Manchester University
Oak Leaves

February 17, 2017

Opera - Amelia Goes to the Ball Cast

"Amelia Goes to the Ball" cast: (Back) Michael Rueff, Jeremy Williams, Matt Grothouse, Kevin Friermood, Freddie LaPierre (Front) Daniel Baker, Grant Ebert, Emily Lynn, Clayton Marcum, Nolan McBride

Young Artists Hit Stage This Weekend in Opera Wrokshop

Ciara Knisely

Manchester’s Opera Workshop, titled “Love: Sublime and Ridiculous,” premieres tonight in Wine Recital Hall, featuring the operas “Tales of Hoffmann” by Jacques Offenbach and “Amelia Goes to the Ball” by Gian Carlo Menotti. Tonight’s and Saturday night’s shows are at 7:30, while the final performance on Sunday is at 3 p.m.  

These classical French and Italian operas feature a comical and satirical modern twist—but don’t worry: the show is entirely in English, and supertitles, or the cast’s lines, will appear above the stage to help the audience understand and connect with each word. After all, this performance is equally a continuation of the Italian art of singing as it is an enjoyable, interactive experience with a storyline and, of course, outstanding vocals. The opera serves as a vessel to tell a story through song.

“There couldn’t be anybody who wouldn’t find something to be entertained by,” says Dr. Debra Lynn, director of Choral Activities and Voice Study. To complement Valentine’s Day, the performance’s central theme is romance, though the audience will be laughing more than anything else. 

This cast auditioned in October 2016, received their scripts before leaving for Winter Break, and studied, practiced and lived their parts throughout December, January and part of February for the performances this weekend.

As evidenced by rehearsal, members spent countless hours practicing, and the show tonight will reveal that talent. The piano, played by Dr. Pamela Haynes, will serve as the only music, and the cast will perform without microphones. Because of that, the cast had to perfect the ability to project their voices.

“A play is hard, but an opera is actually harder because you’re singing everything,” says Lynn, who has directed the Opera Workshop for 19 years. 

The cast must also focus on remembering the choreography involved in each scene. “Some of the struggles I have faced are the amount of physical movement combined with the singing and getting my notes correct,” said Courtney Douglas, first-year biology-chemistry major.

Contrary to the caricatured perception of opera as screaming medieval women in helmets, the Opera Workshop combines this classical art with a more mainstream interpretation, including hipsters, sassy maids and a gorilla costume. 

Junior vocal performance major Clayton Marcum hopes the performance will encourage others to change their assumptions about opera. “A stigma needs to be dropped, and this is a good way to realize that,” said Marcum, a pencil artfully stuck behind his ear (which is a common thing to observe at any of the cast’s energetic rehearsals or meetings). For Marcum, the opera is more than just a show, but also an educational experience. 

Mykayla Neilson, a senior music education major, agrees. According to Neilson, the opera involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone, but also eliminating preconceived notions about the classical form of theatre. 

Lynn hopes this show will break down any stereotypes toward what opera means and who can participate. Indeed, the journey to success for this show turned into much more than just a performance.

For Marcum, who has participated in the Theatre and Music Department performances since his first year at Manchester, the immense feeling of triumph is far worth the hard work after seeing the results. 

Neilson agrees. “There’s such an atmosphere of family during rehearsals,” she said, and that feeling of closeness is definitely reflected in their chemistry on stage. 

In another twist on traditional theatre, Lynn chose the pieces to perform after seeing auditions. She did this in order to find pieces that fit well with each cast member’s abilities, as the program accepts everyone from students and faculty to community members. Because of the diverse range of vocals in this year’s cast, Lynn selected the first act from “Tales of Hoffman,” composed in the nineteenth century, and the one-act opera “Amelia Goes to the Ball” from the mid-1900s, as a means of showcasing the cast’s talent.

The Opera Workshop is a January Session class that continues into the middle of February, and the 0.5 credit-hour course is open to the public. Each performance this weekend will be around 90 minutes.