and universities with music programs generally produce performances of opera
scenes, but few actually produce full operas. Admittedly, there are few one-act
operas from which to choose.
Virginia Wesleyan undertook the task of presenting two one-act operas by Gian
Carlo Menotti – the seasonal favorite, Amahl
and the Night Visitors, and the smaller two-person, The Telephone.
This was a
collaboration between the school’s Theatre, Dance and Music departments – and
they acquitted themselves well.
The Magi seek shelter from Amahl and his Mother.
performances began with Amahl, the
story of a boy who is lame and his Mother. The Magi, following the Star to find
the Child, ask them for shelter. Mother tries to steal their gold to help her
child, but is caught. What happens then is a Christmas miracle.
college cast of Amahl also included
the kings’ page plus a singing and dancing chorus. They hailed from all over West Virginia with a handful of WVWC students
from MD, NY, OH, PA and VA. One high school senior and a fifth-grader, both
from Buckhannon, rounded out the cast. The opera enjoyed four performances (Th-Sat eves & Sun matinee), so the part of Amahl was double
Mother is caught stealing the gold.
I was unable to stay for a performance by young Sean Crites as Amahl, but the cast I saw
opening night was pretty well-balanced with special mention of Rebecca Culp as
The Mother. The electric keyboard accompaniment was a tad too loud and
overshadowed these young voices however; I hope this was corrected at ensuing
performances. The oboe was effective.
The Telephone is the comic story of Ben and Lucy. Ben arrives at Lucy’s door, planning to propose before he has to leave on the train. His repeated attempts are thwarted by constant phone calls, to which Lucy seems addicted. He finally succeeds in getting his message across with a comic twist.
Ben despairs as Lucy takes another call.
before the performances, Dr. Mandy Spivak assumed the role of Lucy due to
illness of the originally cast student. Spivak is Visiting Assistant Professor
of Voice, and directed the productions.
While as a
vocal professional, she understandably outshone the student Ben (Robert Quarles), she also
provided the students and audience with a fine operatic performance. It’s
always a plus to know that your teacher can actually DO what she teaches – and
Piano accompaniment was provided upstage from the singers most effectively by Zachary Allen.
Lucy explains to Ben why she simply MUST make a phone call immediately.
The set (Nathan Elsener) and
lighting (Joshua Holets) designs were simple, practical and very effective. The costumes (Rebecca Britner)were
also well-designed and executed. The music and music students were allowed to
be the stars in the school’s lovely new Center for the Performing Arts,
which.seats less than 400, and boasts wonderful backstage and onstage