On Sunday, the seats of Brandi Recital Hall were alive with the sounds of Kenyon’s Opera and Music Theater Workshop’s fall semester performance. The small-but-mighty company, made up of just eight students, gave an emotional and compelling performance of selections from Mozart, Sondheim and Bernstein that enchanted both seasoned musicians and newcomers alike.
The show began with Tommy Hillmer ’25, Ava Messinger ’25 and Catherine Walker ’24 singing “Soave sia il vento” (“May breezes blow lightly”) from Mozart’s opera Cosí fan Tutte. The selection required vocalists to meld together their distinct voices, forming a sort of miniature choir that is technically challenging for many singers to master. Despite the piece’s difficulty, the trio handled its lilting, melancholic quality with remarkable ease.
“Soave sia il vento” was followed by “Via resta servita” (“To greet you, my Lady”) from another Mozart opera, Le Nozze di Figaro. Sydney Goldstein ’24 and Tati Gross ’24 performed the song in a comedic and lighthearted way that contrasted the somber tone of the show’s opener. The two characters, Marcellina and Susanna, are at odds over the affections of the titular Figaro, resulting in increasingly heated attempts to outdo one another that Gross and Goldstein embodied with gusto.
The final Mozart selection was “Bald prangt den Morgen zu verkünden” (“Soon speeds the morning light”) from Die Zauberflöte, performed by Katie Ceniza-Levine ’23, Casey Capsambelis ’23 and Valeria Garcia-Pozo ’23. Like “Soave sia il vento,” this piece required immense concentration from the three performers for them to be able to appropriately convey the moving quality of the scene and stay in harmony with one another. On the whole, the trio managed to do this quite well, finishing off the group’s foray into Mozart with a flourish.
The show moved into the realm of musical theater with Messinger returning to the stage to deliver a rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Everybody Loves Louis” from the musical Sunday in the Park with George. This musical is arguably an underappreciated Sondheim masterpiece, and Messinger handled it with the ease of an experienced musician. Garcia-Pozo and Gross then gave a lovely, haunting performance of “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, which brought the first half of the production to a close with much applause.
Goldstein opened the second act, singing “Being Alive” from Sondheim’s recently revived Company. The song is a staple of musical theater, and Goldstein had big shoes to fill when taking it on. It was a relief to hear Goldstein nail the famously brassy, emotional conclusion. Keeping with the Sondheim theme, the show then featured two selections from Into the Woods before closing out the afternoon with a brilliant rendition of “A Little Priest” and “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” from the musical Sweeney Todd.
The members of the Opera and Music Theater Workshop appeared to perform best as an ensemble, and their ability to feed off of one another’s infectious love of the craft made for an excellent showcase. Capsambelis and Ceniza-Levine, who provided short summaries of each song for uninitiated audience members, aided the flow of the performance superbly. It would additionally be “an awful shame” (to borrow a quotation from Sondheim’s “A Little Priest”) to allow the talents of accompanist Adjunct Instructor of Music Rebecca Keck to go unnoticed — it is extraordinarily difficult to serve as the sole accompaniment for so many vocalists singing in so many different styles, but Keck handled the challenge beautifully.
The Opera and Musical Theater Workshop put on a fantastic showcase, reminding listeners of the immense amount of talent that Kenyon fosters in the practice rooms and recital halls of Rosse Hall. I’m looking forward to their spring performance.