Staff photo by Alexander Simone
Cole Bellamy, as Figaro, left, and Wyatt Cobb, as Antonio the gardener, act out a scene from “The Wedding of Figaro” at Marion’s Municipal Building.
The final day at Marion’s two-week opera workshop highlighted family, in both a literal sense and a figurative one.
Sunday’s audience was a mix of the performers’ families and members of the Marion community, all of whom were welcomed by the city’s director of economic development, Randy Collett.
“It’s all about our quality of life here in Marion County and that has everything to do with economic development,” Collett said.
The primary focus was the development of the performers.
Focusing solely on the opera meant they had more time to hone their skills, performer Edward Bland said.
“I could at least definitely tell after, like four days of being here, that I just felt like a totally new singer,” Bland said. “I had all these new technical ideas that I had gotten. That goes for [acting] and for singing.”
Because the opera tied to theater as a whole, performers were able to work both aspects at the same time, Jon-Luke Martin said.
“Opera is the mix of everything,” Martin said. “In music, it’s seen as one of the biggest art forms and so acting, I would say, is just as important as singing.”
According to Ashley Elliott, the constant exposure to other performers rapidly increased their chemistry too.
“I actually do a scene with Carrigan [Jobin] and I play her sister, so we have to be really close,” Elliot said. “And I think that since we’ve been around each other so long that makes it seem more real and more like a sister bond.”
The scene, performed by Elliott and Jobin, was from Act Three of “Werther,” with Elliott’s character attempting to console Jobin’s character over a departed love.
For the scene, it was particularly important to blend aspects of acting and singing, Jobin said,
“I’ve been asked to be really emotional, but also keep my stance, keep my body, my instrument fully supported while also being really emotional,” Jobin said.
With such a quick turnaround, the workshop was a new experience, Bland said.
“I think we all went into this not knowing what to expect,” he said.
The process didn’t only profit the performers, it helped the stage crew too, crew member Brianna Larkin said.
Larkin, who used to act but hasn’t for about 15 years, said she likes being able to work exclusively on the set.
“There’s no warming up, there’s no costume changes to think about” she said. “You can be much more in the moment and not have to think forward to what your next role on stage is.”
Not performing also means there are fewer things to be nervous about, she said.
“Definitely more flexibility and less stress,” Larkin said. “I’ve been involved in the backstage part of theater for about 20 years.”
At the same time, Martin said anyone is capable of singing well, it isn’t just for an elite few.
“Anybody can sing, you just have to learn how,” Martin said. “I mean if Louis Armstrong can make it, regarded as one of the greatest singers of a generation, anybody else can do it.”
While the members of the workshop said they learned a great deal from the experience, they weren’t the only ones to benefit.
Marie Hoffner, 74, of Marion attended all the practices.
“I didn’t like opera, but after the first day, I was hooked on it,” she said. “Every day there was something different. I enjoyed every minute of it, and that’s why I kept going back.”
A chair was brought out for her to sit in, and every day she sat in the same place, Hoffner said.
“They started waving at me when they saw me,” she said. “It was like we became friends.”
The performers left such an impact on Hoffner, that she attended the Saturday evening performance and Sunday matinee.
“I saw how hard these young people worked and how much they put into it,” she said. “I think we were honored to have them here.”