First student-led opera production premieres at SCC in December

Published: 12/06/2019

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Opera theater isn’t new a St. Charles Community College. For several years, students have been educated about opera, performing short scenes from famous works in the process.

“This is commonly done at smaller schools,” explained Erin Haupt, music adjunct faculty. “There usually aren’t enough students to put on a full opera production.”

When she took over the opera theater workshop class last year, she had a vision.

“Being an opera singer myself,” she explained, “I felt students would benefit so much more if they could put on a full opera production.”

So, Haupt worked to make it a reality. She admits the first year was a struggle.

“I had three people sign up for the course. One dropped out,” she said. “I had to hire two colleagues to fill the cast. After all the work, both our performances were canceled due to weather. We never got the chance to show the community what we had worked so hard to produce.”

Haupt refused to give up. She is making another run at a full, student-led opera production this year. If all goes as planned, it will be the first production of its kind at SCC.

“I chose Amahl & the Night Visitors for our production,” Haupt said. “It’s a one-act opera completely in English. The story takes place outside of Bethlehem, where we meet Amahl.”

The story focuses around Amahl’s journey with the Three Kings as they follow a bright star in the sky.

“The biggest challenge for the students is developing their character while still singing with the technique they have learned,” explained Haupt. “Singing beautifully is one thing. Acting believably is another. When you combine the two it certainly can be quite difficult!”

It’s a challenge St. Charles Community College student Austin Stevens was eager to take on. He plays King Kaspar in the opera.

“I had never sung opera before taking this class,” he said. “The experience has challenging and exciting so far. This is a completely foreign style of music, and I really had to change the way I approached the music.”

The Troy native is hoping to transfer to the University of Missouri-St. Louis after SCC to pursue a bachelor’s degree is music education or composition.

“I love singing,” he said. “Though it sounds a little cliché, I truly enjoy being able to express myself through music. This opera production really gave me a chance to do that this year.”

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It's a sentiment that student Rachel Anthonis (pictured above) shares with Stevens.

“I’ve loved singing since I was a child,” she said. “My father was a musician, and he always encouraged me to sing and play music. I love it because it’s challenging, and there’s always room to grow.”

She stars as Amahl in the opera. 

“Everyone is determined to put on a good show,” she explained. “Everyone is kind, professional and positive. I look forward to every rehearsal. The show has such a beautiful message of hope, and it infects the rehearsal process in such a great way.” 

Anthonis is pursuing her Associate of Fine Arts at SCC. She will soon transfer to Missouri State University to study theater. She hopes to, one day, open a theater company for young people with disabilities.

Rachel Downs plays Amahl’s mother in the opera. She recently relocated to the area from Seattle to be closer to family and enrolled at SCC.  

“When I started this semester, my goal was to push myself outside of my comfort zone,” she said.

She had done musicals before, but she had never taken part in an opera. When the chance to take part in Amahl and the Night Visitors presented itself, she jumped on the opportunity.

“It has been so wonderful to be part of a music production again,” she admitted. “It’s such a great way to build friendships and make connections with others through music.”

Amahl and the Night Visitors will be held in the Daniel J. Conoyer Social Sciences Building Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12 and Friday, Dec. 13. The free performance is appropriate for all ages. St. Charles Community College is located at 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in Cottleville.

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