Ohio Northern University’s Department of Music offers students numerous opportunities for growth as musicians during their undergraduate education. One of these opportunities is offered during the audition-based music ensemble, Opera Workshop. On March 18, members of the workshop presented their annual Opera Workshop concert for the Ada public.
This concert featured 12 songs from favorite operas, including “Don Giovanni,” “Romeo et Juliette,” “Ruddigore,” “Hansel und Gretel” and “Candide.” Even though the concert was a combination of scenes from different operas, the arrangement director Micah Graber chose for the concert allowed each piece to flow smoothly from one to another.
“The goal [for this ensemble] is to learn opera. That’s exactly what we’re doing tonight,” Graber addressed his audience prior to the performance.
Before each piece, Graber explained the significance of the musical number to the audience. This allowed time for each cast member to be prepared for the number, but also to provide contextual information to the audience.
The opera was effectively engaging with its audience throughout the entire performance. During the first number, “Twenty love-sick maidens we” from the 1881 opera “Patience,” cast members ran out into the audience and brought women onto the stage to become the twenty love-sick maidens. In addition, the male cast members arrived on stage in dresses, which made the audience erupt with laughter.
One of the most effectively charming pieces was the fourth number, “We’re called gondolieri” from the 1889 opera “The Gondoliers.” During this number, the two men portraying gondoliers rode a two-person bicycle on stage. ONU’s Snyder Recital Hall is not a large stage, so most audience members were curious to see if the two men were going to successfully ride the bicycle. They did, and they smiled to the audience in exchange for the applause at the end of their number.
The cast members were accompanied by a small orchestra. During the number “My eyes are fully open” from the 1887 opera “Ruddigore,” the trio continued to sing and challenged their orchestra to continue playing. “And it really doesn’t matter,” a common phrase in the song, is true to the cast members in the Opera Workshop. It doesn’t matter if the music stops, they will continue to sing.
Perhaps the most elaborate scene was the opera version of the classic fairytale “Hansel and Gretel.” The ensemble performed a “Night and Day Sequence” from the 1893 opera, with cast members portraying the iconic characters.
The Opera Workshop continues to prove to the Ada community that ONU’s music students are trained in multiple areas of music. It is very unique for a small school to offer a strong area in opera training.
“Opera music is a really good way to express a story through music. In your song, you’re expressing a character. You can put acting and singing together, which I love,” says junior music student and Opera Workshop member, Kyra Sheldon.
In the final concluding number of the performance, “Make our garden grow” from the 1956 opera “Candide,” the cast supported Sheldon’s comment. These students express a story through their vocal instruments. As the vocal pitches increased, so did the emotions expressed in the actors’ faces.
Additional ensemble members include Sarah Beasley, Samantha Loomis, Jordan Lloyd, Stephanie Martin, Rebecca Newton, Cheyann Schadewald, Avery Sujkowski, Kendra Voll and Calvin.