FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Opera & Musical Theatre Workshop announced it will present “The Christmas Gift,” their first opera production in 35 years.

According to a release, performances will be at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6 and 8 at the Breedlove Auditorium on the UAFS campus. Tickets are free for students, faculty, and staff. General admission tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here.

Written by the award-winning composer Dr. James Sclater, “The Christmas Gift” is based on the Raymond Alden story, “Why the Chimes Ring.” It follows the travels of two brothers, making a long journey through snow, ice, and cold temperatures to reach a Christmas Eve service in their rural village.

As part of the adaptation, UAFS says roles initially created as male priests were changed to female nuns and a king was changed to a queen in one of the casts. Dr. Elizabeth Momand, director of the opera, says these changes make it possible to a double-cast.

“By double casting, the opera, each student in the ensemble now has a solo role at some point in the production,” Momand said.

Momand also spoke on the opera being a complete opera.

“When I started the Opera & Musical Theatre Workshop 17 years ago, the goal was always to present a full opera. But until this point, we’ve only been able to present scenes from various operas.”

Some of the students initially seemed unsettled by the idea of performing a whole opera, Momand said. “But after we sang the first chorus, there were smiling faces because the music is just so beautiful and so much fun the sing,” she said.

The ensemble will perform educational matinees of the opera for local elementary, middle, and high school students.