My review of our school's first Opera.
|First Opera at Eastern Michigan Makes History for School
Eastern Michigan University presented “Dido and Aeneas” Thursday, April 11th at Pease Auditorium.
“Many departments collaborated on this event, to create the first full scale opera in EMU history”, Said Dr.MeeAe Nam, director of this wonderful theatrical piece. From the exquisite costumes, harmonious choir, graceful dancing, and eloquent instrumental pieces, to the impressive talent of the Opera’s cast, this performance will be long remembered by those in attendance. Dr.Nam also said, “This was very special, an inter-disciplinary performance, basically three departments combined for this piece.” In addition to the cooperation among our performing arts, music and dance disciplines, the Opera received support from many faculty, donating time and equipment, costumes, and assistance with make-up.
Dress rehearsal the Tuesday prior to the performance was crunch time, and excitement filled Pease Auditorium. The cast and crew stood together on stage, seeming more like a family than a performing group and hopes were high for Thursday’s show. Cast as Witches, Chelsea Moores and Kyndall Isham talked about some of the challenges and joyful moments they had preparing for this Opera. “The challenge of being an evil character,” Kyndall said. While Chelsea said, “It was fun to act together; we have a lot of classes together. One of my challenges was getting into the music of the time period.”
Sean Michael O’Conner, playing the role of Sorceress, practiced as long as 2 hours per night and was devoted to making this performance excellent.” Learning the art of speaking through song, syllable stressing,” Sean said was one of his focuses in preparation. Eric Smith, Aeneas, said his challenge was,” Getting into the character and finding different ways to say lines”. Talented actress and vocalist Maria Velasquez, playing the lead role of Dido, said her greatest hurdle was, “The dieing. No one wants to die in real life so it was a challenge controlling my emotions while practicing the death scene”.
Dr.Nam chose this particular piece for a number of reasons. Though fairly well-known, “Dido and Aeneas” is not often the first thought when Opera comes to mind. Dr.Nam said,” Makes for great music. Great choice for students because it was not so long”. A one hour piece, it helped students to better digest the learning experience, as most Operas are usually longer. Nam said,” Students were very new to Opera; it was a journey for them.”
“Dido and Aeneas” began at 730pm Thursday night, with a full and curious crowd. Members of the local community, faculty, parents and family, and many EMU students came to show their support. For many students, this was their first introduction to opera. “Eastern has a lot of talent”, Said Sophomore Amanda Wright. Amanda was among many seated in the auditorium engaging in her first performance. “Tremendous. Wonderful Collaboration. Splendid in its simplicity.” Said Monica Swartout-Poebow, member of the Voice Faculty.
Sung in English, “Dido and Aeneas” is the story of two lovers, doomed by a mischievous Sorceress to part by death. Dido, Queen of Carthage, accepts Aeneas proposal despite her fears that it will make her a weak monarch. The Sorceress sends her trusted elf disguised as Mercury to convince Aeneas to sail for Italy and leave Dido, but as his ship prepares to depart, Aeneas has a change of heart. He decides to defy the Gods and stay by his love’s side, but is rejected by Dido because of his decision to leave. After Aeneas finally departs, Dido’s life comes to an end.
Maria Velasquez’s moving performance as she sung “Dido’s Lament” left audience members teary-eyed.
A historical moment for Eastern Michigan University, “Dido and Aeneas” was preformed beautifully Thursday night, projecting the talent and dedication of our entire performing arts department. This is the beginning of great things to come, and a next performance is greatly anticipated by all. Congratulations to all involved in the creation and execution of this Opera and it was truly a delight to the eyes and ears.