SHEPHERDSTOWN – If three witches had come to me this weekend to grant me a wish, I would have instantly opted out of seeing an opera and instead just watched a typical musical. The thought of watching a woman sing her woes over a lover that she pushed away didn’t interest me. However, since there aren’t witches in real life, the opera it was.
The play by Henry Purcell titled “Dido and Aeneas” is a tale about Dido the monarch and the Trojan warrior Aeneas marrying only to fall victim to a sorceress’ scheme. The sorceress and her two companions tempt Aeneas to leave Dido. Aeneas doesn’t leave, but Dido still won’t forgive him for even considering it. Dido refused to hear Aeneas’ pleas and forced him away. In her grief, she ended her own life, thus ending the play.
After enjoying the first opera, I was instantly happy that a witch hadn’t granted my wish to avoid the opera. The set was beautifully done, as were the costumes. The lights on the witches’ dresses were brilliant and contrasted with the lighting in the cave scene. The glittering of the lights compared to the dark backdrop of the cave made me believe the witches were magical. The lightning effects caught my eye as well.
Jordan Bushong-Taylor, the actress for Dido, had a voice that resonated throughout the room and turned heads. I could feel Dido’s grief. James Patrick O’Grady was a perfect choice for Aeneas. Throughout the opera, I kept wondering if they were playing a recording of Hugh Jackman. Hannah Wardell, the sorceress, made her every move eerie, representing her role amazingly. Wardell’s dark and lustrous voice blew me away. A stand out role for me was Emily Reinhardt, who played the second witch. Her voice was stunning and her movements also reflected the evil in her character. It was entrancing.
The ensemble stood out to me as well. The subtle movements and the reactions helped me understand the play when I couldn’t understand the singer. The orchestra was fantastic. The creepy music that played when the witches were scheming built anxiety for what was approaching. The cheerful music of the court made me believe that I was there. The music fit the play expertly and caused me to fall in love with it. Often times I found myself tapping along to the beat.
The director, Rob Tudor, put together a wonderful opera conssiting of a talented cast and orchestra. The scenes flowed well and the focus was clear to anyone watching. Each actor was well trained in their character and gave them life.
The other opera that the music department performed was Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s “La Serva Padrana.” “La Serva Padrana” is a short, comedic opera about a maid tricking her master into marriage with the help of the butler.
Madeline Zayas, the actress of Serpina the maid, was flawless. Her voice was airy and perfectly resonated throughout the theatre. Zayas’ subtle movements showed how sassy and cunning the maid is supposed to be and made the character even greater. Henry deBuchannane, the actor for Vespone the butler, didn’t have any lines but was my favorite nonetheless. His role was hilarious and the crowd appeared to eat it up. Ross Tamaccio, the actor of Uberto the master of the house, had a great voice as well. Tamaccio played the role convincingly and was also incredible in his comedic scenes.
The set was simple, but definitely worked well. I enjoyed the side piece when Vespone was drinking off stage while Serpina manipulated Uberto into wanting to marry her.
I was actually disappointed when the play finished, because I enjoyed the music so much. The director, Bobb Robinson, brought together a great cast and turned something that could’ve easily been dull into a funny and genius opera.
The productions only lasted two days, Feb. 13th and 14th, but I encourage anyone to go see another production presented by the Shepherd University department of music