On Saturday, Dec. 1, Keene State College’s Opera Workshop transported attendees back in time with classical tunes and acting monologues.
In an hour and a half, there were 12 performances without an intermission.
Director Dr. Matthew Leese said the students picked their own musical pieces and he matched a script written by Shakespeare to it. “Once we work on their solos, I pick scenes that would be flattering for each person and then we put that together for the second half of the semester.”
Leese said he chooses Shakespeare monologues to match with the emotion or direct scene of the solo for each student. He said his reasoning for specifically choosing Shakespeare works is because both opera and Shakespeare share a “heightened style of language.”
“Since [Shakespeare’s language] is not one we speak in anymore and neither is opera, for me it’s a nice half-way point for both the singers and the audience members to hear the Shakespeare and then it transitions into the classical music,” Leese said.
KSC first-year student Sam Ducharme said she recognised that the monologues were Shakespeare, and thought it was a unique addition into the show.
She said, “I thought it was interesting that they took so many pieces from Shakespeare… since I knew most of them.”
Ducharme added that she came to the show to support friends in the performances, “I think they did a phenomenal job,” she said. “It went as well as it possibly could.”
Leese said he is extremely proud of his students because of the limited time they are able to meet. “We only have two 50-minute class periods a week. Compared to a mainstage show that [has] three to four hour long rehearsals at night, we get a very little amount of time. So I’m really thrilled with what they did tonight.”
KSC fifth year student and performer Justin Posnanski also said he was happy with how the night’s performances went. “It’s a very difficult and rigorous process,” he said. “We do some intensive work on how to sing operatically and how to act our monologue.”
Posnanski said the class was very fun and he hopes the class grows in size as well as the interest of opera across campus. “Opera is accessible to everyone,” he said. “Everyone thinks opera is just fat ladies on a stage but it’s not… If you can sing and if you can act, you can do opera.”
Another goal that Leese has is to expand the amount of operas performed annually and the use of their new supertitles. Since most of the solos were performed in different languages, English subtitles were displayed above the stage for audience members, called supertitles. Leese said the supertitles are new this year and he said he received a lot of positive feedback from audience members.
Next year, students will be performing their scenes at public schools, thanks to the partnership with Keene’s Colonial Theatre and the Metropolitan Opera. “I’m really excited because kids tend to be more excited and open to new things,” Leese said.
Angelique Inchierca can be contacted at