November 29, 2020

Webster University Opera Studio performs works of Mozart, Tchaikovsky

Webster students Jimmy Stevens (left) and Mary Beth Freitag play a young couple separated by war in “Cosi fan tutte,” the first scene in the Opera Studio’s production on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Nerinx Hall High School. PHOTO BY HAYDEN ANDREWS.

Webster University’s Opera Studio class presented scenes from January 18-20 at Heagney Theatre in Nerinx Hall High School. The opera included scenes from “Cosi fan tutte” by Mozart, “Iolanta” by Tchaikovsky, “Werther” by Jules Massenet and “The Merry Widow” by Franz Lehàr.

The production also incorporated seven dancers from the Webster dance department and an orchestra comprised of 15 Webster students, faculty and alumni, which was directed by Conductor Scott Schoonover.

Alice Nelson, artistic director and director of opera at Webster, said every year she chooses the opera pieces based on the types of singers who have been accepted into the Opera Studio class.

“If I have some really good sopranos, then I look for pieces that showcase sopranos,” Nelson said. “If I have a really good tenor, I look for something that would showcase the tenor. I always do one piece with the chorus. In fact, we’re doing two pieces with chorus this time.”

Opera Studio is an audition-based course with students ranging in grade level from freshman to senior. Nelson said freshman singers are usually placed in the chorus.

This year, the stage director was Nathan Troup, associate director of opera studies at The Boston Conservatory. This is his first year being a part of Webster’s Opera Studio.

Jimmy Stevens, sophomore vocal performance major, said he enjoyed working with the director and conductor.

“They bring in a different director and conductor every year and this year the director, Nathan Troup, has been a lot of fun to work with,” Stevens said. “He had some very good ideas for staging.”

Senior Emma Sorenson (left) and junior Caroline Camp share the stage in “Werther,” the third scene of the Opera Studio’s production on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Nerinx Hall High School. In “Werther,” the libretto was in French. PHOTO BY HAYDEN ANDREWS.

Stevens played two characters in the 2013 opera scenes. His character, Ferrando in “Cosi fan tutte,” was the lover to Mary Beth Freitag’s character Fiordiligi. Troup and the ensemble took a modern spin on the Mozart classic by placing the performers in modern-day clothing. Freitag’s character made use of both an iPhone and iPad on stage.

The second scene was “Iolanta,” the Tchaikovsky fictional tale about a young princess who is blinded in a childhood accident. Julie McGinnity played the role of Iolanta. In this piece, the performers were costumed in corseted dresses. Brooke Henderson, wardrobe head, said the large amount of corseted gowns made final checks take a little longer than usual.

Emma Sorenson, senior voice major, had two roles in the production, playing Dorabella in “Cosi fan tutte” and the lead role of Charlotte in “Werther” — the third scene of the opera.

“I really enjoy the contrast between the two parts that I get to play,” Sorenson said. “One of them is a little bit more comedic (Dorabella) and the other one is pretty dramatic (Charlotte).”

In the scene “Werther,” the libretto, or text, was in French. Dressed in period costume from the 1800s, Sorenson played the part of Charlotte. Sorenson shared the stage with junior Caroline Camp, who played her sister Sophie.

The final piece was “The Merry Widow.” First performed in 1905, this Lehár classic is one of the most popular works of opera. Not only was this the longest scene in the opera production, “The Merry Widow” incorporated the most people. A total of 28 performers were used, including the seven members from the Webster dance department.

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