When vocal instructor Melissa Osmond selected opera scenes for this year’s Opera Workshop, she selected pieces that highlighted the vocal department’s students talents.
“Don’t Make a Scene” is the 25th Opera Workshop, and almost 30 Hillsdale students displayed their talents in scenes from various operas, operettas, and operatic-style musicals. Along with adjunct instructors Emily Douglass, Kristen Matson and piano accompanist Debbi Wyse, Osmond began preparing selected scenes from various operas after last year’s opera workshop.
The vocal department performed scenes from operas and operatic-style musicals, including “A Boy Like That” from “West Side Story,” “With a Twinkle of Warm and Tender” from “Elixir of Love,” and “Café Scene” from “La Boheme.” The cast performed last weekend in the Howard Music Hall.
Though Osmond began planning for the workshop last year, the students began rehearsals in September.
“One of the best things for me really is being able to work one-on-one with these kids and being able to see them grow,” Wyse said. “It’s exponential what they do in the span of eight weeks of school. In that amount of time, they’ve done great things.”
According to Osmond, performing selections from operas or shorter operettas provides an alternative to performing a full opera, as it is less stress on students’ busy schedules.
“The schedules of these students have gotten out of control, so it’s almost impossible to get everybody together,” Osmond said. “I’ve been thinking about how we will be able to pull off another full production of an opera.”
While Osmond, Douglass, and Matson directed some scenes, other scenes were directed by students, including junior Rebecca Henreckson, sophomore John Szczotka, and sophomore Michaela Stiles. In addition to performing their own respective roles, these students helped choreographed the scenes, giving notes and pointers to the cast members within their scenes.
Junior Rebecca Henreckson directed “Hmm, Hmm, Hmm,” a scene from “The Magic Flute,” in which she played the role of First Lady. Though she studies English, Henreckson came to Hillsdale on a music scholarship and devotes much of her time to the vocal department, including chamber choir. She has participated in Opera Workshops since her freshman year, some of which she had to sing in other languages.
“This year, they tried to make it more attainable for everybody. All the scenes were in English, which is new,” Henreckson said. “People can connect to that more. And I enjoy singing in English more because it’s harder to connect with what you’re singing when it’s not in English.”
Henreckson knew many of her fellow cast members through chamber choir, which, she said, made it easier to work together.
“So much was pulled together in so little time,” Henreckson said. “I knew the people and we were comfortable with each other. We can trust each other. And we also knew what to ask and expect from people.”
Sophomore Michaela Stiles played the role of Musetta in “Café Scene” from “La Boheme” and directed the workshop’s final scene, “Make Our Garden Grow.” After coming down with pneumonia earlier in the semester, Stiles said she experienced the community built within Howard.
“I received a lot of support from kids in the cast, which was phenomenal,” Stiles said. “I’ve learned what a great community there is in Howard and am beyond blessed to be a part of this community of great people.”
Next year, with the opening of the chapel, the current plan for the 2019 Opera Workshop is a performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”