Opera has been a musical form of storytelling for generations. On Monday, Nov. 20, Keene State College music students presented an Opera Workshop. At the beginning of the semester, students began working with Professor Matthew Leese and Professor Christina Wright-Ivanova on perfecting opera pieces to be showcased at the event.

Similar to a recital, students performed pieces from selected operas, but with a twist. Rather than presenting the pieces in a traditional recital style, students were given the task to act out their given scene.

Junior Corinne Colgrove performed the songs “L’Antro dell’Eternita” from La Calisto and “The Black Swan” from The Medium. When asked what her favorite part of being in Opera Workshop was, she responded that acting out the pieces in a theatrical manner was her chosen part of the show.

“Normally when we do performances we just kind of stand in one place, but it was nice to actually move around and act and get in costume.”

The singers performed seven songs consisting of music ranging from the fifteenth century to present day. Despite the majority of the music being composed centuries ago, Leese, who directed the show, explained that many of the topics discussed are still important in this day and age. “For me, part of my goals are to teach the students that are in the class, but also to kind of educate our audience that a lot of the topics that we deal with are really,w really relevant.”

Although the program only lasted an hour, Leese commented on the importance of having an opera showcased to the public in a small dose. “There are ways of presenting opera that don’t turn people off. For me, having a show that’s an hour or less long is really important because you don’t want people to dread how long they’re going to sit there for,” Leese said.

While the performance was brief, the preparation for it was extensive. Wright-Ivanova, who was the pianist, spoke of the process of helping the students learn the music, as well as assisting them with vocal coaching. “Vocal coaching is a very unique field where the singers get a chance to study diction and stylistic traits with the pianist.”

Wright-Ivanova also explained the importance of making sure the performers understand what the music is trying to convey through vocal coaching. “Our program is a lot of early music. A lot of music that’s sort of seventeenth through the early nineteenth century. There’s very unique stylistic traits in that time period. It provided a lot of challenges for the students to sing, so it was a great opportunity for the students to learn something quite difficult,” Wright-Ivanova said.

Although learning the style of the music was difficult for many, Colgrove explained, “Personally I found sitting while singing to be the most difficult because it’s difficult for air to travel through the diaphragm.”

As the show concluded, the audience, that was primarily made up of community members and friends, expressed their enjoyment of the show by congratulating the performers in the lobby of the Redfern Arts Center.

Erin McNemar can be contacted at emcnemar@kscequinox.com

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