Hitting the High Notes

Performers will take the stage for SUNY New Paltz's first opera, "The Medium," in Studley Theatre Saturday, April 7 and Tuesday, April 10..
Performers will take the stage for SUNY New Paltz's first opera, "The Medium," in Studley Theatre Saturday, April 7 and Tuesday, April 10..

Voices will be heard during SUNY New Paltz’s first opera, “The Medium.”

Directed by Professor Kent Smith and performed by students in the Music Department, the English opera written by Gian Carlo Menotti will be performed on Saturday, April 7 and Tuesday, April 10 at 8 p. m. in Studley Theatre.

The opera opens new doors on many levels, participants said.

“This experience is different for me because I have never been in an opera before, so learning about how an opera gets put on its feet has been fun,” performer Ian Brodsky, a third-year musical theater major, said. “Also, it’s supposed to be the first performance in Studley once the theater reopens so it’s exciting that we get to inaugurate it.”

Performers said this opera is darker in content than most. The characters deal with more than just a lost love and heartbreak, and the score’s dissonant feel reflects this.

“[‘The Medium’] is quite far from the stereotype of an opera,” performer Crystal Matteson, a fourth-year TV/radio production major, said. “One tends to think of a pining lover in a big dress wailing beautifully to a romantic tune and then tragically taking her life. But ‘The Medium’ is a more contemporary and realistic show than most. The music is antsy, which echoes the battling themes of fear, greed, grief, innocence and insanity.”

The cast said audience members might be pleasantly surprised by the dimensions the characters display, as well as the emphasis put on musicality rather than theater. As an opera, they said the score is more technically demanding than a typical musical theater production.

“In comparison to the Theater Department, I imagine one difference is that musicality is all-important,” Matteson said. “It’s also important to portray a character and to convincingly tell a story, but accurate and healthy vocal technique is an absolute given as the foundation for our performance.”

Technical aspects of the show differ as an opera. Bringing together the Music and Theater Departments have made for a collaborative effort with unfamiliar faces, an intimidating task at first but a learning lesson in the end.

Colleen Heaney, a fourth-year costume design major and co-costume designer for the opera, said this designing experience is slightly different than others.

“I’ve been doing research, as usual, into the time period for clothing as well as hair and makeup inspiration,” Heaney said. “But reading the score for ‘The Medium’ isn’t as easy to follow as reading the script of a play, and we all kind of know each other in the theater department, so it feels different designing for people I hadn’t met before.”

Regardless of the newness of this project, Brodsky said he is excited for New Paltz to be introduced to the world of opera, and for the Music Department to gain more recognition on campus.

“I think people are going to like this opera,” Brodsky said. “It’s something different from what’s usually produced. I think it would be great to see more operas performed on campus. I don’t know for a fact that it will be an annual event, but I hope so.”


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