From Hamilton to Italian opera: MSU’s opera production class presents “CaberOpera”

MSU opera productions students performed their show titled “CaberOpera” on Oct. 16.

The sun shone brightly on Mississippi State University's Old Main Amphitheater Friday, spotlighting 11 talented students from MSU's opera production class. 

The show consisted of a riveting mix of opera, Broadway and pop. It was fittingly titled "CaperOpera".  

Originally scheduled for Oct. 9, the rain momentarily threatened to overshadow the students' hard work and planning, but they were able to reschedule the production to a week later. 

There is no better way to describe the show than with the words of the music director, Jeanette Fontaine, stated at the opening of the performance.

"This is an eclectic program," Fontaine said.

Each piece performed came from a different musical, artist or opera. By bringing different musical worlds into one show, the performance kept the audience on their toes. Every row at the amphitheater had people in it, and even those who were merely passing by could not help turning their heads to listen.  

The show opened with "Summer Nights" from the musical "Grease." The entire cast was included in this song, with a hilarious gossiping ensemble to back up the gorgeous duet. Eleanor Garrard sang soprano and Ty Lofton sang tenor in this piece. The two perfectly portrayed the iconic characters Sandy and Danny.   

As for opera, Megan Kundel, soprano, performed "Lo Son L'umile Ancella," from the Italian Adriana Lecouvreur. From the moment she took the first breath to the last note, it was clear Kundel was born to perform. Her voice was so lovely and loud; the microphone was almost an insult to her gorgeous performance. 

Blaine Rossell Smith, a baritone cast member, shared his thoughts on the show prior to the performance.  

"I feel like it will be a good way to show young people that an opera is actually really interesting," Smith said. 

Their performance was as educational as it was entertaining, and the audience got a taste of many different forms of music. 

Every cast member seemed to feel very connected to their pieces. Lauren Boozer, a soprano cast member, said this was because the cast members were very involved in the process of picking the setlist.  

"This show was great because, a lot of times, you don't get a say in what you perform," Boozer said.   

Boozer and Smith performed a beautiful rendition of "All I Ask of You" from "The Phantom of the Opera" together. After introducing themselves, Boozer and Smith completely immersed themselves into their characters, and one could feel the love laced in every word of the song. With their swoon-worthy vocals, every note was angelic.   

Every song had its own unique flavor, and each cast member brought their unique personalities into their performance.    

Ty Lofton, a tenor, performed "I am Aldolpho" from "The Drowsy Chaperone." He put a little bit of sass into every movement, and there was rarely a moment where the audience was not laughing. He put his all into his performance, with a full and joyful voice.  

The student performers even threw in "Dear Theodosia" from "Hamilton," with Lofton and Smith cast as Burr and Hamilton respectively. It was obvious this was one of the crowd favorites.  

Another crowd favorite, "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" from "Annie Get Your Gun" was sung by Eleanor Gerard, soprano, and Will Couch, baritone. The two were a hilarious combination. There was laughter all around, and boredom was no where to be found. Loud cheers rose from the audience throughout the piece. 

Roza Tulyaganova, the artistic director, said the biggest motivation to perform was to support people in hard times, considering there is no live music anymore.  

"Because of the pandemic, the full opera that was planned was no longer possible, so this program allows the students to spread out and sing without masks and support the community with the music," Tulyaganova said.

A couple of weeks prior to the show, the opera class brought a preview of their production to Montgomery Gardens Senior Living. They sang to the elderly, who had been cooped up for months. During the closing song, "Imagine" by John Lennon, the families attending each held a string connected to their elderly family member. 

Similarly, in the performance last weekend the cast invited the audience to sing along as they sang "Imagine." The entire cast stood in a line, shoulder to shoulder, as they connected with the audience for a final time through song.

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