The Keene State Music Department held its Opera Workshop performance on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Alumni Recital Hall in the Redfern Arts Center.
Junior James Slipp starred in the group’s finale excerpt of “Die Zauberflöte,” an opera written by Mozart and Emanuel Schikaneder (better known in English as “The Magic Flute”). Slipp played Papageno, a dim-witted but lovesick birdcatcher. “I’ve been in Opera Workshop since I was a freshman,” said Slipp. “It’s great experience, working on character work and staging and stuff you don’t get to do in other classes.” Senior Alice Browne gave a solo performance as Sesto in “Svegliatevi nel core,” a piece from the opera “Guilio Cesare” by George Frideric Handel and Nicola Francesco Haym. Browne said she enjoys the freedom the program gives her. “It’s just a chance for me to let loose [and] feel big emotions on the stage and not have to tone them down at all,” she said. Additionally, Browne said there were difficulties with the material studied in Opera Workshop.
“We’re doing some really challenging repertoire, and it’s been hard to memorize it, but it’s also been such a joy to work on,” she said.
The Opera Workshop is a semester-long course containing a mix of first-years and returning upperclassmen, according to class director and pianist Hugh Keelan.
Keene State is the only college in New England to be linked to the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD in Schools Initiative, a group that brings programs like the Opera Workshop to schools.
Throughout the course, students learn various solo and ensemble pieces from famous operas.
This practice culminates in the final performance, where they perform their work, complete with props, costumes and staging for some numbers.
This was Keelan’s second time directing the Opera Workshop, with the first time being directly after COVID-19. “It’s an expansion of what people do in their solo recitals and what they do in their studio lessons with teachers,” hesaid.
Keelan considers one of the most important lessons learned during Opera Workshop to be how opera can be larger than life on the stage.
“Opera is naturally big, expressive, large-scale medium,” Keelan said. “The main job is to get people either used to that new way of musically communicating or developing them from wherever they are.”
Keelan said his favorite part of the workshop was when one of his students had a breakthrough while working with their piece.
“That’s absolutely my favorite bit, where somebody takes a big risk, succeeds and then finds a whole new level of communication and artistry and musicianship available to them,” Keelan said.
Emily Sloane can be contacted