Opera double bill to poke fun at genre


Courtesy of Simpson opera

by Belle Ward, Features Editor

Simpson College’s fall operas, “Prima la musica e poi le parole” and “La Canterina” will premiere Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Blank Performing Arts Center.

“Prima la musica e poi le parole” is a comedic opera that mocks the opera writing and performing process with one serious and one comedic performer while “La Canterina” is about a diva who seduces her voice teacher.

Junior vocal performance and political science major Mollie Juehring plays the role of Tonina in “Prima la musica e poi le parole” during the Saturday performance.

Juehring is also the company manager and UGA for the opera. She creates the schedule for the night and works with the director to be able to manage the people involved.

Both of the operas are in Italian, but there will be superscripts which will translate what the actors are singing for the audience. For the performances, the actors had to learn their scripts in more ways than one.

“There were different layers of memorizing, like memorizing in Italian, and then memorizing the translation in English because you have to know what you are saying,” Juehring said.

Juehring’s character is comedic, a stark contrast to Eleonora who is a serious character in the opera.

“I enjoy that Tonina is crazy. She’s like the embodiment of opera buffa,” Juehring said.

Opera buffa is a comedic genre, and is the overall style of “Prima la musica e poi la parole.”

Juehring said there is a scene where she pulls other performers into a conga line while she is singing, as well as other physically comedic moments with characters onstage.

“It’s challenged me to be more creative with how I’m acting and how I’m moving,” she said.

Juehring said her favorite part about this way of acting is seeing the reactions of her fellow performers.

Danielle Johnson, a junior majoring in music performance and psychology, plays the role of Don Ettore in “La Caterina,” which translates to “The Songstress.”

Johnson’s character is originally written as a young male played by a female actor, but the staging in this production is a female character who dresses as male, Johnson said.

Don Ettore’s facial expressions have to be more exaggerated and childlike, which can be a challenge, Johnson said.

“The first one is very outwardly comedic. There’s a lot of really obvious humor. The second one, in terms of the text, is a little more poetic,” she said.

Johnson said a common stereotype of opera is that only certain audiences enjoy it. She said more students should come see the operas, as few people can have this experience.

“It’s really a lot more about the common person than people tend to think,” she said.

Giselle Ty is the visiting stage director for this production. The opera typically has one each year, if not each semester. People come from around the country either participate or to see the operas every year due to the legacy of Simpson College operas.

The opera double bill will be performed at the Blank Performing Arts Center on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.