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Oops! I Think I'm In Love!

What can be better than a double bill production of two comic operas? The Ruth Asawa SOTA Vocal and Music departments presented George Frederic Handel's Serse and Gian Carlo Menotti's The Old Maid and The Thief. Both productions took place on August 28 and 29, at the St Aiden's Episcopal Church, featuring students from both the Vocal Department and the Instrumental Department. Serse was the first opera to be performed on both evenings, featuring Hope Nelson in the title role, Emilie Suarez as Romilda, Sam Siegel as Arsamene, Maya Goell as Atalanta, Evan Tiapula as Ariodate, and Ben Stacy as Elviro. The ensemble included Jillian Abaya, Maya Dearman, Ryan Doyle, Dorian Cunningham, Noah Goldstein, Nia Lewis, Simone Moore, Mackenzie Nemoff, Jackson Paddock, Evan Tiapula, and Ben Stacy.

Ms. Nelson, performing a trouser role, succeeded as presenting Serse (Xerxes) as a dignified King, moving around the stage elegantly and confidently. She performed Ombra Mai Fu with a royal tone but with a feminine elegance.

Ms. Suarez, performing the role of Romilda, depicted her character as a fragile young woman desperately in love. Ms. Suarez's piercing high notes and seductive demeanor helped her portray the role of Romilda perfectly.

Mr. Siegel, being the sweetheart of Romilda, executed the role of the heartbroken Arsamene with aptitude to the emotion. Being acquainted with most of the performers, it broke my heart to see them express suffering, especially seeing Mr. Siegel cut a heart out from his crimson shirt, crumple it up and, distressed, throw it to the floor vivaciously.

Sam Siegel and Emilie Suarez
Ms. Goell, performing the shameless Atalanta, made the audience fall in love with her and her comic moments. Constantly trying to seduce every male character and envying her sister Romilda's possession of Serse's and Arsamene's attention, Ms. Goell was the evil sister, manipulating events and causing intrigues, we all wanted to see.

Mr. Tiapula, performing the role of the general who confused the king's instructions and married Romilda off to Arsamene instead of marrying Romilda off to Serse, formed the comic duo with Mr. Stacy, who was Elviro, obeying Arsamene. Together, they were the comic relief of this tension filled opera, making the audience laugh with their silly facial expressions and dynamic acting.

Overall, this production was full of tears and laughter, and by changing the original plot of Serse, they managed to produce a happy end where every character got himself or herself a spouse. (Arsamene with Romilda and Serse with Atalanta.) I particularly enjoyed the recurring action of tearing flower buds off of the stems when in emotional distress, a.k.a heartbreak. This action really emphasized the tension and transferred the mood to the audience. (One of these buds actually reached my seat and I took it home with me.)

Maya Goell, Sam Siegel, and Emilie Suarez
The Old Maid and the Thief, performed after intermission, changed the mood of Serse completely. The cast included Simone Moore as Miss Todd, Mackenzie Nemoff as Miss Pinkerton, Nia Lewis as Laetitia, Ryan Doyle (8/28) and Dorian Cunningham (8/29) as Bob, Ben Stacy as the Radio Announcer/Sound Effects, and SOTA Vocal Department graduate from last year Drew Jackson as the Radio Producer. This opera was staged as a radio show, depicting two plots going on at the same time. There was the plot that the actors were performing for the radio, and there was this inner plot featuring the actors in real life. Sort of like a plot ception, I would say.

Simone Moore, performing the role of the rich old maid, did an excellent job at being the diva backstage and the old maid for the radio. It was kind of silly to see a high school junior portraying an old maid, but Ms. Moore entertained the audience well.

Ms. Nemoff, being the other old maid in the story, was the gossipy, tattle-tale both as her character and as her character backstage. Miss Pinkerton is essentially that one character no one likes, because everyone can tell that she does not wish Miss Todd well.

Ms. Lewis, being the young Laetitia, was the lovable character. Depicting the romantic character of Laetitia with her sweet voice, Ms. Lewis kept the audience on her side during the entire opera.

Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to stay for The Old Maid and the Thief when Ryan Doyle was performing the role of Bob, so I will not be able to say anything about his performance. But I have heard Mr. Doyle before and his singing is not something to miss.

Mr. Cunningham, as Bob, intrigued the audience with his depiction of Bob. There is an evident sarcasm in the name Bob, mocking the two women for falling in love with a beggar with the name Bob. Sometimes, the audience did not know if Bob was a good guy or a bad guy, but in the end we all rooted for Laetitia and Bob, thanks to Mr. Cunningham and Ms. Lewis.

Mr. Stacy was once again the comic relief. Being the obnoxious radio announcer, he made the audience laugh countless times.

(The supertitles for the first half were projected by Drew Jackson. The supertitles for the second half were projected by Sam Siegel. )

We must also never forget about the stunning orchestra led by Piano Department Head Ava Soifer. The musicians were well prepared and wonderfully led by conductor Ava Soifer. The singers were lucky to get such a supporting group of musicians:) The orchestra, including Anju Goto and Charles Thollander on violin, Christine Blair and Anny Kwak on cello, Morgan Lucero on oboe, Sarah Evenson on clarinet, Ronan Fitzsimons-Brey on french horn, Diana Chau on piano, and Ava Soifer on harpsichord.

Director: Rhoslyn Jones
Conductor: Ava Soifer
Assistant Music Director: Diana Chau
Producer: Kristen Grzeca

Production Assistants: Clover Austin-Meuhleck and Drew Jackson
Supertitle Design: Benjamin Malkevitch

P.S. I was promised photos from the show and possibly the entire video recording of Serse from one of the singers, but I haven't gotten my hands on that yet.


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