Too Many Sopranos sheds light on opera stereotypes

Comedic production runs this weekend at Althouse College

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A scene from Too Many Sopranos

Shaun Ding

VIKINGS HAVE FEELINGS, TOO. UWOpera’s Too Many Sopranos pokes fun at opera stereotypes while highlighting Western’s best performers onstage. The two-act production is playing from March 20 to 22 at Althouse College.

This weekend, UWOpera will be making fun of itself.

Running Friday through Sunday at Althouse College, the Faculty of Music’s opera workshop will be performing Too Many Sopranos, a contemporary opera that pokes fun at the traditional stereotypes of opera singers.

“It’s a parody. It’s a caricature. It really will be very entertaining,” says Sophie Roland, director of the production.

Written by American composer Edwin Penhorwood, Too Many Sopranos follows four sopranos as they attempt to pass through the gates of heaven, only to be denied entry by St. Peter on the grounds there is only room for one. To balance the overpopulation of sopranos in heaven and secure four more spots for themselves, they are then sent to hell where they try to recruit more tenors and basses.

Despite its far-fetched premise, Roland explains the opera reflects the current soprano situation on campus.

“The title is very appropriate to what our college situation is like with sopranos. We always have a lot of sopranos ... so it’s very, very fitting,” she says.

Apart from addressing the soprano issue, the two-act production parodies such other opera stereotypes as the overweight singer and over-the-top staging.

“It’s like an hour and a half of inside jokes,” Roland says, but ensures the opera will appeal to both music and non-students alike. “For people who understand and are familiar with the world of opera, they’ll enjoy the caricature … but it’s very fascinating to those who don’t understand because they get to know what it’s all about.”

Cast members in the production agree with Roland’s sentiment.

“There’s a lot to love about this show. First of all, there’s a lot of great singing " these are some of UWO’s very best performers on stage,” says Adam Marostica, who plays the role of St. Peter.

“Most of the humour comes from the downright absurdity of the characters … Yes, there’s even a lady in horns. I’m not going to lie " it’s a riot,” he adds.

Amy Waller, who plays the role of Madame Pompous, says the opera’s visuals will appeal to both the musically and not so musically inclined.

“The costumes, makeup and hair " it’s so visually stimulating for the audiences. They’re not going to be bored,” Waller says.

The production’s cast is composed of both masters and undergrad students, and according to Roland, the chemistry on stage and level of talent is excellent.

“The vocal demands we put on our singers are quite great,” she says,

“It can be extremely vocally challenging at times,” Waller adds.

Vocal challenges aside, Too Many Sopranos is an opera concerned with making sure audiences have a good time.

“If you’re curious to know what opera singers do on a Friday night, come see the show,” Roland says.

Too Many Sopranos runs from March 20 to 22 at 8 p.m. at Althouse, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on March 22. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and can be purchased at Orchestra London’s box office or at the door.

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