It’s not over until the opera students sing

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Kelly Riordian playing Madame Flora (center) is a junior and a German major.

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Janna Fitzgerald, Features Editor

Kelly Riordian playing Madame Flora (center) is a junior and a German major.

The two acts operas The Medium and The True Story of Cinderella opened at Illinois Wesleyan in the Westbrook Auditorium on Thursday, November 30 and closed on Sunday, December 3 after four total performances. The two operas were performed back to back.

The Medium

The Medium is a tragedy following Madame Flora, a fake medium that holds séances for the wealthy, her daughter Monica and Toby, a mute boy that lives with them and is in love with Monica. When she feels a spectral hand grip her throat during a séance, she freaks out, suspects Toby and starts to hear ghostly voices in her head.

The Medium was double cast in some roles, so I can only speak about the cast I saw on opening night. The show, overall, was excellent. People tend to think of operas as long, boring shows entirely in Italian, but The Medium was in English and kept the audience on its toes. It was like a live-action horror movie that just happened to be entirely sung.

Steph Rudi as Madame Flora, played by Kelly Riordan for alternating shows, clearly put everything into that performance. The audience could almost see each of her marbles slipping from her grasp. Toby, played by Filip Duda and Aaron Kahn for alternating shows, was a very interesting operatic role, considering the character is entirely mute. Despite that obstacle, Duda was able to make this character lovable, sweet and very funny. Even without words, the audience could understand exactly what he meant.

Liz Turner and Crystal Muro portrayed Monica. Turner created this playful, protective girl perfectly. My only fault with Monica would not be a fault with her portrayal but with her character. I really wanted her to stick up for Toby. The boy clearly couldn’t stand up for himself.

The costumes weren’t particularly noteworthy. They served their purpose for the actors and within the context of the plot, but they could have done more with them. The set was a simple room that was clearly in a state of disrepair. This actually worked perfectly for the story, given the dysfunctional family that lived there.

The special effects were great. The whole audience jumped at the gunshot, and the wall of photos falling off their nails left the audience feeling very unsettled. It was the perfect ending to a very ominous story.

The True Story of Cinderella

The True Story of Cinderella is a comedy following Cinderella, her prince and a host of classic characters that we meet along the way. This show was also double cast for some roles.

Instead of being acted out with a set in the traditional sense, cast members simply sat in a row of chairs while in costume and stood up for their songs. Although it was a pity that Cinderella wasn’t given the full stage and set treatments that The Medium was given, the actors didn’t let that stop them from giving excellent performances.

Kate Masson as Cinderella radiated her angelic nature. The Prince, portrayed by Filip Duda, came across as desperate to find his love and quite confused, which was his purpose in terms of the comedy. John Fegan as The King was comedy gold with his hearing loss and over-the-top praise of his wife, portrayed by Christina Fitsalos. The Stepmother, played by Victoria Morford, was positively sinister in every mannerism. She gave off very negative energy. Elisabeth Williams as The Fairy Godmother, played by Claire Challacombe on alternating performancing, had the audiences in stitches. Her facial expressions and sass gave life to the role.

The costumes for this show were a lot more fun. All the men were in tuxes, which felt appropriate for the story, and the women had these spectacular ball gowns. The Fairy Godmother’s dress, in particular, was stunning. Fluffy, pink and sequined, I didn’t know dresses like that existed outside of fairytales.

Both operas were awesome, completely changing my idea of what an opera can be. The unsettling nature of The Medium was wonderfully contrasted by the comedic nature of Cinderella. I would gladly go see them again, and I am looking forward to more performances in the School of Music and Opera Theater’s future.