3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego
There are how many versions of the Cinderella story? There’s Disney (of course), Rossini, Prokofiev, the 1984-85 Villanova Wildcats, and Massenet. I’m sure I missed a few, but Massenet is the one I want to talk about.
Cendrillon is what the French call it and Massenet wrote an opera based on it, but I had never heard it until this last weekend at Point Loma Opera Theater. PLOT is a club on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University.
The opera workshop course was canceled and the students organized themselves into PLOT to continue producing operas. Point Loma continues to send singers into the opera world, but there is no opera workshop class. That’s a head-scratcher, to say the least.
PLOT has been around for a few years now and they put on a good show. The productions are fully staged with costumes, orchestra, and chorus.
I want to talk a little bit about the chorus. The music in Cendrillon isn’t easy and the performance was in French with English supertitles. Some of the chorus members were in high school four months ago.
Act III duet.
To go from high school to singing complex music, in French, with an orchestra, on stage, with choreography, in a few short months — that’s an education. Here’s the crazy part: the chorus sounded great.
The tone was full and rich. I would guess there were about 15 singers in the chorus but the sound was huge. The chorus doubled as the set and props in the big Act III duet between Cendrillon and Prince Charming.
Speaking of Prince Charming and Cendrillon, there were also lead roles for the Fairy Godmother, the evil Step-mother, and Cendrillon’s father. The Step-sisters were also present in supporting roles, as was the King and a few members of the court.
The singing was solid throughout the cast and throughout the entire show. I wasn’t worried about any of the singers and that’s rare in opera.
I can’t emphasize how impressive and important it is for undergrad students to learn and perform complete opera roles. That type of activity is usually reserved for the graduate level and up. We’re not talking about Gilbert and Sullivan here. These are serious opera roles.
One of the most challenging things for an opera singer at any level is learning new repertoire. It’s hard. Again, this isn’t South Pacific or My Fair Lady. It takes months and months of preparation just to learn the notes and the text. At the professional level, singers will take two years to learn a role before they perform it.
PLOT is advancing the artform and educating students in a way that is beyond expectations and we should applaud them and their efforts.