If Summer Opera Scenes is as entertaining as its rehearsals are, attending it will be like a travel adventure, an escape to far-away venues and unexpected situations, all on a summer's night. The scenes take the audience to a castle in Seville, an embassy in Paris and a hotel suite in romantic Vienna.
Accompanied by Idabelle Gay, staff accompanist and vocal coach at Birmingham Southern College, and with input from local singer David Rice, sopranos Jennie Wall, Hannah Ellington and Joy Anderson share the sanctuary stage with baritone Caleb Clark.
Both Ellington, of Birmingham, and Clark, of Munford, are voice performance students at BSC, and Anderson, of Ranburne, is a voice performance student at University of West Georgia. Anderson made her opera debut as The First Lady in The Magic Flute at UWG in 2008. Ellington was the 2008 winner of the Alabama district Metropolitan Opera auditions and she then placed in the Southeast opera auditions. Wall teaches voice in Anniston, and has sung in Knoxville Opera and other regional opera companies, now having built up a repertoire of 21 roles. Both Clark and Wall have played principal roles in several Community Actors' Studio Theatre musicals.
Clark's interest in opera increased as he studied voice from Wall.
"I started looking at this and it really became a fascinating challenge," Clark said. "I liked the stories opera tells, the way the music is written, and now, a chance to perform with seasoned musicians."
For the cast, this summer was the time to take up the classical music challenge. And there are hurdles, for sure. One has to be taught to sing opera. There are abrupt key changes in the songs, arias can last several minutes, the operas are written in different languages and characters must convey elements from underlying themes.
"The composers of that day were philosophical," Anderson explains. "Often, government and politics colored the plots."
Clark, Ellington and Wall are featured in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. In the story, Figaro, a valet, and Susannah, a maid, are about to be married. Count Almaviva is also pursuing Susannah, and tries to prevent her marriage, but is continually thwarted. Susannah tells Figaro the problem and he vows to teach the Count a lesson. The Countess, played by Wall, sings "Dove Sono," a very famous aria about her sadness over her marriage's failure, and with Susannah, she contrives a trap to set the Count on the right path again.
In The Merry Widow, an operetta by Franz Lehar, Clark is a man of mystery who spends his evenings at Maxine's cabaret, reviving his being with champagne and dancing girls. The waltz performed by Clark and Anderson to the tune of "The Merry Widow Waltz" is heart warming. The Magic Flute — family friendly and amusing — by Mozart features scenes set in Egypt about Papageno, a comic birdcatcher dressed in feathers, and his search for the perfect wife.
Other scenes include cuts from Cosi fan Tutte by Mozart and Arabella by Richard Strauss. For the sake of a bet, Ferando and Guglielmo woo and win each other's sweethearts in disguise in Cosi fan Tutte while the story in Arabella concerns the impoverished Graf Waldner's attempt to find a wealthy husband for his daughter.
Proceeds from the show will be used to enrich the arts in the area. For more information, call 343-4163, 236-9934 or 225-9933.