VCU Opera to perform ‘The Merry Widow’

Maya Earls
Spectrum Editor

Audience members will laugh until they cry, and then cry even more during the next VCU Opera  production, “The Merry Widow,” which is set to premiere April 25. 

The operetta, which is a lighter genre of opera was written by Franz Lehár. The production centers around Prince Danilo who is forced to marry a rich, young widow to save his country from bankruptcy. Even though the prince is in a dire situation, the operetta has many comedic moments and witty characters. The plot is filled with flirtation, glamour and high finance, according to the VCU arts website.

Alex Harper, third-year vocal performance major plays Prince Danilo. Zarah Brock, third-year performance major plays the Merry Widow, Sonia Glawari. Casting for the production took place in December, before the end of the fall semester. Brock said the vocalists have been working on the production since the beginning of the spring semester. Even though preparing for the production is hard work, Brock said she enjoys the process.

“We worked solely on the music and dialogue three times a week at rehearsals spanning from 2.5 to five hours,” Brock said. “It’s hard work and takes a lot of time and commitment, but it’s always worth it.”

After several months of individualized rehearsal, the vocal cast will join the VCU orchestra onstage. Brock said working with the orchestra is a new experience for the singers, because the previously memorized cues arrive at different times. Still, she said having an orchestra brings a more professional aspect to the production.

“It’s such a valuable experience, because these are basically professional-grade productions,” Brock said. “Everything comes together beautifully in what is truly an awesome collaboration between amazing musicians.”

There are about 70 students and faculty members working on the production. Since the production involves waltz music, choreographers were brought in to teach the students the dance steps. The opera students also built the set themselves. Brock said working on such a large production helps her grow as a musician.

“Whether you are a performance major or an education major, you will learn so many valuable things,” Brock said. “We delve into character development, learn how to build sets, perform in period costumes and … build amazing relationships with your peers.”

VCU Opera was founded in 1950 by L. Wayne Batty. The program has been directed by Melanie Day since 1983 and co-directed by Kenneth Wood, Ph.D., since 2008. Past productions have won top awards by the National Opera Association.

Brock said the word “opera” might seem intimidating, but this piece is more like one of the productions seen on Broadway.

“The show is very much structured like a musical,” Brock said. “There is dancing and dialogue, the music is just sung primarily operatically.”

“The Merry Widow” will take place April 25 at 7:30 p.m. and April 27 at 4 p.m. at the Singleton Center on 922 Park Ave. Tickets are $10 for the general public and free for students with a valid VCU ID.

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