Manchester University
Oak Leaves

November 8, 2019


Manchester Plans Opera by Rock Star/Classically Trained Musician

Carly Greaves


Stewart Copeland, founding drummer of The Police and now a composer of opera, is bringing one of his works to Manchester early next year for its collegiate premiere.

Every year, Manchester offers its musically inclined students the chance to participate in an opera workshop during the January Session or spring term. Students who take the class get the chance to study and later perform an opera work. This program is run by Dr. Debra J. Lynn, professor of music and director of Choral Organizations and Vocal Studies. Lynn uses these workshops to introduce students to the unique wonders of opera. “When opera started it was kind of the blockbuster movie of its day,” Lynn said. “I just always feel like opera is sort of a cinematic experience. It always feels very grand, and larger than life.”

Even by these standards, this year’s Opera Workshop will be special. “The Invention of Morel,” the work that will be studied in January, will have its collegiate premiere at the Honeywell Center in Wabash on Feb. 28 and 29. The opera will be staged by Kathleen Smith Belcher, director at the Metropolitan Opera. Copeland, the opera’s composer, is also coming to help during the rehearsals.

The fact that Copeland writes operas might come as a surprise to those more familiar with his career as a drummer for the British rock band The Police. However, Copeland’s musical ability has proven to be as diverse as it is well known. “He’s kind of lived in both worlds,” Lynn said. “He’s been in that popular music realm, but he’s also a classically trained musician. The fact that he brings all that together makes his music really interesting.”

An interesting, unique style of music would certainly fit in with the unusual plot of “The Invention of Morel.” In a 2016 YouTube interview with OPERA America, Copeland describes the story as “a period sci-fi black romantic comedy.” The opera is based off the novel of the same name written by Adolfo Bioy Casares and tells the tale of an unnamed fugitive living in hiding on a deserted island. The fugitive believes he is completely isolated from the outside world until a mysterious group of people arrive on the island. Among these individuals are a beautiful woman, whom the fugitive quickly falls in love with, and an inventor named Morel. This already odd series of events gets only stranger as the story goes on, providing plenty of twists and turns for both the fugitive and the audience.

This intriguing plot would certainly be enough to attract the attention of an audience, so Manchester students and faculty are already preparing for the big event. The cast members, who include both students taking the January Session class and Manchester alumni, have received their roles for the performance. It is not only the actors, however, who are readying for the opera. Ejenobo Oke, associate professor of art, and her students are helping with the scenic design for the show. A marketing class taught by Beth Driscoll, assistant professor of marketing and management, is working hard on a plan to market the opera to various audiences in the area.

While the preparations have only just begun and the performance is still months away, the performers themselves are already eager for the event. “I’m super excited because we get to work with Stewart Copeland and Kathleen Belcher, which is super cool,” said Benjamin Tipton, a sophomore acting in the opera. “They’ll both bring a whole lot to production.”

Senior and fellow performer Hayley Cochran is also excited to perform and share the joys of the opera. “Opera isn’t mainstream; you don’t really hear that much about it,” she explained. “But it’s definitely still alive and well and I’m absolutely in love with it.”

With passionate performers and a well-known composer, “The Invention of Morel” will offer an enlightening look into the sometimes overlooked world of opera.