Choose your own opera at Northbrook Library
‘Choose Your Own Ending’
Soprano Genevieve Thiers and mezzo-soprano Kate Calcamuggio at Northbrook Public Library, 1201 Cedar Lane
2 p.m. Sunday, July 8
Admission is free
Updated: July 4, 2012 4:50PM
Do you ever wonder what would have happened had you chosen a different path in life? Mezzo-soprano Kate Calcamuggio was pondering that question one day and came up with an idea for an opera program.
“We can’t change our life choices,” said the vivacious mezzo-soprano, “but we can certainly do that in fiction.”
So she and soprano Genevieve Thiers have put together an afternoon of entertainment during which they create an imaginary opera heroine and allow the audience to direct her life.
“We ask the audience to take our character through various different scenarios,” explained Theirs, “everything from true love to marriage to entering the convent to going mad to getting a cat.
“Most audiences at a recital,” she continued, “are used to sitting back and getting sung at. Here they are in total control … and there are surprises around every corner!”
The two singers met when they were earning master’s degrees in vocal performance at Northwestern University in Evanston. “We wanted to do a recital together,” Calcamuggio explained, “and we were bouncing ideas off each other.”
Thiers gives her friend credit for the idea, but,
Calcamuggio said her colleague put together the program, which is something of an organizational masterpiece.
After the heroine is introduced by each of the singers, the audience is asked whether the lady in question should chose to be demure or worldly.
On the worldly side is Musetta from Puccini’s “La Boheme,” who sings the flamboyant “Quando m’en vo,” while the more demure Lauretta implores her father in the aria “O mio babbino caro” for permission to marry her true love in the same composer’s “Gianni Schicchi.”
Composers range from Handel and Purcell to William Bolcom and Stephen Sondheim.
But that’s only the beginning. The audience might suddenly decide the demure one should face heartbreak and that the worldly woman might finally find true love.
All in fun
“It was important to find songs that had a dramatic through line,” Calcamuggio declared, “and we have some songs that are funny. We want this program to be fun.”
The mezzo-soprano has sung with Chicago Opera Theater, Glimmerglass Opera, the Aspen Music Festival and Florida Grand Opera. A native of Ohio, she holds a bachelor of music degree from Bowling Green State University and a master’s of music from Northwestern. This fall she begins working on her doctorate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Soprano Thiers has sung with the Longwood Opera Company, Opera Moda, Elgin Opera, Chicago Chamber Opera and Fulcrum Point, which was heard on WFMT radio and also was presented in the Harris Theater. Her roles include Lucy in “The Telephone,” Beth in “Little Women,” and Sarah Good in “The Crucible.”
The accompanist for
the afternoon program is Saori Chiba of Evanston, who just may need a crate for all the songs she may accompany.
“She had to learn all the arias we might possibly sing,” said Calcamuggio. “We really won’t know what we will perform until the audience makes the decisions.”
There is one decision the audience will not make. The heroine, like so many of the women in opera, must eventually perish.
Choices for the afterlife, however, remain up for grabs!