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Life OperaticFrom left Emily Burr, Kevin Schweigert and Laura Loge DAVID GRUBBS/Gazette Staff

Read more:  July 21, 2005 11:00 pm  • 

When you're 10 years old, opera can seem like something from another galaxy.

That's part of the reason the Rimrock Opera Company recently hosted the Red Lodge Boys and Girls Club at a rehearsal for "Sister Angelica,” which will be presented as part of the "One-Act Festival” next weekend at Venture Theatre.

A dozen kids from the summer camp sat in the front row during the 25-minute rehearsal, with its jaw-dropping death scene by soprano Amy Logan.

"I liked it because I like dramatic stuff,” said 10-year-old Holly Sorrells, from Danbury, Conn.
ROC artistic director Douglas Nagel said the piece is the only tragedy among the four one-acts, which includes "The Old Maid and the Thief,” "A Hand of Bridge,” and "The Impresario.”

Written by Giacomo Puccini, "Sister Angelica” tells the tale of a teenage girl who has a child out of wedlock and as punishment is forced by her cold-hearted aunt to join a convent. The students watched a scene where the aunt comes to visit Sister Angelica in the convent seven years later.

"How's your English coming?” Nagel asked the two vocalists. It sounded like a joke to the young audience but Nagel explained that English is the hardest language to sing opera in because we often slur our words or don't enunciate them. Nancy Downing, a contralto who plays the mean-spirited aunt in the opera, said the character is so different from her own personality that it's a challenge to play.

"I get in front of the mirror a lot to practice my facial expressions,” Downing said.
Logan said her role is emotionally draining, requiring her to embrace the sorrow of her situation.

"The hardest thing is when we perform two shows in one day because I'll have to die twice,” Logan said.

Nagel added that death scenes take their toll on opera singers.
"It's hard to do death scenes in opera because even though you're convulsing, you still have to sing,” Nagel said.

Performing the one-acts in a casual setting like Venture Theatre will help people understand that going to the opera doesn't have to be a formal occasion, Nagel said.

"We want folks to come in their blue jeans and hear us sing," Nagel said.

Maintaining Rimrock Opera's summer tradition, the festival cast features popular Montana opera stars in fully staged shows, all of which are sung in English.
Here are descriptions of the others:

"The Old Maid and the Thief," by Gian Carlo Menotti, is set in the early 1950s. It tells the tale of the persuasive powers of women. The spinster, Miss Todd, takes in a strange man. Laetitia and her maid become enamored of him. Together they steal everything of Miss Todd's including her car, while Miss Pinkerton, a spinster friend of Miss Todd's, is hot on their trail. The cast includes Ann Oglesby, Sarah Hessler, Karen Evanson, and Chris Johnson.

"A Hand of Bridge," by Samuel Barber, tells the story of four friends who gather for their evening game of bridge. As the play progresses, each player begins to express personal inner thoughts. Sally is thinking about the new hat she would like to buy. Her husband Bill wonders what his mistress Cymbeline is doing and if Sally has discovered the affair. Geraldine is perturbed by the lack of attention from both her husband and Bill, her former lover, and is worried about her ailing mother. The cast includes Alyson Miller, Ann Oglesby, Cody Maki and Bret Weston.

"The Impresario" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, demonstrates Mozart's music at the height of its dramatic power. The competition between two divas, the aging Madame Goldentrill, and Mademoiselle Silverpeal, a youthful upstart, both represented by a wealthy businessman, is the center of the humorous drama which includes the Impresario, a worn-out opera manager, who would rather be on his peaceful farm. The cast includes Emily Burr, Laura Loge, Douglas Nagel, Jake Jurovich, Kevin Schweigert and Ann Oglesby.

If you go Four performances of the "One-Act Festival,” which features the operas "Sister Angelica,” "The Old Man and the Thief,” "A Hand of Bridge” and "The Impresario,” will be presented by the Rimrock Opera Company at Venture Theatre on Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, July 31 at 2 and 7 p.m. at Venture Theater, 2317 Montana Ave. Tickets are $15 and are available by calling ROC, 671-2214.

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