Students in the music program at UWG gave a truly impressive performance during their Opera Workshop at the Kathy Cashen Recital Hall on Oct. 24. This collaboration of musicians was only possible through the help of several student directors, Director Dawn Neely, Graduate Assistant Demi Harling, Music Director John Elson Williams and Pianist Bernie Wong. There were a total of nine scenes performed by numerous singers aided by their devoted directors and pianist. These skits were from various operas by a few different artists. Before each performance, some of the directors would give a brief description of the events that would take place during the show.
The first scene portrayed actors rehearsing for a performance called “Rehearse” from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by Leonard Bernstein. There were four soloists that performed with a chorus as they sang this upbeat, energetic song. Many of the actors were within certain groups, frantically running around and practicing for their performance to come and then grouped together by the end to sing as one. The second scene was called, “Letter Duet” from the third act of The Marriage of Figaro. This one featured Kelsey Williams as Susanna and Dileesa Archer as the Countess sweetly singing about writing a letter to Count Almaviva to invite him to secretly meet with his wife. They actors sang a complex piece and had to act comfortingly towards each other because the count was actually cheating on his wife.
The third scene was called, “Sandman and Evening Prayer” from Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck. This piece showed Kennedy Clark and Kelsey Williams as the two children accompanied by Jacob Arnett as the Sandman. In this one, the Sandman softly sings Hansel and Gretel to sleep by casting a spell on them. Jacob came down from the audience to the children on stage which was a surprise to the audience as this haunting figure emerged from the back of the recital hall.
Then the fourth scene was called, “Down to the Depths” from Too Many Sopranos by Edwin Penhorwood which is about too many soprano singing angels being in heaven at one time. This opera music is gospel influenced and featured a few solo parts to elaborate on the angels being divas because they are soprano singers. They all were becoming frantic about their mission to hell to weed out the best sopranos and the actors portrayed that perfectly.
The fifth scene was called, “I Trios” from act two of Cendrillon by Pauline Viardot which is a version of the Cinderella story. The opera song showed when the Prince sent invitations to his ball causing Cendrillon’s step sisters to act elaborate on stage. They were ranting about the riches and glory they would receive by marrying the prince and using many specific props during the scene to make it more colorful. The sixth scene was called “I am so proud” from The Mikado by William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. This opera piece was intended to be humorous and express what a Japanese general felt about his friends trying to tell him he is about to be decapitated. Men performing in the skit were hilarious and offered a less serious look at soldiers in an army.
Next, the seventh scene was called, “Act I Quintet” from The Magic Flute by Mozart. This part shows Papageno and Tamino being gifted a magical flute by three ladies telling them about the importance of its power. During this piece, the actors playing Papageno and Tamino got to express themselves more than the ladies because their characters had to work together for the quest that the ladies would send them on. The eighth scene was called, “Quickly, quickly come along” from Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten. This skit showed children and a choir director singing for a celebration that is about to take place in honor of a man named Albert becoming king. The children are more concerned with the food than the song and this scene allowed the only bad singing throughout all of the performances for comical purposes.
The ninth scene was called “Scene, Quartet and Chorus” from Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Menotti. This opera piece was an adaptation of the Christmas story that focuses on the Three Kings looking for Jesus. They are told by a crippled boy and his mother about the star that they can follow. This was one of the best performances in the whole collaboration because almost the entire cast appeared in this last scene.
Since there were so many opera scenes, many of the students were a part of more than one skit. Many students had singing and speaking roles within each opera scene as well. Before each performance began, a director was standing to the side conducting the students and leading them through their scenes after the pianist gave the cue to begin to make sure they were on time and paying attention. Above all, the most spectacular part about these performances was that each scene showcased amazing teamwork between the students and directors.
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