Westmont opera steals the stage
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Quirky costumes and stories of dark romance led to successful and thoroughly entertaining performances for Westmont’s first-ever full opera production.
The performances were orchestrated by music professor Michael Shasberger, adjunct music professor Celeste Tavera, and theatre professor John Blondell. According to Shasberger, “La Serva Padrona” and “The Old Maid and the Thief” are Westmont’s first “fully produced, legit operas. We’ve done scenes and workshops before, but never a full collaboration with an honest-to-gosh opera. It’s rather a hallmark.”
For third-year Wendy Kent, this production is hopefully the first of many operatic roles. She decided early on in life that she loved singing, but didn’t realize her passion for opera until Tavera, her voice instructor, introduced her to the art form.
“A lot of people think it’s for a certain kind of crowd—old rich people—but it’s so dramatic,” said Kent. “The story lines are out of this world, and funny. I think everyone would like it if they just went to the opera.”
Audiences received the opera well—laughing abounded throughout the theatre as Kent acted alongside second-years Robert Huff and Matthew Maler in “La Serva Padrona,” an Italian opera from 1733. The twisty plot follows Kent’s devious maid, who tries to seduce her master—played by Huff—by concocting a scheme with the butler, as played by Maler.
Likewise, “The Old Maid and the Thief,” starring second-year Serena Lee, first-year McKenna Kleinmaier, fourth-year Emmalee Wetzel and second-year Walter Dyer, has an equally intriguing plot: a woman desperate for love takes a man into her house, and then discovers that he’s a murderer.
Miller James, Westmont’s costume designer, described the costumes for this piece as “1930’s film noir-styled, intentional, everything is on purpose, there’s always a splash of color somewhere that blends into the set or another costume.”
This is particularly true for the orchestra members, who each wear bright red accents over their otherwise black attire. The striking effect of having live orchestras is elevated by the platform they’re set on, built especially for the operas by theatre professor Jonathan Hicks and set designer Yuri Okahana. The platform is also used In “La Serva Padrona,” with the orchestra this time adorned in Victorian dresses, pantaloons and full wigs.
Staging, lighting and acting all contributed to making Westmont’s first opera an excellent performance, but it was the impressive singing and dramatic story lines that stole the show.