by Annie Devine
Gossip, romance, theft and a great deal of laughter: Brandi Recital Hall played host to them all this past weekend. The Opera and Musical Theater Workshop’s performances of The Old Maid and the Thief took place on April 10 and 11.
This opera, originally written by composer Gian Carlo Menotti for radio in 1939, tells the story of solitary Miss Todd (Julia Morris ’15), and her maid, flirtatious Laetitia (Grace Potter ’17). They live in a sleepy town, entertained by regular visits from the town gossip, obtrusive Miss Pinkerton (Sam Roschewsk ’18), and little else. Their quiet world turns upside down, however, when a handsome and charismatic stranger named Bob (Conor Dugan ’15) knocks on their door one rainy night. What follows is a fast-paced, entertaining slew of misunderstandings, mishaps and misbehavior, filled with a dynamic mix of humor and tenderness.
Director of The Old Maid and the Thief and instructor of the Opera and Musical Theater Workshop Jennifer Marcellana said she was pleased with the performance. She and her cast have been working on the show since the beginning of the academic year, and while they put on two of the scenes back in November for the workshop’s fall preview, this was their first time performing the whole show for an audience. The debut came with some difficulties. “Since it was written for a radio, it wasn’t really meant to be performed with all the scene changes, but I think we did a good job with them,” Marcellana said. The cast similarly expressed satisfaction. Potter said this was her first time performing in a staged opera, and that she was quite nervous. “Learning the music and memorizing it, even though it was in English, was really difficult,” she said. Her director and the rest of the cast agreed the music was a challenge. “It’s not really intuitive,” Morris added. Menotti’s compositions, according to Potter, are notorious for their off-kilter harmonies and wild jumps, but if the music was at all a struggle for her or her fellow cast members, the audience didn’t notice; their voices wove together seamlessly to tell this quirky story.
Like Potter, this was Morris’s first time performing in an opera. After taking voice lessons and learning sections of songs through her years as a student, she said the most rewarding part of The Old Maid and the Thief was putting it all together with a whole cast. However, as she is a senior, it will also be Morris’s last opera at Kenyon. “I’m considering a performance track in the future,” she said.
The performance brought opera to our unlikely audience—cotemporary college students. “It was very funny and very lighthearted,” said audience member Megan Althouse ’18, who had never been to an opera before. She was not the only one who thought so. The crowd, an even mix of Kenyon students and community members, was laughing in every scene, and the final bows had the whole audience on their feet.