‘An Evening of Opera Scenes’ blends classical with pop culture for two nights

ABOVE: The cast of "An Evening of Opera Scenes" at rehearsal before debuting the show this Thursday and Friday. Courtesy Photo

Cassidy Pate | Reporter

The Baylor Opera Theater is presenting “An Evening of Opera Scenes” at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 5-6 in Roxy Grove Hall.

For two nights, Baylor’s School of Music is presenting the opera scenes program that will contain excerpts from nine operas, one musical and a piano accompaniment by graduate student Tangerang, Indonesiathe Jessica Suandrianna.

“It is an art in the most fantasy of senses, but it is a fantasy type of art that tells very human stories,” said Susan Stone Li, interim director of opera.

Li said there will be people going in and out of the aisles, Game of Thrones-like scenes, influences from music group “The Temptations” and singers smoking cigarettes on stage.

Li has been directing the students alongside Jeffrey Peterson, associate professor of vocal coaching, to create an evening of opera the audience will be able to engage in and appreciate.

“What I have done is that instead of confining the action to the stage, the singers are in and amongst the audience members,” Li said. “If somebody comes, it’s entirely possible that they could end up with a very loud voice in their ear.”

Although there will be costumes and props present, Li said it will be a small amount. Li said even the cast has not translated the scenes word for word, so the show is not meant to be overwhelming.

“It’s [meant] to communicate a baseline of information so that the audience can begin to superimpose their own understanding of what those vague ideas actually are,” Li said.

In terms of language, a new operagoer can expect to hear two-thirds of the opera in non-English languages, but everyone can interpret the scenes from the acting.

“All of the singing actors that they will see on stage are using the very minimum of props and costumes to give an idea of who the characters are and where they are,” Li said.

Many of the selections have the basic repertoire and basic relationships between characters on stage that are frequent in the art of opera. Li said the scenes were chosen for the purpose of preparing the cast for future opera roles and to build their skill sets.

“I think we’re doing a really great job at setting them [opera students] up for success in the opera scenes program,” Li said.

The cast was selected in spring 2017, but rehearsals began at the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. With only six hours of rehearsal a week and two weeks of stage preparation, Li said they have had to get a lot done in a short amount of time.

Li said that it is surprising for a school known for so many other things to have the strong singers that they do.

“This is opera and classical musical are not things that you get into because it’s an easy career or you’re going to make gobs and gobs of money; you get into it because it’s a part of your soul, so we’re gonna have a great time,” Li said.

Houston second year master’s candidate Scott Clark will be a performer in the opera scenes program. Clark is working toward a master’s in music with a specialization in vocal performance.

Clark said the non-operagoer planning on attending should watch YouTube videos to gain some perspective on what they might see Thursday and Friday night.

“Go and be an active listener; if you are there, just be ready,” Clark said.

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