The hauntingly beautiful melody and dimming lights set the stage for the thriller and drama “The Medium” last Thursday evening. Anticipation coursed through me, as I didn’t know what to expect from my first attendance at an opera.
What I didn’t know was that by the end of both short productions, I would feel every emotion the actors portrayed to their audience. You could sense Madame Flora’s drunken anger, the uncertainty from Monica, and especially the fear and heartache from the fabulous acting skills of Toby.
The cast was remarkable, singing notes you didn’t know were possible to reach, and the acting
made you feel like you were a fly on the wall; it was easy to forget that it was just a production.
“Opera is a story set to music,” said Dr. Frank Ward, who was the vocal coach and director of the performances. “And if you approach it like that, it makes sense. Opera combines all art forms.”
It’s easy to see that the work beginning for the shows in November has paid off. The music alone
was enough to send non-music majors heading for the hills.
“The cast members learned the music all on their own; that’s the profession,” said Ward
“The Medium” is a U.S. opera that takes place in the home of Madame Flora (portrayed by Melissa
Sorohan and Lauren Anthony), who performs fraudulent séances, in which her daughter Monica
(played by Josephine Suwanpoh and Hannah Sinchok) pretends to be the teenage daughter of a
client and the baby of another, while Toby, a mute boy they have taken in (portrayed by Michael
Lucas), manipulates the lights and furniture.
In the middle of the séance, Madame Flora suddenly stops and tells her clients (played by
Deanna Miller, Kyle Lorek and Amanda Krohne) to get out. She later told Monica that she felt
something or someone touch her hand. Blaming Toby and wanting to beat him for it, Monica tries to explain that there are no voices and that she’s just imagining things.
Later, Flora comes home drunk again and tries to make Toby confess to touching her hand
during the séance. She begins beating Toby, but is interrupted by her clients. She tries to tell them that she was cheating them the whole time, but they refuse to believe her. She sends them away, and despite Monica’s wishes, Toby as well.
While Flora is asleep, Toby returns and accidentally wakes her and hides. Flora believes that the spirit is in her home and ends up shooting Toby — fin.
After seeing this production, there are things you need to mentally be prepared for, the biggest one being the whole story plot of “The Medium.” It’s one of those story lines where your mind just gets blown, no matter what. The intensity of the story is a lot to take in, especially with the tragic ending of Toby, the boy everyone was rooting for.
When intermission ceased, the entire audience was more than pleased to have another short production that would let them leave with happy thoughts instead of tragic ones.
“Cox and Box” is a New London Group Opera composed by Arthur Sullivan in 1871. The tale unfolds in a room rented out by the Bouncer (Kyle Lorek), who then rents out the room to two unknowing tenants: A hatter who works by day, named James John Cox (Michael Lucas and Alexander Looney), and a printer who works by night named John James Box (Alexander Aeschliman). This allows the Bouncer to receive double the income.
Amazingly, the two renters never bump into each other until one fateful day when Cox is given the day off and discovers Box, who is cooking breakfast.
The tenants almost fight each other, until the Bouncer intervenes and the renters gradually calm
down. In a vulnerable moment, Box tells the story about how he faked his own death to get out
of marrying his fiancée, Penelope Ann Wiggins. Cox recognizes that the Penelope Ann he is
talking about is the very same Penelope Ann he is currently engaged to, whom none of them
actually care for.
The Bouncer returns with a letter from Penelope Ann explaining that she is breaking off their engagement and is now betrothed to Mr. Knox. Celebrating the news, they vow never to be a part
from one another. The rather humorous show let everyone in the audience leave on a happy note.
After seeing the two opera productions, I have not only a better understanding, but also a better appreciation for the ever-mysterious opera that was performed by an amazing cast and crew alike.