton McCreery, the University Singers directed by associate professor John Ratledge, and the University Chorus directed by assistant professor Julie Skadsem. It was recorded in the concert hall of the Moody Music Building.
"La Boheme at UA - A Golden Anniversary" was produced by the Center for Public Television and Radio.
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