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Opera in the Hub City

August 30, 2013|Kate Coleman

Opera?

In Hagerstown?

Really?

Yes, yes and yes!

I had read Lifestyle colleagues’ stories about the Hub Opera Ensemble. Friends who had attended performances told me how good they were. 

I had to see for myself.

Seeing — and hearing  —are believing.

In 2010 Francesca Aguado and Caitlin Budny cofounded the community opera company. As their plans developed, they approached Joseph Marschner at Hagerstown Community College. Marschner, now chairman of the English and Humanities Division and assistant professor of music and drama, was glad to help.

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“We realized that the ensemble could provide educational opportunities to students and adults in the arts community,” he told The Herald-Mail in 2011.

A nonprofit partnership was formed. Performers assist in opera lecture classes and conduct master classes for HCC music and theater students. Hub Opera uses campus theater spaces, and HCC provides support for productions. 

A win-win, yes?

Actually, it’s a win-win-win. The community is another beneficiary. Hub Opera Ensemble, in partnership with HCC, “is devoted to bringing quality professional opera to communities where the art form is not yet represented,” according to www.huboperaen semble.org. 

So. About that seeing for myself …

Last May, my friend and Lifestyle editor Crystal Schelle and I attended a performance of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” That is Italian for Don Juan — the name in Spanish  — a label for a guy who seduces women. Bonus: I got to see HCC’s wonderfully renovated Kepler Theater. 

I have previously confessed that I’m not a huge fan of opera. That could be partly because I haven’t had many opportunities to experience the art form. Also, like many, I might be the victim of cartoonish stereotypes — thinking that opera is reserved for society’s cultured upper crust, or that it’s stuffy and snooty and too highbrow for me to enjoy.

“Don Giovanni” was none of that. It was fun!

A large part of my delight was in the steampunk design of the production. I was unfamiliar with the concept, which has been described as a sub-genre of science fiction, a sort of alternative version of the Victorian era. HCC costume-design instructor Robin Shaner created nearly 40 costumes for the featured performers and the young chorus — made up of Barbara Ingram School for the Arts students. The time-traveling whimsy was perfect.

I didn’t read the synopses in the program. I glanced up at the English supertitles projected above the stage only a couple of times. But I had no problem following the action even though all of it was sung in Italian.

And beautifully sung it was. The young performers are trained professionals. My reaction to their vocal power and skill could be compared to one I might have watching talented gymnasts: Wow!

Happily, there was a 15-piece orchestra in the pit. I spotted familiar faces of Maryland Symphony Orchestra and Appalachian Wind Quintet players as well as that of North Hagerstown High School’s orchestra teacher.

Hub Opera Ensemble performs two fully staged operas and one concert opera each year. Next up is “Il barbiere di Siviglia” aka Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” Friday, Sept. 27, Sunday, Sept. 29; Friday, Oct. 4 and Saturday, Oct. 5.

I hope to have a seat in his chair.

Kate Coleman covers The Maryland Symphony and writes a monthly column for The Herald-Mail.


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