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The Opera Comes to SVC: Students participate in opera Cendrillon

By Elizabeth Van Pilsum, Arts and Culture Editor

Originally Published November 28, 2023

On Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 7:00 p.m., an opera was performed by this semester’s opera workshop class in Luparello Hall. The opera workshop class, taught and directed by Caryn Greco, DMA, visiting assistant professor of voice and coordinator of music, occurs every semester, but this semester is the first time the workshop is performing an opera for the school. Greco chose the opera Cendrillon, a retelling of Cinderella composed by Pauline Viardot and adapted by Seamus Ricci.

Greco selected Cendrillon as the opera for many reasons, one of which being her friend Ricci had recently adapted the opera to have a smaller cast.

"Once I saw that I had six incredible musicians in the class, I knew I had to do this opera,” Greco said. “The other reason being that it is the Year of the Woman at SVC and Cendrillon was written by a woman, about a woman, and it was performed and conducted by seven women.... I mean the girl boss energy in that performance was off the charts!”

“My goal with the class is to cultivate a travelling opera troupe that takes smaller operas into the area schools and introduces young students to the hilarity and amazingness of the art form; I figured starting off with a well-known fairytale sounded perfect,” Greco said.

The makings of an opera workshop first involved Greco selecting an opera, and then auditioning all the students who registered for the class. Greco and Michael Meketa, the workshop’s pianist, cast the roles, and the students were responsible for learning the music outside of class. The cast had a read-through of the script in early September, and then Greco blocked out the action and figured out the set, props, and costumes.

The plot of the opera follows Cendrillon (played by Anna Doelling, senior biology major), who is made fun of at home by her stepsisters (played by Margaret Sullivan, senior music performance major, and Monica Slattery, sophomore theology and music double major). With the help of a fairy (also played by Sullivan), Cendrillon attends a ball, where she catches the eye of the prince (played by Abigail McGinnis, sophomore vocal performance major). At the ball, there is a recital, featuring two singers (played by Rachel Andreola, senior mathematics major, and Helen Kish, senior engineering and psychology double major). Cendrillon flees the ball but leaves her sparkly shoe behind, which the prince uses to find her and profess his feelings. The opera added elements of humor to the classic story through props, such as colorful tutus instead of ballgowns, and comedic acting.

“Most of the semester is spent getting the music tight and blocking and running the show as much as possible,” Greco said. “I only see the students for a short time each week, so a lot of the music work is done outside of class in the practice room.”

Sullivan was a part of the opera workshop last semester as well as this semester, as it is required for her major. She enjoyed her time in the workshop, although it was stressful at times. “The memorization was more interesting, since it was a whole opera with a story and lines of dialogue rather than just strung together arias and group pieces we’d already been doing during lesson time,” Sullivan said. “But it took more acting while singing operatically, which is something I hadn’t quite done before, especially not something so silly!”

Slattery would recommend doing the opera workshop for the rewarding feeling and because opera provides a basis for singers.

Sullivan described the performance as “effortlessly smooth” and felt it sounded great.

Greco also thinks the performance went really well, and she is proud of the performers’ hard work.

“We had an amazing audience who was incredibly receptive and responsive to the story and the singers really had fun, which is what it is all about!” Greco said. “As musicians, we put so much blood, sweat, and tears into preparing a role and it can be difficult for us to come out of our 'perfectionist’ ways, but when we have fun and just focus on telling the story, as the six singers who performed the opera did, then it is truly magical”

Greco is excited about the future and what students are going to accomplish by performing these operas for the SVC community, and the greater Pittsburgh area community.

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