The average person often recoils at the idea of the opera, picturing old women in Victorian dresses and Viking hats standing centerstage, singing songs we don’t understand at a volume that could shatter glass.
Let me tell you: This is not at all the case with the CCM undergraduate opera, Claudio Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo.” Based on the tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, Director Amy Johnson drew inspiration for the setting of this production from the 50th anniversary of Woodstock music festival, giving it a modern, yet retro twist, without drawing away from the plot.
“L’Orfeo” has only been in rehearsals since October, with the performers getting an average of four hours per week of rehearsal time, according to Johnson. In this short time, they perfected their solos, harmonies, blocking, acting and their Italian. Yes. The whole show is in Italian. I don’t speak a word of Italian, I will admit, but it seemed to me that these students nailed it. And I would like to give an extra special shout out to the TVs airing the English translation above the stage (The real MVP).
While the whole cast is incredibly talented, there were a few performances that were above and beyond impressive.
I noticed Breanna Flores in the first half of the show, even though she hadn’t had a solo yet. She stood out to me because of her engaging yet subtle performance as a member of the ensemble. I was thrilled when she took on the role of Proserpina, Queen of the Underworld in the second half and her voice was just as incredible as her acting.
Senior Logan Wagner blew me away with the sheer stamina of his performance in the lead role of Orfeo. The show lasted from 7:30-9:30 p.m. (yes, it is admittedly very long to be sitting still), and Wagner was singing for the vast majority of it, mostly solo. Not once did he show any signs of fatigue or loss of breath support. If anything, by the end of the performance he seemed even more energized than the beginning, as he (*spoiler alert*) grieved the loss of his new wife.
The other stand out performance was brought by sophomore Matthew Goodheart, playing a member of the Pastori in the first half, and being reintroduced as the god Apollo in the second. He could sing me to sleep with his angelic tenor for the rest of my life and I would sleep like a baby. Goodheart has the type of voice that is so smooth and so supported that if you told me he was lip synching to a track played over the speakers I would say, “oh, that makes more sense.” In short, I’m glad he’s only a sophomore so we all get two more years of his performances.
And I must give an honorable mention to sophomore Henry Lunn, whose incredible hair served as a character on its own, and whose tactful and practiced peeling and eating of a mini orange onstage made me ponder all of the nuanced details that go into the background work of shows to create a living, breathing universe for the audience to immerse themselves in.
My one and only qualm with the whole performance was the fact that these students are clearly not dancers, and they were made to dance more than once throughout the show. They get away with the lack of skill due to the fact that they are supposed to be at Woodstock, but it was apparent they were not comfortable with their bodies when dancing. That being said, the retention of breath support throughout and after the dancing was astounding, so all is forgiven.
Overall, “L’Orfeo” made me disappointed that I had yet to attend a CCM opera up until now, and incredibly excited to buy tickets to see the next.