VCU Opera performed their anticipated fall collection of scenes from some of the world’s most renowned compositions and operas.
On Nov. 21-22, Melanie Kohn Day and Kenneth Wood co-directed “Mostly Magic,” a concert of opera scenes including “La Cenerentola,” a variation of the classic “Cinderella,” “The Consul,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo et Juliette” and other similar scenes.
The gala was performed by the VCU Opera class, composed of roughly 20 students who have spent the past semester focusing on this fall performance.
Day accompanied the performers on piano while Wood narrated each scene. They said they tried to tailor the performances to what the singers voices are suitable for within two to 10 years.
“When casting, we work very hard to assign roles that are appropriate for each student,” Wood said. “We have a little more latitude when casting scenes, because a student might not yet be ready to sing the entire role, but they are perfectly capable of performing a scene from it.”
Day also states that she and Wood consider students’ past performances when determining the variation they should take this semester.
For the first five weeks the students focus on the music of the performances then go on to completing acting exercises with Wood and begin staging.
“We begin by doing generalized acting and improvisation exercises, followed by specific character study,” Wood said.
He went on to explain how he also has to work the role of a theatre director, as opera encompasses both singing and acting.
One of Day’s favorite scenes, “The Consul,” is a direct parallel to the recent events concerning refugees in Syria. The scene is set in a totalitarian European country, where displaced citizens are waiting to receive passports to leave the country. Having to confront an unsympathetic receptionist, played by Margaret Mayes, these people are faced with excessive paperwork and unreasonable qualifications for a passport to leave the country.
Other scenes, such as “Rigoletto” and “Romeo et Juliette,” are sung in Italian and French. This goes to show the necessity of opera vocalists to study other languages as well as the difficulty in signing opera.
Day said that working as a teacher at VCU has been an englightening experience.
“Because it is just one scene, we are available to develop it in much more depth than you would ever be able to do in the context of a full show,” she said.
Wood said he holds similar sentiments towards his job at the university.
“My teaching experience at VCU has been extremely rewarding,” Wood said. “I feel fortunate to be part of a well-developed opera program with such a rich history, and to work with such a talented group of students and a dedicated faculty.”
VCU Opera celebrates 65 years this season and is credited for the longest-running tradition of annual full-scale productions in Virginia. Current students Forrest Glass and DeVonte Saunders were both accepted to the University of Vienna in Austria last summer to study German.
VCU Opera’s full-scale spring production will be presented April 29 and May 1.
Article by: Kristen Lair-Baker, Contributing Writer