To This We’ve Come, an operatic production in three Acts will be performed live Sunday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Gaede Stage at MSU. I cannot remember being so excited to be part of a production.
The original idea for the performance began while talking with my pianist and dear friend, Stephen Sulich, about the “Papers” aria from the opera The Consul by Menotti. We decided to feature this song in context of its setting along with scenes from other American operas and create something different and interesting.
Act I will feature the opening scene from Samuel Barber’s opera Vanessa. I will sing the title role and Holly Janz will sing the part of Erika, my niece. Holly will perform the famous aria, “Must the Winter Come So Soon.” In this song, Erika sings about the darkness of winter and the slowness of time—something we on the northern plains in January can understand. Next in the scene, Vanessa sings, “He has come…Do not utter a word.” In this piece, Vanessa sings to her lover, who she believes has returned to her after 20 years of absence. This aria is probably the most difficult work of music I have ever attempted. I am thrilled and terrified every time the music begins!
In Act II, Holly Janz performs the song cycle, Miss Manners on Music, by the former Minnesota-based composer Dominick Argento. A song cycle is a collection of songs placed together to form a story or tell several stories that relate to one another. This collection of songs are actual letters to Miss Manners, an advice columnist, who explained to her readers the correct manners for attending musical events. The work is funny and brilliant, and Holly is stunning in this performance. Typically, song cycles are not staged in performance, but we have broken the rules and the songs come to life in this production.
Act III concludes with the “Papers” aria from the opera The Consul by Menotti. I had worked on a few years ago, but it is a difficult song to perform out of context. It has so much depth and the message is so powerful. The story is of a woman who needs to flee her country because the police and her government are threatening her. It is a story about immigration, bureaucracy and paperwork, something most of us can relate to. In this scene, Magda Sorel has finally had it and has a musical melt-down: it is an opera mad scene. I told Stephen this aria meant a lot to me. Performing this aria has been on my bucket list since I first learned about opera. I heard it when I was very young, and this piece introduced me to this style of music. I never thought I would be able to sing it. Stephen looked at me and said, “Well, if we are going to do it, we need to do it right.” I believe we are!
Stephen and I have asked many Fargo-Moorhead professionals to help with this operatic production. Fred Heringes, a professional actor, director, and singer, is our stage director. As mentioned, Holly Janz, a beautiful, smart, and amazing singer/actor, is my partner in crime. Leah Vogel is stage manager, Dave Wihelmi is lighting designer, and Margaret “Mars” Ness-Ludwig is in charge of costumes, hair and make-up. Several current students also make appearances as servants, singers, and immigrants: Colton Cook, Emma Dettman, Nicholas Dosch, Jacklynn Reidl, and Samuel Wisenden are all helping out. It is going to be an incredible evening.
I am grateful to MSUM and for all who are helping. If you have the time and want to support live, local art, please attend. Tickets are available at mnstate.edu/tickets. For those of you who are interested in seeing it live-streamed, I am working on it and will let you know if it happens.
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