CBU opera to bring drama and comedy to the theater

The opera program at California Baptist University performed “Roméo et Juliette” in 2023.

Riverside, Calif. (Feb. 14, 2024) – The opera program at California Baptist University is bringing drama and comedy to the stage with a double bill on Feb. 23 and 24.

The casts will perform “Dido & Aeneas” and “Trial by Jury” back-to-back. “Dido & Aeneas,” written by composer Henry Purcell in 1688, is based on the poem “The Aeneid” by Virgil. The love story brings together myth and history resulting in a dramatic end. “Trial By Jury,” a one-act opera written by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, is a light-hearted and comic satire.

The casts are made up of 29 students and one alumnus. Additionally, 30 students perform in the orchestra. Julie Makerov, director of vocal studies and opera theater, is artistic and stage director.

“I want the performers to have the experience of being on stage, with a live audience in a live show atmosphere coupled with the glory that is the art form opera,” Makerov said.

Matt Stumpf (’23) portrays the judge in “Trial by Jury.” For him, the most challenging part is also the most fun – the comedy. Both he and the director came up with jokes and physical reactions for his role.

“Coming up with jokes within the script is certainly the hardest thing to do, but when you get that laugh from the other cast members, that’s really what makes it worth it,” Stumpf said.

Stumpf said that he is wrong most of the time – what he thought would be funny wasn’t.

“What I've learned is go big. Do it and let the director tell you that you're wrong instead of living in fear or trepidation,” Stumpf said. “That's part of going big. You go for those choices and sometimes they turn out. Sometimes they don't and you just hope that maybe 5% of them do, because then you have a show.”

For Amelia DeCoster, a vocal performance graduate student, the fun and work are also found in the same facet. She is performing both the protagonist and the villain in “Dido & Aeneas.”

“It has been very fun and challenging to differentiate between the two characters vocally and physically,” she said. “Each character has to be dramatic and operatic but in clearly distinguishable ways.”

Through the coaching and rehearsals, DeCoster said she has learned how to display different emotions and characters while singing. Being in the opera has been such a rewarding experience.

“On top of singing, the acting methods I've learned this year are invaluable and I will be able to use them again and again, wherever I go,” she said.

“Being in this opera has been such a rewarding experience. I am grateful to CBU for letting me learn two roles and guiding me through them,” DeCoster said.

For Makerov, one of the challenges was logistics.

Two shows meant designing two separate sets, storing one as the other is used while having space in the wings for the singers and chorus and then transitioning from one set to another in 20 minutes during the intermission.

“We had to alter the sets to accommodate the space, leaving out larger sections that were originally planned. As a stage director I had to make hard decisions regarding aesthetics vs. practicality,” Makerov said.

Makerov wants the audiences to be entertained with the performances.

“I hope the audience feels they have received two very distinct operatic experiences,” she said. “We hope to provide a beautiful, entertaining evening of two genuinely brilliant examples of opera.”

Stumpf wants the audience to walk away from his performance with a big smile on their face. He also wants them to know how much work the students put into it.

“What they're watching is a work of love from everyone in the cast. They're all giving it 110%. This is not easy to do. It's so much more work than we think it is.”

“Dido & Aeneas” and “Trial by Jury”
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 23-24
Where: Lewis Family Playhouse, 12505 Cultural Center Drive, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739
For tickets, please visit https://performingarts.calbaptist.edu/event/cbu-opera-theater/2024-02-23/

Contact CBU Marketing and Communication

Vice President for Marketing and Communication:
Angela Meluski
Email: ameluski@calbaptist.edu

8432 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92504