Rowan University students donned historic wigs and dresses and warmed up their voices the week before Thanksgiving for a performance of “Le Nozze di Figaro,” or “The Marriage of Figaro,” an opera written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The show on Nov. 18, 19 and 20, presented by the Rowan Opera Company within the Rowan Department of Music, featured music sung in its original language of Italian but dialogue spoken in English. A screen above the stage displayed English subtitles to allow audience members not fluent in Italian to follow along with the music.
Though the audience benefited from English subtitles and dialogue, the performers had no such cheat-sheet. Instead, all the leads learned and rehearsed the music of the show beginning in April. They were instructed to memorize the immense amount of music over the summer so they could begin blocking once school started.
For many of the performers, including senior vocal performance major Olivia Roland who played Marcellina, memorizing all the music was the most challenging part.
“It’s a lot of music and to get up there and sing as well as remember everything including where we’re going onstage and emotions,” Roland said. “Over the summer, I sat down with my score and I translated everything I was singing. It was very tedious and challenging, but it was worth it in the end.”
Roland was not the only person translating over the summer. Jon Garrison, the assistant director, converted all the Italian dialogue to English to make things easier both on performers and audience members.
By the time performances rolled around, Rowan Opera Company Director Marian Stieber knew the company was ready.
“The most rewarding part was this week: watching them move from Monday through opening night and watching them grow and to the point where they became excited and so happy,” Stieber said. “We knew they had it and we could see that sense of accomplishment.”
Roland in particular looked forward to sharing this piece of theater that they had worked so hard on with the audience.
“Creating art was the most rewarding aspect,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know about this old type of music and I think it’s really cool to be able to create this for the public and for people who don’t necessarily know about opera.”
This rang true for Maura Holcomb, a senior at Saint Joseph’s University who had never been to an opera before.
“I like the incorporation of the different languages they were speaking, the different costumes and how it really resembled being in an actual opera,” Holcomb said. “I’ve never been to an opera before but it was absolutely incredible.”
Sophomore music education major Kevin Gehringer appreciated the commitment of everyone in the company.
“I just love how in-character everyone was,” he said. “Everything seemed so effortless and seamlessly woven together. The singing was the foundation of the show and the acting came from how passionate everyone was while singing.”
A comedy through and through, the show managed to make senior music education major Anisa Adkins laugh even through the language barrier.
“The comedic aspect was the best part because it was so well thought out and everything fit together so well,” Adkins said. “Everything was so funny. I was cracking up.”
Stieber said she was more than satisfied with the final product, appreciative of all the hard work and dedication the performers put in throughout the process.
“We’re so proud of them,” Stieber said. “We, the professionals, know what a huge undertaking this is, but we believed in them when we heard their auditions. We knew they could do it and they did. They worked so hard and we’re all so proud of them.”
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