CSB/SJU’s Opera Workshop inaugurated their two-opera performance Thursday and will continue with performances tonight at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. The two operas showcased are “A Hand of Bridge,” a short 10 minute piece about playing two couples playing Bridge, and “Trial by Jury,” a 45 minute piece about the love triangle described above.
Opera Workshop provides students a chance to study and participate in classical and contemporary works of opera and musical theater. Led by director Tom Speckhard, it emphasizes the learning aspect above all else.
“As long as you learn something, the experience is worth it,” Speckhard said. “It’s great if we can put on a good show, but the learning portion is more important.”
Many students, it turns out, are taking advantage of this learning opportunity. The operas’ staff contains 27 CSB/SJU students and one faculty remember, not to mention 24 more students who contribute musically through an orchestra directed by David Arnott, an associate professor of music at CSB/SJU. Participation in the Opera Workshop is through audition only and requires the consent of its directors.
“A Hand of Bridge,” which stars CSB/SJU students Patrick Moe, Megan Girgen, Jonathan Rhodes and Mia McCoy, was composed by Samuel Barber with libretto by Guin Carlo Menotti in 1959. It contains four internal monologues which contemplate topics ranging from what David, an incessant business man, would do if he were rich to Bill, a lawyer, worrying about his wife’s discovering his love affair.
“Trial by Jury” was composed earlier, in 1875, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W.S. Gilbert. CSB/SJU’s performance stars Moe, Kayla Parker, Margret Siegrist and David Christensen. Even though it was written many years ago, participants insist on its relevancy in today’s world.
“Although it was written over 100 years ago, the main idea is still applicable. The love scandal of yesterday is the same love scandal of today,” said CSB junior Rebecca Haile, who serves as both the stage manager and a performer in the production.
The event, which counts as a performance FAE, charges $6 for general admission and $4 for students who bring their ID. Members of the monastic communities get in free. Opera Workshop has performed memorable operas in recent years, including “Gianni Schicchi,” “Dido and Aeneas” and “Oedipus Tex” in 2011 and selections from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” in 2010.
This weekend’s shows promise to be memorable as well.
“We’ve put a lot of work into it, so it will be great,” Moe said. “A lot of people think of operas as a different type, but these operas are in English, they’re short and they’re really funny.”