'Opera' is best of shows

By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 15, 2004

Opera doesn't always have to be boring. "Opera Scenes," a biannual performance given by UA students, gives other UA students a chance to see the most entertaining scenes in opera.

With composers ranging from Mozart to Strauss, this hour-long performance covers a wide variety of genres, time periods, and stories in order to introduce opera to students who would not ordinarily find themselves watching opera on a Tuesday night.

"Opera Scenes" is a student production, with undergraduate students and graduate students, vocal performance, and other music majors collaborating to perform these world-famous opera scenes.

Todd Strange, a vocal performance graduate student, who is performing in a scene from Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte" said, "I think that for all of us, just like any other stage production, ('Opera Scenes') is an opportunity for us to go outside of ourselves and pretend that we're people that we're not, and connect somehow to the characters in the process."

The seven scenes are from "Cosi Fan Tutte" by Mozart, "Arabella" by Strauss, "Cendrillon" by Massenet, "Hansel and Gretel" by Engelbert Humperdinck, and others.

"These scenes are typically the best scenes from the operas. They are the funniest or the most witty," Strange said.

People usually think of a busty soprano belting about heartache in a foreign language for hours on end when they think of opera. "Scenes" provides an introduction to the opera world, but without the complex story lines and arias that can kill your ears.

"('Opera Scenes') is short, it's mostly in English, and it's really fun. It's going to be people that you know, or just people who are on your level, doing something that everyone thinks is some 'hoity-toity' form of art. But it's amazing. Opera is a completely unique art form," said Kara Harris, a vocal performance junior, who plays Hansel in the "Hansel and Gretel" scene.

Our culture has an appreciation for high art, and opera is no exception. But it doesn't have to be appreciated by the performers and elite alone. It can be appreciated by and accessible to everyone.

"Certainly times have changed, but human values still remain the same. And that's one of the timeless things about these scenes. The way that people interact, regardless of the time period, is the same. Human emotion is still human emotion, and I think that's why people can still relate to it." Strange said.

For centuries, these operas have been performed for a wide range of audiences. A lot of us, however, have been afraid of opera because of our collective fear of getting a numb rear and napping in public. But what the UA music program has done to appeal to college students is condensed the best scenes into a potpourri of sounds and expressions, and have them performed by our talented peers.

Tony Antista, a vocal performance graduate student, and stage director of "Scenes" said, "It's theater in its grandest sense. It's real. It's real people doing real things. It's not just big, heavyset sopranos bellowing loudly with horns anymore. It's changed into a presentation that is accessible to everyone. People should come to broaden their horizons and see that opera is accessible to them."

"I think that if you've never seen opera before, this is a perfect venue for you to be introduced to opera, because they're all different scenes. We're in a society where we don't have a long attention span, so every 10 minutes we'll be changing to a new scene. So there will always be something new for the audience to get involved in." Strange said.

The best part about this performance is that it is free and open to the public. It is taking place at Crowder Hall in the Music building Tuesday at 7:30 pm. And the performance will only be about an hour long.