Spring has sprung and special opera performances are launching at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM), while catering to an opera-in-brief community outreach program that takes the audience on a quick but enlightening journey through a specific opera.
Back in 2010, MSM partnered with Anthony Amato, an avid maestro, producer, educator, and nonprofit entrepreneur, in order to create a concept that would expand the effectiveness of live opera performances in the educational community. The idea was to enrich the minds of students ranging in grades pre-K through grade 12, with a live experience adapted in English, that covers the opera’s entire synopsis in an approximate duration of 40minutes. In short, if one has ever opted to read the cliff notes version of a seemingly overwhelming novel, this is that option in opera form. However, instead of stripping away what could be thought of as excessive detail in the storyline, the Arts-In-Education program creates a thrilling flow with the opera’s given plot and quickens the overall pace, leaving the audience wanting more, yet satisfied at the same time. It is the perfect model for delivery for an opera outreach program.
Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” was an excellent choice to prepare for this season, as this opera is known for its exciting and fantastical story. Dialogue and narration by Gordon Ostrowski informed and engaged the audience by inviting them into the dreamworld that Mozart created for his characters. The cast was full of MSM students that exuded pure joy in each of their roles and it was very refreshing to see and feel the characters in this way.
Papageno, played by Sidhant Seth, a baritone from India, was an exemplary choice for this role. When he took stage in his beautifully elaborate bird hunting costume, equipped with his pan pipe, he immediately brought life and fun into everyone’s hearts. Ostrowski’s introduction of Papageno also made the audience feel included and enthusiastic about learning more. One could see the audience smile together and feel an air of palpable vulnerability that created an enriching learning environment.
Anthony Paul-Cavaretta, costume designer, crafted pieces that were unbelievably exquisite and detail oriented. There was no lacking of the imagination in the character’s costumes and this paved way to the high-quality visual aspect of this program. The audience was transported to a night-at-the-opera with such rich quality of design. Ostrowski also strategically created a stage to house all characters on stage at once in a way that kept everyone actively involved and rotating with the lively puppets and other amusing stage props. Everyone was high-energy and enthusiasm was contagious.
“The Magic Flute” is a staple for any voice part when choosing a Mozart aria. To hear each aria in a shortened version, and in English, was a surprising and unique twist. One could not simply put their brain on auto-pilot for this show, especially from an entertaining stand point.
Elijah Graham played Tamino, and was a solid choice for this role. First-time listeners could hear his voice as it captured the array of necessary colors and emotions of Tamino.
Alexandra Linde, as Queen of the Night did a great job at executing her character’s most popular aria while maintaining an authoritative stance in the storyline. And it was Youjung Won that played Pamina and made the audience swoon in her ethereal and feminine approach.
Accompanied by LeAnn Overton, piano, and Kelly Catlin, flute, one could see all facets of this performance at once and quickly understand why opera is still alive and enjoyed by all ages.
The Amato Opera-In-Brief proved to be effective in educating both new generations and avid opera enthusiasts alike with this season’s fun-filled showcase launch.