I found a real gem in one of Chicago’s western suburbs. If you live in or near Wheaton, you are one lucky person.
The Wheaton College Conservatory of Music is here to fulfill your musical and aesthetic needs and wishes. The students of the Opera MainStage course brightened up my chilly January evening by presenting two one-act operas: “The Spinster and the Thief” and “Trial by Jury.”
Their youthful energy, beautiful voices and exceptional artistic talents were greeted with a round of applause.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, January 12-15, at the Armerding Center for Music and the Arts Concert Hall, 520 E. Kenilworth Avenue in Wheaton. Although two of these dates have already passed, don’t miss your chance to see these talented young artists this Friday and Saturday. Joy, smiles and good humor are guaranteed!
As the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music website puts it, “Opera Mainstage is a meticulous year-long course that pays close attention to the musical, vocal and dramatic learning of a given role as students participate in production of a masterpiece of classical opera. This program strives to prepare students for further pre-professional studies in opera.” The fall semester focuses on preparation and rehearsals for a full operatic production with four public performances. I guess I was lucky enough to attend one of these performances and was really impressed.
“The Old Maid & The Thief” and “Trial By Jury” are directed by Olivia Doig Skaff. Olivia is a Chicago-based soprano who performs a range of classical and musical theater repertoire across the Midwest. Olivia has experience with Ohio Light Opera, Haymarket Opera, Gilbert and Sullivan Company, Inc., with Music Theater Works, Opera Atelier, and Chicago Opera Theater. She has received awards from the American Opera Society of Chicago, Musicians Club of Women, Chicago Bel Canto Foundation, Orpheus Music Competition, Chicago Italian Cultural Center, and Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
The orchestra is composed of Lilian Chou, piano, Alissa Cox, piano, Callan Downing, violin, Grace Cumbee, violin, Timothy Holman, viola, Helena Norman, cello and Emma Cho, percussion. It is conducted by conductor Nyela Basney. Nyela is founder and director of Orvieto Musica, Inc. She has also conducted performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Rochester (NY) Philharmonic, Sarajevo Philharmonic, Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, ‘Operafestival di Roma, Lyric Stage in Dallas, and with other professional orchestras.
Beautiful costumes were designed by Chicago-based freelance costume designer Cindy Moon. A regional freelance lighting designer based in the Chicago area, Diane Fairchild, is lighting for these performances. Produced by Thomas Hueber and Sarah Holman.
The first opera presented that evening was a one-act opera “Old Maid and the Thief”. It was written by Gian Carlo Menotti, a 20th century Italian-American composer, librettist, director and playwright. The composer created realistic operas while using his own librettos. His Italian heritage and musical upbringing combined with the musical education he received in the United States helped him create masterpieces that depict a combination of dramatic 20th century situations with the traditional form of music. italian opera.
“The Old Maid and the Thief” was one of the first operas composed specifically for radio and was originally broadcast on April 22, 1939. It’s a twisted story of morality and manipulation. Menotti himself called this opera a “grotesque comedy”. In the opera, a reputable woman, Miss Todd, and her maid, Laetitia, face a dilemma when they let in a handsome traveler, Bob, whom they come to believe is a runaway convict. . Finally, they weave a web of lies and theft in which they find themselves caught.
The role of Miss Todd was presented by Lily Wendt, the role of Laetitia was portrayed by Kari Swanson, the role of Miss Pinkerton was presented by Kayla Raschke, and the role of Bob was presented by Matthew Pacheco. The radio hour host was Daniel Windus, the radio hour production assistant was Joanna L. Percy, and the Foley artist was Kelsie Benware.
The second opera, “Trial by Jury”, is a hilarious one-act opera that launched the successful collaboration of WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. This production is set in 1930s America. Plaintiff Angelina seeks compensation from her ex-fiancé Edwin for breach of promise of marriage. Supervised by an admittedly corrupt, but still respected judge, the two opposing camps use all their tools to sway the impressionable jury.
Bailiff role was introduced by Raphaella Zavaglia, Foreman role was introduced by Elizabeth Roesner, Defendant role was introduced by Michael Morris, Judge role was introduced by Kevin Neace, Plaintiff role was introduced by was introduced by Bethany Wray, the lawyer role was introduced by Felicity Roche, and the bridesmaid roles were introduced by Kari Swanson and Kayla Raschke. The jury consisted of Kelsie Benware, Charis Cumings, Elisabeth Patterson, Joanna L. Percy, Adelina Peretti and Lily Wendt. (Different students occur on different dates. To find the exact names of certain dates, please see www.wheaton.edu.)
What impressed me the most was the enthusiasm of the performers. They really enjoyed what they were doing and conveyed their joy to the audience members. I smiled and felt good watching them perform and listening to their beautiful voices. I forgot about all my problems and was just enjoying the performance. Doesn’t this prove that music has the power to renew us and help us live fuller and happier lives? How can we survive without music?
Therefore, I will always support anyone related to music and art in general, especially students who deserve our support because they work so hard. They are our future, and it’s great to see them grow professionally and spiritually.
As someone who has studied classical music for many years, I cannot live without attending live classical music events, opera productions and other cultural events. This pandemic has limited our ability to attend concerts. It’s an accepted fact that going to live concerts regularly can help you live longer. This is exactly what we all need, right? Please keep this in mind when passing through Wheaton College next time. Apart from being a great college, it has live shows that will help you feel young and happy. And as we know, a happy heart lives longer.
Tickets are $12. Tickets can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, January 12-15, at the Armerding Center for Music and the Arts Concert Hall located at 520 E. Kenilworth Avenue in Wheaton. You will also be able to see the Friday and Saturday performances via the livestream by visiting www.wheaton.edu/life-at-wheaton/streaming-media/live-wheaton-events/.