Opera Scenes: ‘Laugh It Is’ to run Feb. 21-22

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor

Some performances are born out of the performer’s passion for their work.  

Opera Scenes: Laugh It Is will present three opera scenes in Yarborough auditorium 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 and 22. 

While the opera scenes performance was originally for a grade, it remains because students volunteer their time to continue the tradition. 

“In the past it used to be a part of a specific course and we’ve done away with the title of that course, even though the content is still in the curriculum, the course, per se, doesn’t exist,” the Opera Scenes: Laugh It Is director and associate professor of music Dr. Louima Lilite said. 

The enthusiasm of music students such as junior vocal performance major Marlee Tate, who will play Celie in Signor Deluso, is what keeps the performance going. 

“Preparing and performing these opera scenes is truly a joy for everyone involved,” she said. “We have all become closer to one another while preparing a program that is both musically-engaging and extremely fun.” 

Lilite agrees. 

“This particular one is a labor of love,” he said. “I know that everybody can say that about their work, but we are in a unique position.”  

The students provide their own backstage support, as well as performing. 

“It doesn’t have a big production team and so the students themselves are the production team, the crew and the cast,” he said. “And so just seeing them come up with ideas for costumes and makeup and they’re not the ones directing it – I’m the one directing it – but really I rely on them for the leg work and just for all of that. And it’s beautiful to me to see that.” 

The performance also allows students to put to use some of the skills they have learned through their various vocal courses, since its material is one of the most challenging things OBU music students perform. 

“First and foremost, opera as a genre, as a vocal genre, is the most visceral sound that can come out of a human,” Lilite said. ““It just goes to the inner most core of a person.” 

Opera performance requires all aspects of the singer to work together. 

“They have to combine their mind, their emotions – so the heart and soul – and the body,” Lilite said. “It’s a very athletic way to sing. A lot of our students actually say by the time we’re done with this so we’ll be so fit, because it forces them to exercise muscles that they don’t often.” 

Opera’s storytelling component poses another difficult of opera performance.  

“Perhaps the most challenging part of preparing the opera scenes is balancing healthy singing technique with dramatic and believable acting,” Tate said. 

The music requires a range of emotion and control. 

“Opera doesn’t just give you that power it also gives you a place of tenderness,” he said. “Where in a lot of genres you would have to rely on one singer to give you the belt and another to give you the tenderness and another to give you the comedic element and so forth; opera for each singer they have to be able to do that.” 

As the title suggest, this particular selection of operas is lighthearted. 

““I would hope for [the audience] to see that first and foremost that laughter is a gift and that they get to use it and they get to share it,” Lilite said. “So first and foremost, I just want people to come and have a good time and laugh.” 

The comedic subject matter is not only designed to amuse, however. 

“For example, the first one, Signor Deluso, is an American opera,” Lilite said. “I know the title is Italian, but it’s an American opera, it’s in English. It just basically tells the story of two different families and how what may be perceived as truth is not really truth until you take a look at it and investigate and examine yourself.” 

The performance includes two shorter operas and an excerpt from a longer opera: Thomas Pasatieri’s Signor Deluso, Ned Rorem’s Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters and the Act I finale of Così fan tutte by Mozart. 

Each selection was chosen to fit the students. 

“It’s an educational endeavor and so we want to serve our students,” Lilite said. “We actually auditioned students and then figured out what would work for the voices that were available to us.” 

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