By Emily Rostek
As the University of Puget Sound awaits spring and sun, the music department prepares for their annual production. This year, they will be producing a collection of opera scenes from a variety of operas featuring many talented students. The opera scenes are only performed at the University once every three years. The performance features 22 students and 13 scenes from well-known operas including Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and “The Marriage of Figaro” as well as other more contemporary operas like “Sweeney Todd.” The students have been rehearsing since the beginning of spring semester. Hailey Hyde, senior and president of Adelphian Concert Choir, has been involved in the opera scenes twice during her time at Puget Sound. “I feel like people who haven’t been to a full opera before — a full opera can be very intimidating, but this is a good way to introduce yourself to it because there are just quick little scenes and it’s the fun part of it,” Hyde said.
The scenes differ in length; some are only two minutes, while others are as long as nine minutes. The whole production will last just under two hours. Usually directed by Dr. Dawn Padula, who is on sabbatical, the opera scenes this year have a distinctive shift because they are directed by Barry Johnson, a voice professor at Pacific Lutheran University. “It is interesting and exciting to have Professor Johnson because he brings a totally different voice to the campus,” Hyde said.
Johnson’s direction strays away from classic opera costumes and the students instead will be wearing all black with different props for each scene. “The Opera Scenes are special because it is really just about the singers,” Hyde said.
The students involved received their parts before winter break and were expected to learn their music during their time off. Since the start of spring semester, the students have been rehearsing twice a week.
“What’s cool about the Opera Scenes as a program is that everyone gets to be featured. The scenes were chosen to highlight the strengths of the cast,” Aian Glaze, junior, said.
Glaze is one of two tenors in the Opera Scenes and will be featured throughout many scenes in this year’s production. “[Professor Johnson] selected all of the scenes based off who auditioned, so no one is turned down. I think that is really special because everyone gets a part,” Hyde said.
This aspect of Opera Scenes is unique to our small liberal arts college; it is rare that a group of students are all cast, and then placed in a role that really highlights their strengths. Because of this, no one is left behind and everyone is featured.
“The experience has been really unique because it is more individual and compartmentalized,” Glaze said.
The students in the opera scenes this year exude talent. In addition to the memorization and practice, the students also write narrations about each piece and share it before each scene. This gives context to the audience regarding the opera’s history as well as the scene itself.
“Most of the scenes are in English, so the music is really accessible for the audience. The scenes in another language will have subtitles projected on a screen so everyone knows what is going on,” Glaze said.
Clearly, the students involved in the opera scenes are both passionate and excited about their performance. “What’s been really fun for me is hearing people sing who I haven’t really heard sing solo before,” Hyde said. “It’s so cool to see everyone sing these incredible, incredible pieces, and really just shine.”
The comradery evident in the ensemble is ever-present, and the chemistry onstage is just as apparent.
“People have grown immensely and there’s a great deal of talent here. The students are excited about singing and they’re excited about opportunity,” Professor Johnson said.
The Opera Scenes will take place on April 7 and April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Info Desk and will be $7 for students.