A Night at the Opera (and Cabaret)
By Kaya Heimowitz
Patrons of the arts visited Schneebeck Concert Hall, from Friday, March 31, to Sunday, April 2, to watch the music department’s “Scenes from the Opera House to the Cabaret!” The production featured scenes from famous operas and musicals with minimal props. In a note written by the cast members, the show was dedicated to “those we have lost and those who have lost someone” and mentioned the recent passing of a student. The note also encouraged audience members to internalize the message that “there is no day but today to live in the moment and find love around you.”
The first half of the event focused on scenes from famous operas. A narrator introduced every new scene, explaining what was happening so even those unfamiliar with the stories could follow along and enjoy. Lyrics to the songs were also projected onto the screen behind performers so audience members could follow along with the story.
The first few scenes were from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” The opera began with Prince Tamino, played by Devlyn Habib-Campbell, running down the theater aisles from a “beast.” The Queen’s three marvelously dressed ladies (Natalie Worthy, Annie Hochberg, and Cara Castaldi) then rescued the Prince with swords (in this case, lightsabers). A few other scenes from “The Magic Flute” were sung, which included Larissa Gaulke impressively hitting all of the high notes in the famously difficult “Queen of the Night Aria.”
The final opera scene was the finale from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” A dozen or so fairies (opera singers wearing wings) floated gracefully down the aisles to the stage, singing about how everything wrong has been righted. Puck danced jauntily across the stage alone at the end while performing his famous monologue (if you’ve ever seen “Dead Poet’s Society,” you know the one).
After a brief intermission, the show resumed, switching to “Scenes from the Cabaret!” A live band played the accompanying music for the entire second half of the show.
A few songs from the musical “Rent” were performed. The musical centers around artists living in New York City in the 1980s under the shadow of the AIDS crisis. The first song takes place in a “Support Group.” The names of the people in this scene were changed and re-named to honor people who suffered and died from AIDS or AIDS-related illnesses (for example, the character “Freddie” was named after Freddie Mercury). The song featured gorgeous harmonies as the cast sang about forgetting regret, not thinking about the past or the future, and just focusing on right now and how they felt that day as they all struggled with AIDS. Audience members wiped away tears during the moving performance.
Other songs from “Rent” were also performed, like “Seasons of Love,” which asks, “How do you measure a year in the life?” The song ultimately explains that a person should measure their life in love. All of the songs from “Rent” focus on the connections between people, and in the last song, the performers sing, “You’re not alone, I’m not alone.”
The production ends with scenes from “And the World Goes ‘Round,” a mix of musical theater hits, asking, “What makes the world go ‘round?” The first answer is “coffee in a cardboard cup,” and it declares that the main problem with the world is that it moves too fast. To emphasize this, the performers sing faster and faster every time they take a “sip” from their coffees on stage. The next answer given is “Money, Money, Money” makes the world go ‘round. Finally, grand ole “New York, New York” is the final answer for what makes the world go ‘round. Of course, the world goes ‘round, but appreciating the arts and reflecting on the love around us can improve life in the present.
Almost all of the performances were emotional, and many dealt with heavier themes of death, suicide, and depression. There were moments I felt overwhelmed with emotions because of the emotional toll. I cried during one of the songs from “Rent” and so did the person next to me. A moment of grief became a shared experience. I left the show feeling hopeful about the future and appreciative of the community around me.