Night at the Opera


Marcus Rogers

WT Opera production crew dims the lights of the Branding Iron Theater before the start of “Magic Flute”.

Branding Iron TheaterMozart’s “Magic Flute” performance by West Texas A&M University Opera on the night of Jan. 28 finished with a four-minute nonstop applause, despite challenges from COVID-19.

WT Opera’s productions are the culmination of work from Sarah Beckham-Turner, assistant professor in WT’s School of Music, and internationally-renowned conductor, Maestro Keith Chambers.

“The music that we play in orchestra is a lot more expansive and more driven towards pleasing audiences, ” said Tobin Brooks, sophomore music education and performance major.

The opera was a staged drama set to music from the WT Opera Orchestra and accompanying performances by WT Dance. It takes more than 40 people from multiple areas of the arts coming together to produce an exceptional show.

“We rehearsed this last Sunday in the evening for a couple hours, the same thing on Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening,” Brooks said. “After Wednesday, I didn’t really know what to expect. Thankfully, [the] opening night went well.”

The impacts of COVID-19 have been far and wide, with every aspect being touched. Before the beginning of the show, the director, Dr. Beckham-Turner, gave appreciation for the dedication of the actors and everyone involved for the difficulties of navigating the arts in the COVID-19 era.

Short rehearsal times are necessary when you get to the level of performing for productions. Opportunities to get involved with the arts require several years of mastering to be nominated and selected by a production company.

“It was just about a little more than a week that we got to rehearse,” Brooks said.

Short rehearsal times had little to no impact on the success of the show. The story follows the main character, Prince Tamino (Francesco DiLello) and Papageno (Conner Nall) through a quest to bring back the Queen of the Night’s (Erin Hinds) daughter, Pamina (Hailey Arnold) from the high priest Sarastros (Evan Hample). The Prince encounters a test of their commitment to prove that the prince’s love is worthy of Pamina. Tamino comes to admire the high ideals of the priest and he and Pamina both join Sarastro’s community, while the Queen and her allies are vanquished.

“The Magic Flute” featured Francesco DiLello played Prince Tamino, a graduate music performance student from Highland Mills, N.Y.; Erin Hinds, a sophomore vocal performance and music education double major from Amarillo, as Queen of the Night; Conner Nall, a senior music education major from Canyon, as Papageno; Hailey Arnold played Pamina, a sophomore music major from Fischer, T.X.; Evan Hample played Sarastros, a sophomore musical theatre major from Wasilla, Alaska; Abigail Hite, a junior music major from Carlisle, Pa., as Papagena; and Mitchell Hernandez, a senior music major from Canyon, as Monostatos.

Ensemble members include Shannon Burr, a music performance graduate student from Harrisburg, Pa.; Chloe Ridolfo, a graduate music student from Los Angeles, Calif.; Codi Hittson, a senior music education major from Amarillo; Analisa Rios, a senior music major from Canyon; Kit Boyington, a senior music major from Goodland, Kan.; Audrey Reidling, a senior music major from Plano; Zachary Todd, a junior musical theatre major from Highland Village; Joshua Moreno, a sophomore music education major from Canyon; Enrique Lujan, a senior music major from Lubbock; and Matt Thurman, a sophomore musical theatre major from Frisco.

Chorus members and understudies include Alejandra Molina, a senior music education major from El Paso; Eleisha Miller, a senior music major from San Antonio; Brianna Moen, a senior theatre major from Azle; Kat Clark, a sophomore music education major from Canyon; Faith Harrison, a senior music education major from Hereford; Signe Elder, a junior musical theatre major from Lubbock; Grace Gaertner, a junior music education major from Whitehouse; Bethany Martin, a sophomore music major from Fort Worth; Savannah Poor, a Dec. 2021 musical theatre graduate from Odessa; Brooklynn King, a sophomore musical theatre major from Pearland; Saralyn Corey, a senior music major from Plano; Jocelyn Hill, a senior musical theatre major from Little Elm; Charlie Sells, a freshman music major from Amarillo; and Daniel Gonzales, a freshman music education major from Taylor.

Although the performance lasted for three hours, the time slipped by with the sounds of laughter and by the end of the performance the applause was substantial for every character and member of production. Despite the appearance of two suicide attempts, the progression of the story was well laid out with key points being substantiated with audience reactions. The opening night of “Magic FLute” almost made you forget that we exist in a pandemic.