At Singleton Center, a night at the opera (In fact, several operas)

Nick Bonadies
Spectrum Editor

Student vocalists in the Department of Music's opera program will present this weekend a series of scenes from famous operas such as Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (pictured).

In most venues, for Cleopatra, Cinderella, a mechanical automaton and one or more dragons to grace the stage in the same evening is, at best, unusual.

Even more so, if all of the aforementioned are singing.

Two such evenings, however, will take place this weekend, Saturday Nov. 19 and Sunday Nov. 20, as VCU Opera – Virginia’s longest-running opera program – takes to the stage of the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall.

At VCU Opera’s Fall Gala, student vocalists in Virginia’s longest-running opera program will present a series of fully-staged scenes selected from across centuries of operatic repertory, united this year under the theme of “The Many Faces of Love.”

“If people like musicals, opera is just like musicals,” Alexa Bratton, a sophomore vocal performance major playing a stepsister in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola (Cinderella),” said, describing what she perceives in opera as an untapped appeal. “Except it’s all music, all singing. There’s no speaking, for the most part.”

“It’s kind of like Jerry Springer,” Stephanie Auld, senior vocal performance major, said. “It’s overtly dramatic.” For her scene this weekend, Auld will sing from Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffman” in the role of a mechanized doll who needs to be rewound halfway through the aria by the inventor that built her.

Auld noted that a production of several different scenes circumvents the problem of a sometimes lengthy experience with a full opera, which many modern audiences perceive as taxing on their attention spans.

Wagner’s four-part Ring cycle, one commonly cited example, totals 18 hours and is typically performed over several days to allow both audience and artists a breather – but most operas run between two and three hours.

Opera scenes presented at the Singleton Center this weekend will include selections from operas like "Carmen" and "The Magic Flute."

“There’s so much variety,” Auld said of this weekend’s gala, which will include scenes from Bizet’s “Carmen,” Mozart’s “Abudction From the Seraglio” and “The Magic Flute” and Strauss’ “Adriane auf Naxos.”  “You don’t have to have a long attention span at all.”

“Some people are like, ‘Oh, I only like 20th-century opera,’ or ‘I only like the great Italians,’” Auld said, referring in part to Romantic-era monoliths like Verdi, Puccini and Rossini. “Here, you can sort of get a taste of all different types.”

The annual gala is the fall-semester counterpart to the annual spring-semester full opera production, for which VCU Opera joins forces with the VCU Symphony.

VCU Opera, which has operated continuously since its beginnings at the Richmond Professional Institute in 1950, lays claim to the longest tradition of annual full-scale opera productions in the state of Virginia.

Productions in recent years have included standouts in the operatic repertory such as Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus,” Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikaido” and Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

As of yet, no choice has been officially made on a work for VCU Opera’s full production in the spring.

 

VCU Opera’s Fall Gala takes places this Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. at the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free.

Photos by Mel Kobran

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