Family drama, Opera and Laurier

Graphic by Alan Li

On Friday, Nov. 10, I attended an opera performed by Wilfird Laurier University students,

from the faculty of music.

The opera was called Family Ties and consisted of five short scenes from a variety of operas, all under the theme of family.

I spoke with Madeleine Levesque, a fifth-year music student at Laurier, who not only starred in three out of five of the scenes, but is also the marketing and publicity coordinator for Opera Laurier.

Before attending the opera, my only exposure to the genre was watching my sixth-form college perform Phantom of the Opera when I was eighteen-years-old, and I was quickly corrected by Levesque that Phantom of the Opera is not in fact an opera, but musical theatre. I was therefore unsure what to expect, and was interested to see if I was able to understand any of the plots.

Upon arriving, I was issued with a program that gave a brief description of each of the acts being performed. The stage was decorated with various garments of clothes, surrounded by long coils of rope.

“The overarching theme was family, and the ties of family, and that’s what the rope represents”, Levesque said. “All of the rope was [representing] the connections and the emotional bonds between characters”.

The first act was called La Cenerentola, and was a take on the traditional Cinderella story. Sung in Italian, but with English subtitles provided, the sisters used the rope to pull Cenerentola around the stage, showing how family ties can be used to manipulate and abuse our loved ones.

Preparations for this opera started the week before the semester commenced, and it was clear from the exceptional performance that a huge amount of dedication from the students went into this.

This idea was continued in the second act, “Again,” which explored the repetitiveness of an abusive relationship. Taken from TV show I Love Lucy, husband Ricky used the rope to manipulate and control his wife Lucy, who was unable to leave due to the physical constraints of her husband.

The third act was a scene taken from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, a comedic opera again in Italian. Described in the program as “full of wonderful arias and fantastic plot twists,” this scene featured love, trickery and comedy – and new-found ties in unexpected family members.

A scene from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story was the fourth act of the evening, where the ropes were used to pull lovers Maria and Tony away from each other as their families feuded in rival gangs.

The final, and in my opinion, most powerful act of the evening, was a scene from Our Town.

Through the recently deceased Emily, we were taught the harsh lessons of taking life for granted, and the importance of appreciating those around us. “The Dead” were shown coiling the rope round their hands, suggesting the haunting speed of one’s life, and its ability to slip through our fingers.

This overarching theme of “family ties” was used to connect five seemingly separate acts, and the rope was important in making theses connections both physically and metaphorically.

Preparations for this opera started the week before the semester commenced, and it was clear from the exceptional performance that a huge amount of dedication from the students went into this.

“Everybody did a wonderful job, and I’m so proud of everybody, and we’re all looking forward to Saturday, and to next semester when we get to perform the big opera”, Levesque said.

In March, the students will be back for three nights with their take on Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land.

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