Published on February 28th, 2017 | by Wil Fisackerly0
One-shot Opera: FSC Opera theatre puts on The Pirates of Penzance
Most musicals and plays performed by the Florida Southern College Opera theatre department have multiple viewings. Two weekends of shows and the Sunday matinee finale are mainstays, but last Wednesday’s performance of The Pirates of Penzance gave the cast and crew only one chance to perform.
The opera was written by Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert in 1879 and performed in New York on New Year’s Eve, 1879. The work is over 130 years old, and some of the terminology is fairly dated (one such example is the pirate Frederic’s previous intended apprenticeship of a pilot, a professional mariner in current vocabulary).
That said, most of the opera could be understood. The fast-paced rhythmic measures of the Major-General’s song, portrayed by senior Matthew English, was polished and executed with precision. The entire affair was helped by the use of lyrics projected above the stage for each song.
The casting for the production was phenomenal, even with a shortage of males. Traditional male roles such as the ensemble for the police and pirates had a few females cast, but the overall silly nature of the opera did not require the audience to take the gender roles of the extras seriously.
Tatiana Montilla portrayed Edith, one of the main wards besides the lead ward, Mabel. Montilla said that this show was unique from other productions in that the cast was not specifically opera or musical theatre majors. There was no requirement of an acting or musical background to audition.
“It’s really nice because it gives the ensemble more diversity,” Montilla said.
Montilla said that the cast started rehearsing in December and only started rehearsing on stage a few weeks ago. Usually, they are on stage for the vast majority of production, and stage rehearsals started mid-January.
“We had intense rehearsals a month before the show,” said assistant director and stage manager Emily Hart. “It’s just an amazing experience even though it’s just one show, sometimes we wish we have more than one.”
Hart said that performing only one show did raise the stakes of the performance, but also mentioned that it provided the cast and crew with an adrenaline rush to perform the best show they could.
Students and alumni alike were given a special treat as President Anne Kerr made an appearance as Queen Victoria. Montilla said that the casting was confirmed the week before the show and that she thought it helped the students enjoy the performance.
Some students who attended had never experienced an opera before. Sophomore Joseka Thelusma enjoyed her first experience at the opera and mentioned that the performance encouraged her to see the other play concurrently showing by the theatre department., I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.
“There’s a lot of talent that’s being shown here,” Thelusma said. “The actors were confident in their roles and their emotions were portrayed very well.”
The FSC Opera theatre department took a risk performing such an exalted opera. They upped the stakes even further by performing only one night. By both accounts, they excelled.