The PSU opera program performed live for the first time in two years at the Bicknell Center on Feb. 11. and Feb. 13.
“This past weekend we did a performance of ‘Susanna’s Secret,’ which is an English translation of the Italian ‘Secreto di Suzanna’ by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari,” said Patrick Howle, PSU opera director. “It’s an Italian opera written at the turn of the century, the early 1900’s.”
The piece was chosen by Howle in September of 2021.
“I had two graduate students who were in my opera workshop class this year and it was perfect for them,” Howle said. “It fit both of their voice types quite well and allowed us to do something a little bit shorter. It’s about 45 minutes to an hour-long. When I planned this piece in September, we were very much in a COVID surge at that time. I had to think, ‘What if that happens again’ as we went into the performances?’ We were able to not have as many people involved. The more people we have on stage singing in each other’s faces, the (larger) chance you have of spreading COVID, so that was a big thing. We typically also have an orchestra in the pit, but for safety precautions we chose not to. But it worked out perfectly.”
The performance included two performers that sang the entire time, then included one character who was mute. This character’s name was Santes, a butler to the count and countess. Joseph Barnes, a sophomore in music education, portrayed this character.
“He was the only silent role in the three-person opera, so it was quite interesting to play someone that was mute but yet so expressive in his moments of comedy,” Barnes said. “Performing however, was a different story as it brought a lot of pressure trying to convey messages and the story without ever uttering a word or even singing.”
Xavier Moore, a graduate student in vocal performance, had a different experience. Moore portrayed Count Gil, the husband to Countess Susanna.
“The character allowed me to portray a large array of emotions, with the main ones being anger and suspicion. These emotions caused me to use quite a physical presence with lots of pointing and stiff movements, so it was a bit physically demanding. But it was definitely fun overall,” Moore said.
The singers were accompanied by a pianist.
“I think we did an awesome job,” Moore said. “Theresa and (Joseph) were awesome actors to play off of, and we meshed very well. Jung Hee Lee is a life-saving pianist. She quite literally held this show together. And Mr. Howle did a phenomenal job of staging and letting us develop our characters in the way that we saw fit. The audience seemed to enjoy it, so there’s not much more you can ask for.”
Any students interested in the opera program can contact Patrick Howle via email (email@example.com) or by visiting his office (McCray 106).