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Students showcase talent in An Evening of Opera Scenes

“An Evening of Opera Scenes” filled the Massey Performing Arts Center with comedy, love, drama and satire on Monday night.

Presented by Belmont’s Opera Theatre, the event was built upon seven different scenes selected by Dr. Kristi Whitten, performed by students and accompanied by Frances Ho.

After a short introduction from director Dr. Kristi Whitten, the show began with the first scenes of “Cendrillon”, or Cinderella, by Jules Massenet.

The first act displayed excellent costume design as servants dressed in white suits frantically scrambled amidst three women wearing flowing, layered dresses and large, floppy hats with feathers.

Additionally, the act featured solos by Cole Chandler and Madeleine Lefler, the father and stepmother in the play, and set a high bar for the remainder of the event.

The second act, “Cosi fan tutte”, by Mozart, was a bilingual performance, featuring songs both in English and Italian.

Elizabeth Jones sang an especially memorable solo in her performance of “Despina’s aria”, and Caroline Marshall and Rachael Freed formed an impressive Italian duet contemplating feelings of hope and desire.

Although the previous acts had satirical elements, the third performance, “Iolanthe,” by W.S. Gilbert and A. Sullivan, contained the most blatant comedy.

The fantastical world in which “Iolanthe” takes place includes mystical fairies and scheming men in power. This created an inherently bizarre and hilarious sight, and the dialogue between characters garnered plenty of laughter from the audience.

Cameron Sharpless played the especially amusing character Private Willis. Dressed in the distinctive red Queen’s Guard uniform, displaying a straight face during comical interactions and singing with a deep, rich inflection, Sharpless’ performance was one to remember.

The next performance, “The Ballad of Baby Doe,” quieted the funny energy “Iolanthe” created.

The somber piece provided an intimate view into a woman’s confrontation with divorce and a cheating husband, performed by Hannah Marcoe.

Marcoe stole the show with her haunting solo, supported by melancholy harmonies from other cast members on stage.

The next act, “Le Nozze di Figaro,” lightened the mood and revolved around a “night of madness turned into chaos,” said the character Basilio as he introduced the performance.

Watching the characters scramble and hide from each other behind tiny stage props and gossip about one another reenergized both the audience and the performers on stage.

It was a dynamic performance with many soloists occupying different vocal ranges, with notable performances by Madeleine Lefler and Dylan Godbey.

The next act contained some of the most memorable moments of the night. “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” composed by Frances Poulenc, told a story of a group of nuns during the French Revolution who refuse to give up their vocation.

The highlight of the night came when a chorus of nuns joined the stage to support a solo by Taylor Rawlings. Supported by an 11-part harmony, Rawling’s gloomy solo floated above the voices of her supporting cast members and concluded the remarkable scene.

To end the night, Dr. Whitten selected a scene from “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. The scene discussed feelings of hope and the fears of growing up, ending the night on a relatable note for all audience members.

Overall, the production of the event was flawless.

All performances were accompanied with astute lighting, seamless costume changes, flawless piano accompaniment and dynamic conducting.

The contributions of this showcase’s entire team resulted in a professional and engaging evening of opera scenes.

This article and photo by Henry Gregson.

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