Opera is a musical genre often thought of as something archaic, boring and practically obsolete. But it’s not over until the fat lady sings.
At UCF, opera is thriving. The program first started in 2005 when the program’s executive director Thomas Potter took over the class. Before that, the class had been more of a workshop. Potter turned it into a way for students to perform and put on productions, complete with lighting, staging and costuming.
“I feel like it’s the collaborative sport of the arts world,” Potter said about the genre. “That’s what attracts me to opera so much. It’s all of these art forms combined.”
Today, the program consists of a class of 20 to 25 students every semester and is centered on three main emphases.
In the fall, the class does a scenes program, during which it splits into groups and performs different acts from a variety of operas. The scenes showcase for this coming fall will be held from Nov. 14 to Nov. 15 in the Visual Arts Building auditorium.
In the spring, the class does a major production, usually performing a complete opera. This year, the program will be doing a show called L’elisir d’amore, or Elixir of Love, a romantic comedy of sorts.
Both the scenes showcase and opera production is free for students and faculty who bring a UCF ID.
The third center point for the program is its educational outreach. The students travel to different elementary schools throughout the year and put on children’s operas. They use stories kids already know, such as Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella, and turn them into operas that are easy to understand and follow.
Both classes are open to all students, even non-music majors. Potter said he loves having non-music majors in the class, as it helps students who want to learn a new art form and veteran students who need to learn how to deal with different types of people.
But most of the students who stay in the program are music performance majors. Potter said there are some students who take the class all eight semesters throughout their college careers.
“It kind of becomes a community,” he added. “When those kids are spending so much time together, they get to know each other.”
To these music students, opera isn’t just another class they take to try and fill up their degree audits. It’s a passion that they pour hard work, time and energy into.
“The whole genre is incredible, the musical compositions, dramatics of the stage, richness in the text and the almost spiritual level of communication,” said David Soto, a senior vocal performance major in the program. “I can’t think of one thing I love most. Every aspect is a lifetime of study and appreciation by itself.”
For many students in the program, opera provides them with an outlet to create something worthwhile and to show the world their talents.
“I think it’s a certain aspect of humanity to be involved in the arts and express ourselves,” said Liana Stephen, a senior music performance major.
And it’s not only the students who benefit from performing. Performers said these shows also impact their audiences.
“We can … witness the brightest and darkest parts of ourselves magnified in the characters and physically feel this identification in the music,” said Michaela Ilyes, a senior vocal performance major.
All three singers said students should keep open minds and actually experience opera before they decide whether or not they like the music. After all, it might not be what they expect.
“It’s not all about the lady with the horns,” Soto said.
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.