A Little Opera in Happy Valley
I had a blast last night. At the opera. (Crazy, I know.)
I had an opportunity to attend, and shoot photos at, a dress rehearsal for the Penn State Opera production of The Marriage of Figaro, which will be staged Friday and Saturday night at the State Theatre in State College. I had had almost zero exposure to opera before last night—and I loved it. The performers, all of them Penn State undergraduates or grad students, were terrific; the costumes were exquisite; and the opera itself is hilarious.
This particular production is all in English, and the music is provided by a woodwind quintet plus piano—here again, all students.
A pair of grad students in vocal performance and pedagogy, Aidan Davis and Kate Scally, play the lead roles of Figaro and his bride-to-be, Susanna (see photo at top). Or at least they did in last night’s rehearsal: In a few cases, one person will play a given role in the Friday night performance, and someone else gets to play the role on Saturday night. There are 11 roles in this particular opera, but something like 14 students in the cast.
I was impressed by all of the performers in the cast, but I especially got a kick out of the elderly Marcellina and Bartolo (photo above—click on any of these to see ’em bigger), whose facial expressions and mannerisms were just a hoot. I was even more impressed to discover later that they are played by two Penn State freshmen! Julia Wolcott and Chris Hollobaugh are recent State High grads, and they were just great.
Another character well worth seeing is the Count’s page, Cherubino, played by junior music major Liz Walton (photo at right). The fact that a woman was playing a man’s role confused me at first (remember, I said this was my first opera!), but Kris Allen, who was there to record a segment for WPSU-FM, explained to me that Cherubino is what’s called a “trouser role” or “breeches role”—a male role almost always played by a woman.
I can’t say enough about what a great production this is. Kudos not only to the students but to Ted Christopher, head of Penn State’s opera program, who is the show’s artistic director, and to associate professor Beverly Patton, who is its musical director. A shout-out also to the School of Music and the Institute for Arts and Humanities for sponsoring the production. IAHS, for example, helped underwrite the costume rental, from a premier shop in Toronto called Malabar Ltd.—and did I mention how exquisite those costumes are?
I can’t believe it’s taken me more than half a lifetime to see The Marriage of Figaro, but I’m very glad I got to see this Penn State rendition of it. If you’re in town this weekend, I highly recommend you check it out.
Tina Hay, editor
P.S. Penn State Live has posted 10 of my photos from last night’s rehearsal—you can see ’em here.
Entry filed under: State College, University Park. Tags: Aidan Davis, Beverly Patton, breeches role, Chris Hollobaugh, Institute for Arts and Humanistic Studies, Julia Wolcott, Kate Scally, Liz Walton, Marriage of Figaro, Mozart, Penn State Opera, Penn State School of Music, Ted Christoper, trouser role.